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List: Parts of bahay na bato | Filipiniana 101

The turn of the century bahay na bato or "stone house" ­­ the Old Manila Nostalgia blog correctly renames it the bahay na bato at kahoy ­­ is practically extinct. Except for Las Casas de Acuzar, which dismantles bahay na bato from their original context and reconstructs them in a resort near the shore of Bagac, Bataan, no one builds them anymore.

Although non­indigenous, the bahay na bato (at kahoy) has become "authentic Filipino," to go by Fernando Nakpil­Zialcita's argument, because the original Spanish architectural design has been repurposed to suit the native climate using the native architectural idiom, in particular construction ideas from the bahay kubo. The Old Manila Nostalgia blogger observantly notes these ingenious adjustments:

­ making the structure more earthquake­proof ­ allowing more light into the house ­ allowing more air ­ shielding the house from the rain and heat of the sun ­ raising the floor as a precaution against flood

Bahay na bato researcher Maria Cecilia Sunico Atienza lists the following as among the most distinguishing features of the bahay na bato (in no particular order): portico, porte cochere, volada, load­bearing walls, pilasters, engaged column, stained­glass windows, capiz sliding ventanas, and ventanillas.

Note that, just like everything else in Filipino culture, the bahay na bato also has several variations along ethnic lines, or so Imelda Marcos' Nayong Pilipino educated us long ago. The bahay na bato in Cebu, for example, has differences from the one in, say, Samar. Augusto Villalon, in support of this observation, has an interesting compare­and­contrast essay on the Vigan (Ilocos Sur) bahay na bato versus the Taal (Batangas) bahay na bato. (Unfortunately, it can't be found via Google.)

Other observers point out another distinguishing feature: the unprecedented mixing and matching of architectural styles, such that a bahay na bato can have neo­gothic and neo­Mudejar (neo­Moorish) details in the same corners ­­ that is, on top of the baroque (which may be of particular style, e.g. the spare­by­ comparison Viennese Secessionist style). These quaint mixes give the bahay na bato an architectural style that evolved from both East and West and thus making it truly Filipino.

One can't help but think the bahay na bato should be a source of identity and pride among Filipinos, and yet the realities on the ground contradict this assumption. Instead of continuing with the construction of our houses in this tradition, which is perfectly suited to the tropics, we now mostly prefer the "modern Asian" or Japanese style. What we do with the fine cultural fusion that is the bahay na bato is consign it to the status of a museum artifact, to be visited and relished only as an afterthought. Apart from this, we obliterate it for commercial purposes, if not leave to self­destruction.

Why has the bahay na bato fallen into disrepair and disfavor? We can only speculate. Maybe the reason is economics: it's simply too expensive to build the bahay na bato in the original style using original materials.

Could the reason also be sociopolitical in nature? Could it also be that its death is only a reflection of the death of the feudalistic structure of Philippine society? Let's not forget that, in its time, the bahay na bato is a status symbol, and because of that, the Filipino masses could only associate it with a social status and a way of life way beyond their means in their whole lifetime. Do the Filipino masses regard the bahay na bato with


List: Parts of bahay na bato | Filipiniana 101

hate, resentment, or disdain? Maybe the left­leaning do, but I have yet to actually meet such a resentful bunch among fellow ordinary Filipinos.

With the bahay na bato inevitably vanishing from our culture, except as museum artifacts and themed­resort structures, these architectural and interior design terms have practically vanished along with it. All we can do now is make this quick requiem of a list:

Bahay na Bato at Kahoy Architectural and Home Furnishing Terms

Accessoria ­ "apartment­type dwelling characterized by common party walls shared by adjoining units with separate door each in front"

Aljibe ­ cistern

Antesala ­ see Caida

Aparador de tres lunas ­ "armoire with three sections"

Arko ­ arch

Azotea ­ "open­air balcony beside the kitchen that housed a cistern (aljibe) and the bathroom and was usually a work area" (Bambi Harper)

Atlas, Atlantes ­ "a column in the shape of a man"

