Photo by Paul Allyson R. Quiambao

DEFINING and expressing Filipino culture has been the aspiration of National Artist Francisco “Bobby” Mañosa throughout his career. In his personal career as an architect spanning more than 50 years, he has made it his crusade to uphold Philippine architecture in his designs.

Mañosa’s efforts were finally recognized when he was named National Artist—or so he thought. His selection as a National Artist, together with theater artist Cecile Guidote-Alvarez, fashion designer Jose “Pitoy” Moreno, including renowned film director Carlo J. Caparas, drew uproar from the National Commission for Culture and the Arts. The legality of President Macapagal-Arroyo’s selection of these new national artists is now pending resolution before the Supreme Court.

True to his words

Believing that his own culture should not take a back seat to foreign architecture, Mañosa dug deeper and discovered that Filipino architecture is “richer than the architecture of many, many other countries.” For more than five decades, Mañosa has actively endorsed Philippine architecture after seeing Filipinos become more interested in foreign architecture.

“I was so touched by all the distinct architectures of the world that I convinced myself on pursuing this Filipino architecture,” Mañosa told the Varsitarian. “To do Filipino, I must know my country; and I have to believe in what my country can offer.”

Due to globalization, people’s preferences for architectural designs have been homogenized with what are more popular, like the Swiss chalet, Balinese house, French chateau, or the Mediterranean villa. But Mañosa refused to join the bandwagon, fighting for his Philippine culture-inspired designs.

“When clients do not accept my proposal to use Philippine culture-inspired designs, I turn them down,” Mañosa said.

Architecture, for him, is not about the tedious imitation of others’ work, but about imagination and innovation.

“This process of creation must strive to express who we are and define our unique place in this world,” said Mañosa, who was named by Asiaweek magazine as “One of the Seven Visionary Architects of Asia” in 1982.

Mañosa’s over -half-a-century-of-design experience has been a consistent search and development of Philippine architecture, in both its traditional and modern aspects. He even integrated technology with indigenous materials to make them cheaper, doable, and durable, as depicted in his famous masterpieces, like the Tahanang Pilipino (known today as the Coconut Palace) that showcases the versatility of coconut tree derivatives and bamboo as construction materials. This octagon-shaped palace has a roof fashioned after the traditional salakot. It has a 101-coconut shell chandelier and pineapple fiber bed covers in its suites. The palace has been a guesthouse for personalities, such as Libyan leader Muammar al-Gaddafi, and Hollywood actors Brooke Shields and George Hamilton.

The dynamism of Mañosa’s crafts involves the application of contemporary Filipino tropical design suited for climate and culture.

Another renowned architecture feat of Mañosa is the Pearl Farm resort in Davao, which transformed the lowly fisherman’s house into a magnificent architecture. Located in a secluded cove off Davao City, this 11-hectare world class resort is surrounded by swaying coconut palms and a glittering white-sand beach.

Once a pearl farm, where thousands of white-lipped oysters from Sulu Sea were cultivated for their pink, white and gold pearls, the resort now promises a retreat surrounded by ethnic motifs reflecting the rich culture of indigenous Samal tribe of Sulu.

The resort’s houses are patterned after the stilt houses of this seafaring tribes. Structures are made of bamboo, wood, rope, stone and coral—to blend with the surrounding landscape and crystal-clear waters.

Mañosa also designed the six-star Amanpulo Resort in Palawan, which was added to Indonesian hotelier Adrian Zecha’s ultra luxury chain of Aman resorts. It is contemporary, elegant and understated, but distinctly Filipino. This ultimate tropical getaway is located in Pamalican Island.

Amanpulo offers a culture-inspired accommodation. Its Casitas, or cottages, are modeled after the authentic Philippine bahay kubo, with paying homage to the country’s rich natural resources, like pebble-washed walls, coconut-shell tables, rustic Palawan rice and knife baskets, and beds with a rattan headboard.

