Bobby Mañosa and Filipino architecture

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THERE is no question that visionary architect Francisco “Bobby” Manosa has long deserved being proclaimed National Artist for his significant contributions to the development of Philippine architecture.

Throughout his career, the proud UST alumnus has been outspoken in espousing vernacular architecture. He has observed that various structures such as the Borobudur temple in Indonesia, the pagodas of Southeast Asia, the villas of Europe are identified with certain countries and specific cultures.

Thus, he carried the belief that local architecture must have an indigenous or vernacular structure that must represent local architecture idiom. Mañosa found that in the “bahay kubo,” as well as from various design motifs from Philippine cultural communities, such as the “salakot,” the vinta, and even the rice terraces of the Cordilleras.

As an architecture student, I would like to think that there is more to Manosa’s vernacular architecture.

Perhaps what we perceive is just the surface of what he really means, a crust of a much deeper layer of architecture. Or perhaps it is just his marketing tool, or he just means what he means.

The question of why there is no particular definition of Filipino architecture still remains today despite the many luminaries in the field. Does Filipino architecture even exist? There are too many questions at hand, especially for a young and inexperienced architecture enthusiast like myself.

But I do think that Filipino architecture should not be limited to using these indigenous symbols to link and represent our country.
Mañosa criticized the architecture in the Philippines as a culture that mimics, and we see the tangible evidence around us.

The kind of architecture that we have today is the result of a revolution boosted by the absorption of diverse inspirations. It developed from pre-colonial people, the Malays who migrated to these islands, continuing on to the Spanish and American colonial periods, and then to modern times. As a result, the Philippines has become an architectural melting-pot.

Thus, he carried the belief that local architecture must have an indigenous or vernacular structure that must represent a local architecture idiom. Mañosa found inspirations such as the “bahay kubo” designed with a deep understanding of our living conditions such as our climate, behavior of our people and the use of indigenous materials found locally from its environment — as well as from various design motifs from Philippine cultural communities, such as the “salakot,” the vinta, bamboo, coconut, rattan, cogon, shell, adobe, even ash from the Pinatubo volcano eruption, and the rice terraces of the Cordilleras.

An excellent example of the application of his philosophy is in the Tahanang Pilipino, or commonly known as the Coconut Palace located in the Cultural Center of the Philippines Complex.

This beautiful structure is made of several types of Philippine hardwood, coconut shells, and an especially engineered coconut lumber apparently known as Imelda Madera. Each of the suites on the second floor is named after a specific region of the Philippines and displays some of the handicrafts these regions produce.

The roof is shaped like a traditional Filipino salakot, and its columns that can be seen at the facade are inverted coconut tree trunks — indeed a clever architectural feature that not most artists would be able to think of.

As an aspiring architect, I want to follow Mañosa’s philosophy on promoting a genuine Philippine character. As he is famously quoted, “Architecture must be true to itself, its land, and its people.”

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