Balconaje ­ balcony

Banggera ­ " a wooden dish rack that extends outside the kitchen window. After the dishes are washed, they are placed here to be air­dried. The inverted cups are placed on the ends of the wooden sticks and the plates are placed in between or above the slats. On the far left is a tapayan/banga, an earthenware jar that keeps water cool." (Old Manila Nostalgia blog)

Bañera ­ bathtub

Baño ­ bathroom

Barandillas ­ (usually wooden) railing or balustrade

Barrigones ­ "buntis" (pregnant) grillworks to accommodate planters

Butaka ­ "a version of silla perezosa with no leg rests"

Caida ­ landing on the upper entrance hall; "foyer of the second floor"; also called Antesala

Calado ­ lace­style fretwork or latticework used to adorn room dividers and to allow air to circulate

Capilla ­ "long bench, a staple item in the caida"


List: Parts of bahay na bato | Filipiniana 101

Capital ­ "topmost member of a column (or pilaster) mediating between the column and the load"

Capiz window ­ (often) sliding window made of capiz shells cut into squares

Caryatid ­ "a sculpted female figure serving as an architectural support taking the place of a column or a pillar supporting an entablature on her head"

Clerestory ­ "any high windows above eye level for the purpose of bringing outside light, fresh air, or both into the inner space"

Cocina ­ kitchen built separately from the house

Colonette ­ "a small, thin decorative column supporting a beam (horizontal timber) or lintel (beam spanning a door or window)"

Comedor ­ dining room

Comun ­ toilet; also called Latrina

Cornice ­ a ledge or "generally any horizontal decorative molding that crowns a building or furniture element"

Court, Courtyard ­ "a space enclosed by walls and is open to the sky; has azotea or balconaje"

Cuartos ­ rooms

Cuatro aguas ­ "hip roof, which has more corners and angles, making it stronger than the dos aguas (gable) or high­pitched roof due to stronger aerodynamics (i.e., more wind resistance); also has the advantage of providing an overhang, which is effective for protecting the house from rainwater and from direct sunlight"

Dapugan ­ "a platform in the kitchen where the 'kalan' or clay stove is placed"

Despacho ­ office; also Oficina

Dispensa ­ pantry

Dos aguas ­ "gable or high­pitched roof"

Eave ­ "bottom edge of a roof"

Engaged column ­ column in support of the roof above

Entresuelo ­ mezzanine; "literally meaning 'between floors´, this is the area where clients, tenants or estate managers (if the owner was a rich landowner) wait before being admitted to the oficina (office)"

Escalera ­ stairway

Escritorio ­ "a large chest of drawers, commonly adorned with inlay work"


List: Parts of bahay na bato | Filipiniana 101

Façade ­ front

Finial ­ "a usually foliated ornament forming an upper extremity"

Gable ­ "the part of a wall that encloses the end of a pitched roof"

Gallinera ­ literally, "chicken seat"; "usually found outside the oficina of a landowner; coming from the Spanish word 'gallo' (chicken), this church bench­inspired settee is used for farmers to place chickens on the cage underneath in exchange for paying cash" (Old Manila Nostalgia blog)

Gargoyle ­ "a carved stone grotesque with a spout designed to convey water from a roof and away from the side of a building, thereby preventing rainwater from running down masonry walls and eroding the mortar between"

Gingerbread trim, Running trim ­ "a fancifully cut and pierced frieze metal sheet attached to the eaves, a trimming that instantly transforms simple windows into a piece of art"; "usually attached to the eaves to make it more decorative and to curving iron rods that help support the media agua"

Kama ­ typically meaning four­poster bed

Kama ni Ah­tay ­ "a once popular signature four poster bed design that was carved by a famous Chinese furniture maker named Eduardo Ah Tay. To have this bed was considered a symbol of status during the Spanish era." (Old Manila Nostalgia blog)

Kantoneras (Brackets) ­ "either plain calado cut­outs or fully carved embellishments usually placed where beams and columns intersect especially under the "soffit" or overhanging ceiling outside house; also seen to decorate door or window openings, hallways or simply dividing spaces"

