Nipa hut

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A nipa hut in the Southern Philippines
Native house in the suburbs of Manila, 1899

The Nipa hut, Kamalig, or Bahay Kubo, is a type of stilt house indigenous to the vast majority of lowland Austronesian cultures of the Philippines.[1][2] It often serves as an icon of Philippine culture or, more specifically, Filipino rural culture.[3] Its architectural principles gave way to many of Filipino traditional houses and buildings that rose after the pre-colonial era. These includes the Spanish era "Bahay Na Bato" which is a noble version of Bahay Kubo with Spanish and some Chinese architectural influence; the American era's "Antillean Houses" which include aspects of Bahay Na Bato influence but has a wider range of influences; and the Marcos era's Coconut Palace, Sto. Niño Shrine and National Arts Center which radically adapted to its designs and architecture.

Etymology[edit]

The Filipino term Bahay Kubo literally means "cube house", describing the shape of the dwelling. The term "Nipa Hut", introduced during the Philippines' American colonial era, refers to the nipa or anahaw thatching material often used for the roofs.

History[edit]

Classical period (Pre-colonial Era)[edit]

Nipa huts were the native houses of the indigenous people of the Philippines before the Spaniards arrived. They are still used today, especially in rural areas. Different architectural designs are present among the ethnolinguistic groups in the country, although all of them are stilt houses, similar to those found in neighboring countries such as Indonesia, Malaysia, and other countries of Southeast Asia.

Colonial Era[edit]

Bahay Na Bato developed during the Philippine Colonial period through the Architectural basis of Nipa Hut.

The advent of the Spanish Colonial era introduced the idea of building more permanent communities with the church and government center as a focal points. This new community setup made construction using heavier, more permanent materials desirable. Finding European construction styles impractical in local conditions, Spanish and Filipino builders quickly adapted the characteristics of the Bahay Kubo and applied it to Antillean houses locally known as Bahay na Bato/Bahay Luma.

Bahay Na Bato[edit]

Bahay Na Bato or Bahay Na Luma is a noble version of Bahay Kubo with Spanish and some Chinese influence. Its designs evolved throughout the ages but maintains its nipa hut architectural basis.

There are Bahay Na Bato with wooden second floors (how Nipa hut looks) but with stone wall on the first floor. There are Bahay na Bato type houses that have completely wooden wall on the first floor although this is more often called as Bahay Na Luma. (Bahay Na Bato is also called Bahay Luma.) Another type is full stone exterior wall even to the second floor but the interior maintains a wooden second floor and a business purpose first floor, a characteristics which all Spanish era Bahay na Bato share.

During the American period they incorporated the use of vernacular nipa hut influence through the Bahay Na Bato style, though the American era Antillean houses is more liberated in design but keeps the Spanish Colonial designs.

Characteristics[edit]

Bahay Kubo (Nipa Hut) at Kepaniwai Park, Maui, Hawaii

Although there is no strict definition of the Bahay Kubo and styles of construction vary throughout the Philippine archipelago,[4] similar conditions in Philippine lowland areas have led to characteristics "typical" of examples of Bahay Kubo.

Three-layered structure[edit]

Stilt house in Kalibo
Modern Bajau stilt houses over the sea in Basilan

With few exceptions arising only in modern times, most Bahay Kubo are on stilts: the living area is accessed by ladder. This naturally divides the house into three areas: the living area in the middle, the area beneath it (referred to in Tagalog as the silong), and the roof space (bubungan), which may or may not be separated from the living area by a ceiling (kisame).

Roof[edit]

The traditional roof shape of the Bahay Kubo is tall and steeply pitched, ending in long leaves.[2] A tall roof creates space above the living area through which warm air could rise, giving the Bahay Kubo a natural cooling effect even during the hot summer season. The steep pitch allows water to flow down quickly at the height of the monsoon season while the long eaves give people a limited space to move about around the house's exterior when it rains.[2] The steep pitch of the roofs are often used to explain why many Bahay Kubo survived the ash fall from the Mt. Pinatubo eruption, when more ’modern’ houses collapsed from the weight of the ash.[2]

Silong[edit]

Raised up on hardwood stilts which serve as the main posts of the house, Bahay Kubo have a silong (the Tagalog word also means "shadow") area under the living space for a number of reasons, the most important of which are to create a buffer area for rising waters during floods and to prevent pests such as rats from getting up to the living area.[2] This section of the house is often used for storage, and sometimes for raising farm animals,[4] and thus may or may not be fenced off.

