From Cave to Condo: The Evolution of Filipino Houses
As a famous adage says, home is where the heart is. For a country with close family ties in its culture, the saying fits the Filipinos so well.
“Home is where the heart is” means that we don’t consider home as a physical place, but somewhere our loved ones are. Still, Filipinos from hundreds of years back until now need a place to stay, a physical structure that keeps the family together.
In metropolitan cities today, high-rise condominiums stand proud almost everywhere you look. But have you ever wondered where the earliest Filipinos lived before you came to live among the clouds? Here’s a look at all the changes typical Filipino houses underwent from the earliest times until today.
Early this year, France’s Museum of Natural History discovered that 709,000 years ago, there were already humans in the Philippines. This is 10 times earlier than the formerly known earliest Hominin presence in the country, which was the Callao Man from the Callao Caves.
Thousands of years ago, without the proper tools and capacity to make houses, early Filipinos relied on the natural shelter that caves provided. Archeologists suggest that caves rarely served as permanent settlements, but only seasonal shelters for nomadic groups.
Before the Spanish colonization, Filipinos who learned how to hunt and fish needed a portable shelter. This is how a lean-to was created. It’s made of tree branches, twigs, and leaves. Held at an angle by larger branches, a lean-to provided both roof and wall.
When Filipinos became more settled since learning how to farm, their dwellings became more permanent. This is when they built nipa huts or bahay kubo. Largely made of nipa and bamboo, nipa huts have thatched roofing and bamboo windows.
Nipa huts are also elevated several feet from the ground through bamboo stilts. This is to protect the houses from floods and to make it easier for the community to move the house through bayanihan.
During the colonization, the Spanish introduced stone and masonry construction. This became evident with paved roads and stone houses. The stones were used as a foundation for the lower half of the house, then bricks were used for its walls. Huts were also fashioned with sliding Capiz shell windows and tiled roofs.
Americans introduced bungalow-style homes to Filipinos. Today, it continues to be the most common house model in the Philippines, as is evident in property listings like that of Lancaster New City in Cavite. Bungalows are low-rise homes with pitched roofs made of galvanized iron sheets and walls made from concrete.
In today’s contemporary period, condominiums are one of the most popular types of housing. These high-rise structures can often be found in metropolitan areas and business centers. Apart from a dwelling space, condominiums also offer shared amenities like pools, parking, and gyms. There’s almost always 24/7 security and a lobby with concierge, too.
Philippine houses have come a long way from unrefined caves and lean-tos with insufficient protection. Still, etched in Filipino homes are the history of the country and the importance of the family.