Lansenas ­ kitchen sideboards

Latrina ­ see Comun

Load­bearing wall ­ wall used in place of posts to bear weight

Machuca tiles (formerly known as baldozas mosaicas) ­ colorful Mediterranean­style cement tiles used for the zaguan flooring; manufactured by the Machuca company; another brand is Majolica

Media aguas ­ canopy or roof shed, consisting of "a piece of metal roof that protects the window from rain or heat"; not to be confused with awning

Mirador ­ lighthouse

Moulding, molding ­ "a strip of material (such as wood or metal) with some design or pattern that is used as a decoration on a wall, on the edge of a table, etc."

Oratorio ­ prayer room with an altar of santos

Painted metal sheet ceiling ­ "tin or copper ceiling from maybe late Victorian to early American colonial


List: Parts of bahay na bato | Filipiniana 101

period, to prevent decay by moisture or worms (or even mouse)"

Paminggalan ­ "a cabinet where leftover food and preserves are stored. The doors of the cabinet have slats so that it can absorb air and room temperature inside. To avoid ants from coming up and getting to the food, the legs of the cabinet are placed on containers filled with kerosene or any liquid." (Old Manila Nostalgia blog)

Pasamano ­ window ledge

Persiana ­ louver window

Piedra china ­ Chinese stone used to pave the floor of the zaguan

Pilaster ­ false pillar "used to give the appearance of a supporting column and to articulate an extent of wall, with only an ornamental function"

Platera ­ aparador or cabinet for kitchenware (chiefly china)

Porte cochere ­ horse carriage porch or portico at the main entrance

Portico ­ "(from Italian) a porch leading to the entrance of a building, or extended as a colonnade, with a roof structure over a walkway, supported by columns or enclosed by walls"

Puerta ­ "door of the entrada principal (main entrance)"

Puertita ­ "small cut door that is part of the puerta"

Pugon ­ clay oven

Punkah ­ ceiling cloth fan

Sala mayor ­ main living room, place for late­afternoon parties called tertulias and dances called bailes

Sala menor ­ secondary living room

Sillas Americanas ­ "American chairs, considered the Monobloc chairs of their time (due to ubiquity)"

Silla perezosa ­ lazy chair

Solihiya ­ typical weave pattern in furniture

Stained glass ­ "glass colored or stained (as by fusing metallic oxides into it) for decorative applications (as in windows)"

Transom ­ "transverse horizontal structural beam or bar"

Trompe l'oeil ­ "a style of painting in which things are painted in a way that makes them look like real objects"

Tumba­tumba ­ Philippine rocking chair


List: Parts of bahay na bato | Filipiniana 101

Ventana ­ "wooden window panel that uses a grid pattern with flattened capiz shell panes"; often in sliding style, as opposed to flinging out

Ventanilla ­ literally 'small window'; "sliding panels between the floor and windows" to allow more air and light; "usually protected by balustrades which can either be wooden or wrought iron grills"

Volada ­ "an enclosed overhanging balcony"; "a gallery (along the elaborate system of windows) which protects the rooms from the heat of the sun"

Yerong pukpok ­ see Gingerbread trim

Zaguan ­ ground floor (literally "passageway" in Arabic) to accommodate horse carriages and carrozas (processional carriages)


English Oxford Dictionary


Philippine Ancestral Houses (1810­1930) by Fernando Nakpil Zialcita and Martin I. Tinio, GCF Books (1980)

Arkitekturang Filipino: A History of Architecture and Urbanism in the Philippines by Gerard Lico, UP Press


Philippine Heritage Homes: A Guidebook by Jaime C. Laya, Cristina V. Turalba and Martin I. Tinio, Jr. (2014)

Ancestral Houses in the Philippines Facebook page members Maria Cecilia Atienza Sunico, Chris Chan, et al.

Posted 20th March 2014 by R.O.


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List: Parts of bahay na bato | Filipiniana 101

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