Living space[edit]

The main living area is designed to let in as much fresh air and natural light as possible. Smaller Bahay Kubo will often have bamboo slat floors which allow cool air to flow into the living space from the silong below (in which case the silong is not usually used for items which produce strong smells) A Bahay Kubo may be built without a kisame (ceiling) so that hot air can rise straight into the large area just beneath the roof and out through strategically placed vents.

Walls[edit]

Close-up of a modern Nipa Hut

The walls are always of light material such as wood, bamboo rods, or bamboo mats called "sawali." As such, they tend to let some coolness flow naturally through them during hot times and keep warmth in during the cold wet season.

The cube shape distinctive of the Bahay Kubo arises from the fact that it is easiest to pre-build the walls and then attach them to the wooden stilt-posts that serve as the corners of the house. The construction of a Bahay Kubo is therefore usually modular, with the wooden stilts established first, a floor frame built next, then wall frames, and finally, the roof.

Windows[edit]

Bahay kubo are typically built with large windows, to let in more air and natural light. The most traditional are large awning windows, held open by a wooden rod.[2] Sliding windows are also common, made either with plain wood or with wooden Capiz shell frames which allow some light to enter the living area even with the windows closed. In more recent decades inexpensive jalousie windows became common.

In larger examples, the large upper windows may be augmented with smaller windows called ventanillas (Spanish for "little window) underneath, which can be opened to let in additional air on especially hot days.[2]

Batalan[edit]

Some Bahay Kubo, especially those built for long-term residences, feature a batalan ("wet area") distinct from other sections of the house — usually jutting out somewhat from one of the walls. Sometimes at the same level as the living area and sometimes at ground level, the batalan can contain any combination of cooking and dishwashing area, bathing area and, in some cases, a lavatory.

Construction materials[edit]

The walls of the living area are made of light materials. Posts, walls, and floors are typically made of wood or bamboo and other light materials. The thatched roof is often made of nipa, anahaw or some other locally plentiful plant.

Cultural significance[edit]

Community members practicing "bayanihan", working together to move a house to new location.

A nipa hut is an icon of Philippine culture as it represents the Filipino value of bayanihan, which refers to a spirit of communal unity or effort to achieve an objective.[3][5]

Arts[edit]

A famous folk song often sung in schools which mentions a small house surrounded by vegetables goes like this:

Bahay kubo, kahit munti,
ang halaman doon ay sari-sari:
singkamas at talong, sigarilyas at mani,
sitaw, bataw, patani,

Kundol, patola, upo't kalabasa,
At saka mayroon pang labanos, mustasa,
sibuyas, kamatis, bawang at luya.
Sa paligid-ligid ay puno ng linga.[6]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Lee, Jonathan H. X., Encyclopedia of Asian American folklore and folklife, Vol. 1. Santa Barbara, Calif.: ABC-CLIO, 2011. 369. ISBN 0313350663
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Caruncho, Eric S. (2012-05-15). "Green by Design: Sustainable Living through Filipino Architecture". Philippine Daily Inquirer. Makati, Philippines: Philippine Daily Inquirer, Inc. Retrieved 2013-10-16. 
  3. ^ a b Cruz, Rachelle (2013-08-23). "THE BAYANIHAN: Art Installation at Daniel Spectrum". The Philippine Reporter. Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Retrieved 2013-10-16. 
  4. ^ a b Alojado, Jennibeth Montejo. "From Nipa Hut to House of Stone". philippine-islands.ph. Alojado Publishing International. Retrieved 2013-10-16. 
  5. ^ Werth, Brenda G., Imagining human rights in twenty-first-century theater: global perspectives. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013. 207. ISBN 1137027096
  6. ^ "Bahay Kubo (Philippine Kids Song)". Mama Lisa's World. Retrieved 23 July 2015. 

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