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Bahay Kubo – Collective living in the Philippines

Posted by lecrowder in Back To Our Roots on 10 15th, 2007

Bahay Kubo – Collective living in the Philippines


Bahay Kubo

There are a number of symbols that represent the Philippines but the bahay kubo is one of the most recognized. Bahay is the Filipino word for house and kubo is a thatched single dwelling hut. There are a number of symbols that represent the Philippines but the bahay kubo is one of the most recognized. Bahay is the Filipino word for house and kubo is a thatched single dwelling hut.

The roof is made from woven coconut husks or nipa leaves while the walls made of bamboo and other natural materials found in the forest. Some bahay kubos are built on bamboo stilts as protection against wild animals. The roof is made from woven coconut husks or nipa leaves while the walls made of bamboo and other natural materials found in the forest. Some bahay kubos are built on bamboo stilts as protection against wild animals.

FUN FACT: In the movie Finding Nemo – Nemo lived in a bahay kubo as a tribute to the grapic artists’ Filipino heritage!

The concept of the bahay kubo as a single dwelling hut dates back to “the centuries old Southeast Asian rural archetype” to keep an open space for family members. Communal space is very important for Filipino families, to be surrounded by people all the time regardless of all the chaos. Children running around boisterously, lolas playing cards and titas chismising (gossiping) but these sounds are common and comforting; perhaps Filipinos have a fear of being alone.

On the other hand, Westerners find it a luxury to have privacy. Many houses have individual accommodations for parents, their children and additional members.

It is unheard of for Filipinos (in the Philippines) to lock the front entrance of their house. In fact there is always someone present in the house and for one to come home to an empty house would be very unusual.

As families expanded the design of the bahay kubo did as well and are known as, bahay na bato mostly found in rural areas. The size may have changed but the notion of collective space stays intact.

Three or more generations of related families can cohabitate together but somehow can still live separately and often spend hours together. The possibility of any privacy can be found by hanging a thin cloth from the ceiling though the sounds will pervade. Another method is to turn your back to the room although will only give a brief moment of solitude.

“Filipinos follow the Asian concept of shared space and limited privacy. The traditional Japanese houses are designed as a single space that can temporarily be separated by sliding paper screens that unify the house and garden into one single area.”
Reference

Foreigners visiting Metro Manila for the first time are often overwhelmed with the constant disorder and eruption of noise. Jeepney and truck horn tooting and people yelling not to mention the maze of streets can put anyone in sensory overdrive.

Shanty-towns are constructed by corrugated metal scraps and the residents still keep the tradition of public space. Neighbors know each other by first name and more often than not see each other on a daily basis. Like the African proverb, it takes a village to raise a child.

The Filipino children’s Bahay Kubo was once a popular song taught to pre-school aged kids. It has become rather obsolete with little explanation why although past generations still know the song quite well. With the number of vegetables mentioned in the song it has been a great teaching tool for youngsters.

Click here for a live version of the song

Tagalog translation

Bahay kubo kahit munti
Ang halaman doon ay sari sari.
Singkamas at talong,
Sigarilyas at mane,
Sitaw bataw patani.
Kundol patola, upo’t kalabasa,
at saka mayro’n pang labanos, mustasa.
Sibuyas, kamatis, bawang at luya,
Sa paligidligid nito’y panay na linga.

English Translation

My nipa hut, although it’s small
The plants are diverse
Turnips and eggplant,
Winged beans and peanuts,
String beans, edible pots, lima beans,
White melon, gourd, white pumpkin and squash,
and still there are more, radish, mustard,
Onions, tomatoes, garlic and ginger,
All around are lush sesame plants.

A list of the Filipino vegetables and their meanings:

bahay – house
kubo – hut
kahit – even (if)
munti – tiny
halaman – plants
doon – there
sari-sari – varied
paligid – surroundings
puno – full (in this particular context)

From a Yehey Message Board:

singkamas – native turnip
talong – eggplant
sigarilyas – winged seguidillas beans
mani – peanut
sitaw – string beans
bataw – hyacinth bean
patani  – lima beans, kidney beans
kondol – wax gourd
patola – sponge gourd
upo – white squash
kalabasa – pumpkin, squash
labanos – radish
mustasa – mustard
sibuyas – onions
kamatis – tomatoes
bawang – garlic
luya – ginger
linga – sesame seeds

Resources:

Bahay Kubo and the Filipino Concept of Space

Bahay Kubo song

Website of Filipino Traditions