COTANGENT – By Daphne Cardillo
Last August of this year, I attended a lecture on “Filipino Architecture in Modern Times” by the visionary Filipino architect, Francisco “Bobby” Mañosa. The event was held at the Kanhuraw Convention Center of Tacloban and organized by the College of Architecture & Allied Disciplines of the Eastern VisayasState University.
Mañosa is more popularly known as the architect of the Manila’s Coconut Palace, a marvelous creation of work using indigenous materials and based on traditional forms—the bahay kubo and bahay na bato. In the slide presentation, the structure is mostly made of materials drawn from the coconut tree; from the decorative posts and panels, ceilings and chandeliers, balustrades and to the intricately designed furniture.
It’s an amazing thing to see such a beautiful structure made of coco palm—the Filipino’s tree of life. It calls for a great deal of creativity, and I guess love, for what we have.
For Mañosa’s philosophy is that the shelter for the Filipino must be reflective of his environment and culture. Filipino architecture must be suited to the country’s season and climate, “responsive to the callings of one’s region,” and reflective of our social and cultural traditions. It is in this nationalistic philosophy that made Francisco Mañosa one of the visionary architects of Asia along with India’s Charles Correa, Malaysia’s Nik Mohamed Mahmood and Thailand’s Sumet Jumsai.
In that morning’s talk, he kept on repeating “when you buy technology, you buy culture.” For he deplores the trend of several property developers offering Swiss chalets and Mediterranean-style houses prompting our present day architects to simply copy other architectural styles. He stressed that Filipino architecture in modern times should “redefine our identity to provide continuity without necessarily going back to the past.” Over the years, Mañosa has been exploring the use of indigenous materials and infusing them with current technological trends to develop his design. He was able to make bricks out of lahar, that vast amount of mudflow spewed out by Mt. Pinatubo, to be used as roof tiles. Foreign scientists were employed in testing that volcanic ash as a viable material in the making of that product. Indeed, it is an encouraging prospect to pursue that much can be gleaned from the experimentation of local materials for our own use.
Knowledge of our pagkatao—of our environment and culture, should be pursued and spread to all concerned. Social change can sometimes be effected by the idea, conviction, and courage of one wise man. If more people from the different fields of endeavor think and move like him, we could have made great strides in forging ourselves into one nation.
Before the session ended, Mañosa formally gave a copy of his coffee-table book Designing Filipino: The Architecture of Francisco Mañosa to the College of Architecture & Allied Disciplines of the said university. This book would appeal to students and young professionals, or to anyone who wants to pick up great ideas for their homes. And with its publication, Mañosa hopes “to put up a school of thought on Philippine architecture,” an architecture that is “true to itself, its land and its people.”