The Quest for Filipino Architecture

Archian Design Architect Studio Bacolod City

Repost From Philippine Daily Inquirer

Due to the Filipinos’ love for Country and Nationalism, there is an enduring issue that keeps coming up in the mind of the young Filipino Architect: the Question of having a Filipino Architectural Identity. Oftentimes, the simplest questions are the most difficult to answer.

I submit that we lack a strong architectural identity. This may be due to the numerous events that influenced our country. There are Moorish influences in Mindanao, Spanish influences in the Visayas and Luzon, and Modern American influences in our cities. We do have the vernacular or native Filipino houses but these can likewise be found in other tropical settings, which make it unfair to claim the style as our very own.

We do have the bahay na bato, but its distinguishing characteristics also come from Spain, our most influential colonizer. And when these styles were introduced in real estate residential development, they did not sell very well because they did not seem to appeal to the real Filipino taste.


In a gathering of architects back in the ’70s, my father remembers that no less than Leandro Locsin, our National Artist for Architecture, claimed that he is saddened by the fact that we do not have our own distinct Filipino Architecture. On this point, I am certain another National Artist, Bobby Mañosa, will disagree. He seems to have captured a style that we now classify as Filipino architecture. Through the inspiration of the Kubo and the use of locally available materials, he was able to establish a style that is generally acknowledged as Filipino.

In addition, more Filipinos today could have been influenced by their travels and by what they see in media. Our culture is highly exposed to other cultures bought about by the phenomenon of overseas contract workers, who upon coming home, wanted to live like they did abroad. This is probably why themed real estate developments became so successful. A good developer knows what his market wants; a true Filipino architect must know how to address the desires of the Filipino.

As a result, a plethora of design styles thrived on our shores. This view may not appeal to the idealistic Filipino nationalist on the quest for our very own architectural identity. In the same manner that there are TV shows that may be described as baduy or tacky that do not appeal to some of us, yet appeal to so many of our kababayans. So who are we to argue that it is not Filipino when it appeals to a clear majority?


So what is Filipino architecture? I believe the answer to this is as diverse as the views of everyone willing to give his/her own definition. There surely is architecture in the Philippines, but not a distinctly Filipino one. That character that distinguishes our architecture is still in progress, the same way that a young child is still growing into his adult form.

It took China, Italy and Spain millenniums to shape their respective identities; other Asian neighbors, like Japan, Indonesia and Thailand, have preserved theirs for centuries. We still have a long way to go. All attempts at fashioning our own are welcome. Like children, we continue to explore our surroundings. We have yet to discover what really works for us. We are on a quest for architectural identity.

For now, I believe that a structure designed by a Filipino, which addresses the needs of Filipinos is Filipino Architecture.

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About Archian
An Architect, Blogger and Strategic Thinker

3 Responses to The Quest for Filipino Architecture

  1. Abraham says:

    Thank you for the good writeup. It in fact was a amusement account it.
    Looked great! However, how can we communicate?

  2. pinoyleonardo says:

    I like the challenge you post about Filipino architecture. I am no architect or artist (maybe a wannabe), but I do like the heritage houses (bahay na bato, old nipa hut style and neo-classic Filipino houses). The mere fact that we have history and heritage- I think that’s important. History and heritage is what makes us NOW. I just wish we’d do more to preserve what we have.

    • Archian says:

      Thank you leo for the comment. I believe that living in the 20th Century it is hard to create our past (while it is acutally rich) What we could do is reinvent ourselves and define our identity. Another inspiration comes from glocalization. While the World is adopting universal technologies, we can no longer refuse technology, instead we look for “local” expressions of this technology. On one hand, Global (Technology), on the other hand, Local (Interpretations).

      But I still don’t know, what do you believe should be Filipino Architecture?

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