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Striking example of modern Filipino architecture
Source: Inquirer
Author: Marge C. Enriquez
Date: 1999-06-21
THE architects and designers of

Francisco Ma?osa & Partners live

what they preach, especially in

applying the Filipino aesthetics.

''We try to convince anyone who

approaches us to patronize what's

ours. Our weather calls for tropical

houses and the use of indigenous

materials. You can't go wrong with

this philosophy. There's nowhere

else we can build these types of

homes,'' says Maria Cecilia ''Chelo''

Hofile?a, head of the Ma?osa's

interior design department.

Her abode in Para?aque is a perfect

example of modern Filipino

architecture. She'd rather have an airy house, and fill spaces

with rattan furniture and plants than import a chandelier and

have crystals flowing in the wind. Hofile?a says the chandelier's

foreign origin becomes more pronounced.

However, she's not eschewing the idea of chandeliers and

Italian marble, if there's a reason such as decorating a thematic

restaurant or home or designing for a play.

''I don't see the sense of having a French look in the tropics,'''

says Hofile?a. She'd rather go to France to appreciate it in its


In turn, while traveling, she not

only gets to understand the way

other people live but she also

learns to appreciate what is Filipino.

Asked what's her definition of our

indigenous architecture, Hofile?a

says it's a house that's airy and

attached to the earth with familiar

materials such as reeds and palms.

The bahay kubo exemplifies this.

But it is often looked down as a

flimsy hut for plebeians unsuitable

to city living.


But this is because people's minds have been conditioned by

the story of the three little pigs and the big bad wolf. The

antagonist blew away the houses of twigs and woods. Thus,

they were conceived as frail. The wolf failed when the third pig

built a stone house.

Hofile?a believes that a house doesn't have to be completely

solid or all-cement. ''You can reinforce a wooden structure to

give it strength. But it shouldn't deprive you to enjoy

ventilation by having windows.'''

She says design evolves, and there are ways to stylize the

bahay kubo concept and adapt it to the milieu. For instance, the

traditional bahay kubo has bamboo slats on the floor. In a

modern house, these slats can be translated into planks. This is

what she had done to her house.

''I can't afford molave and narra. I'd go for other types of wood

which are within my reach such as the tanguile and bamboo.

They stand out in how they are used,'' says Hofile?a. ''As these

materials are upgraded or used in an unfamiliar way, people will

give them a second look.''

Natural colors

The colors are natural since the materials are from the earth.

Adding contrast to the color scheme is the landscape. ''Because

the colors are from nature, the house looks restful. There's no

jarring color,'' says Hofile?a.

There are no curtains. Like in most ancestral homes, moldings

hold up the ceiling.

When Hofile?a renovated her home in Para?aque, she took note

of what most Filipino homes need today: cross-ventilation so

that the house isn't like an oven in summer, and multipurpose


''Some homeowners give us a long

list of rooms and end up wondering

why their houses are so huge. You

end up building more rooms than

what's actually needed. Many

activities can be cramped in one

room. Space is expensive. I'd rather

use the space for a garden that I can

look at for days instead of building a

room where I rarely enter,'' says


The living room is like a gazebo,

without any doors and windows. The

flooring is made of stone. The eaves

of the roof extend far out to shield

the area. When the typhoon signal

hits 3, that's the only time the

furniture are brought indoors.

Visual surprise

Because the living room is on the side of the house, one can

enjoy the garden. Since the houses are not close to each other,

Hofile?a blocks them off with greenery. The pond is not only

soothing to the senses, but is also a visual surprise in the


In the second floor, one can still enjoy the greenery, as the

azotea cum family room overlooks the pond. To block off the

sight of the garage, a mirror was built on a wall of the

multipurpose room to reflect the image of the garden.

Hofile?a developed a clever way of using the space in her

daughter's room which is a long hall with partitions. The

designer built a movable wall which is adjusted when there's a

visitor at home. When there are no guests, she pushes the back

wall so the daughter can enjoy more space.

The ceiling is decorated with reflectorized stars so it looks like

an evening sky. In the dining room, doors can be drawn away

and hidden so guests can enjoy more greenery.

Unlike other homes which brandish their artworks and furniture,

Hofile?a keeps everything simple. Although her items are not

expensive, they're stylish. Edwardo Yrezabal designed the rattan

furniture which blends with the stone and wood architecture.

She favors personal things to status symbols and collectibles,

particularly family photos. Books and handicrafts also decorate

her house. ''There's so much beauty in something simple,'' says


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