Search and You Shall Find in My World

24 March 2008

Pride of Place: Finally a Bohol heritage-style book by Augusto Villalon

Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 00:08:00 03/24/2008

MANILA, Philippines - To be launched in Tagbilaran on April 15, “Sukaran: The Domestic Architecture of the Towns of Loay and Loboc in Bohol,” published by the Ayala Foundation, is a book that takes, as it states, the “first step to meet the need for references that document the stylistic and architectural vocabulary of Bohol.”

Authored by the respected resident historian of Bohol, Marianito Luspo, and cultural worker Ino Manalo, the book celebrates the Boholano’s built heritage—the traditional homes of Bohol, ensembles of rural, straightforward architecture humbly constructed without the ostentation and frills seen in the plantation homes and mansions of wealthier regions in the Philippines.

Steering clear of the misconception that heritage must be grand, this delightful book highlights the often overlooked heritage of the everyday.

This richly illustrated publication pictures the ordinary homes of ordinary people in what formerly was a forgotten province until its recent rediscovery as a heritage showcase.

Bohol is a primary example in the Philippines that heritage, if properly tapped and managed, is a resource for income-generation. And because of that, Bohol is rapidly changing.

Sukaran attempts to regulate the rapid changes that Bohol is facing as a result of tourism and modernism.

Noting the existing predisposition of locals, architects and developers for generic Western-style developments that do not reflect the local culture and appropriateness of traditional Boholano architecture in contemporary design, the publication rightly attempts to focus interest back on local craftsmanship and design traditions.

A folio of photographs documents the parts of traditional homes, from roofs to fa├žades, doors and windows. The folio even takes an unprecedented look at unappreciated vernacular gardens.

More interesting are the patterns from calado fretwork, the embroidery-like cutwork on wooden walls that allows air to circulate throughout houses. There are patterns of amakan (sawali, woven bamboo walling) ranging from the checkerboard to the herringbone and elegant diamond shapes.

“A conscious effort was made to confine the survey to architectural structures that used mainly traditional methods of construction, and, more importantly, materials from Bohol such as stone, wood, bamboo, nipa, cogon and capiz,” the authors write.

“Our aim is to privilege architecture that relates to Bohol’s environment, not only in design but also in use of materials.”

Foreign elements

The exhaustive survey is a result of “the observation of many visitors that Bohol’s tourism infrastructure is hardly reflective of its culture,” the authors say.

“Resorts that display foreign design elements have recently sprouted in Bohol. The island of Panglao, for example, is now home to Mediterranean villas, Balinese hideaways, Swiss chalets and American country restaurants.”

To refocus the globalized, generic look of new architecture back to its roots, the book records the Bohol vernacular and presents a veritable album of architectural details. It becomes a source book to redirect the vision of professionals, developers and aficionados who typically turn to the latest Western magazine for ideas to graft directly into whatever they might be building.

But the book, reference material that it definitely is, does not pretend to give all of the answers to reorient architecture into looking at modern adaptations from the traditional.

There is really no substitute to experiencing the real thing, going to the houses, feeling the space, understanding how light and air are modulated within the space, and finding out that decoration is not simply appliqued into the structure but is something integral to it.

In other words, the book is not something to just copy ideas from, it is something that tries to make people understand why these ideas not only give us our special Philippine pride of place, an identity shared by no other people on this planet.

But for those bent on just copying out of this book, at least they would be copying authentic details that they might take some pride from.

Whether this book finally reins in those individuals still dreaming of constructing more Swiss chalets, Italian trulli or Disney castles on Bohol shores, that remains to be seen.

But this is a good start.

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