Amanpulo has reaped numerous awards, like the Asia Pacific Interior Design Awards and the Best Beach Resort Worldwide by United Kingdom-based Gallivanter’s Awards for Excellence.

“Our task was to interpret the resort owners’ vision into a great design,” Mañosa said.

Other Filipino architects may have designed grander and more striking edifices, but no one has been as articulate in his poetics as Mañosa. Nor as adamant. True to his words, Mañosa incorporated the Filipino touch in all his works from the floor plan to the structural design, to the embellishments and even in the pieces of furniture.

Mañosa is indeed a world-class architect, citing highly praised establishments he designed. These include the Banaue Rice Terraces-inspired San Miguel building in Mandaluyong, the Ateneo Professional School in Rockwell, and the famous Shrine of Mary Queen of Peace (Edsa Shrine), among others.

Fruitful harvests

Emerging as a Philippine icon in architecture, Mañosa received several awards both from local and international civic and religious organizations. Among them is the Papal Knighthood of the Pontifical Order of St. Gregory the Great in 1979 at the Vatican City.

Other awards that he has received are the Golden Award in Filipino Architecture from the United Architects of the Philippines, and the distinction of being Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) architect, which allows him to practice his profession anywhere in Asia and the United States.

An APEC architect facilitates the mobility of architects for architectural services throughout the Asia-Pacific region by reducing current barriers to the export of professional services.

To be an APEC architect, applicants should: have received an undergraduate degree in Architecture, have a post-graduate degree with at least seven years of practical experience, and at least two years of professional practice as a registered or licensed architect.

Aside from espousing Filipino-inspired designs, Mañosa also lectures in various Philippine schools and universities to spread the gospel of Filipino architecture.

“There are many architectural schools in the country that produce thousands of graduates per year,” said Mañosa. “It’s about time that we teach Filipino architecture in all these schools.”

Mañosa has also written a book on Filipino culture, titled Designing Filipino: The Architecture of Francisco T. Mañosa, which was released in 2002. Copies were donated to the libraries of architectural schools throughout the country.

Through Mañosa’s crusade, Filipino architecture is evolving for the best and reclaiming its rightful place in the global scene.

“I am a Filipino and I love my country so I must help it,” said Mañosa. “But it is not a one-man’s job so you and I must invent and exercise our culture into design.”

Mañosa’s pursuit of Filipino design can be traced to his college days at the old College of Architecture and Fine Arts where he met National Artist for Architecture Leandro Locsin.

Mañosa originally wanted to study music. However, his father, former Faculty of Engineering dean Manuel Mañosa, prompted him to take up architecture. Thanks to Mañosa’s father, the Philippine architecture is reaping the benefits of Mañosa’s contributions.

National Artist in limbo

With his achievements, Mañosa appears to be a lock for a recognition as a Nationl Artist. However, this recognition will have to wait.

Concerned Artists of the Philippines, chaired by National Artist for Literature Bienvenido Lumbera, claims that the Cultural Center of the Philippines and the National Commission for Culture and the Arts already submitted a final list of nominees which did not include Guidote-Alvarez, Moreno, Caparas, and Mañosa. However, President Macapagal-Arroyo appointed Guidote-Alvarez, Moreno, Caparas and Mañosa despite their exclusion from the list. The group alleged that only names appearing in the list are eligible to be appointed as national artists.

UST College of Architecture dean John Joseph Fernandez disagreed with the Concerned Artists of the Philippines’ stand, explaining that adding nominees is normal and has been done many times in the past.

“When the Cultural Center of the Philippines and National Commission for Culture and the Arts submitted the list of nominees for this year, there was no nominee in architecture so Malacañang asked the Professional Regulations Commission to give a nominee for architecture, and came up with his [Mañosa] name,” Fernandez said. Mañosa said he does not expect any recognition; only respect for his works.

All that he received was a letter of declaration from the Malacañang Palace.

“He (Mañosa) deserves the recognition and the people’s respect, especially. It is sad that such controversy has been raised,” Fernandez said. “He has contributed a lot in designing Filipino.”


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