Crossroads: Bahay kubo at bahay na bato
By MARY LOU MARIGZA
Recent typhoons and the extreme downpour from the moonsoons are flooding us to second floor levels. Climate change due to global warming is causing sea rise and seasonal flip flops that we have drenching floods then followed by drought. After the earth becomes saturated with putrid water, we suffer next long drought that cracks the earth where again we cannot plant anything.
Some farmers we have met in our travels to the Ilocos and Cagayan regions have told us that they are at wit’s end trying to survive. Earlier planting seasons get destroyed by flood, later if they ever replant rice, suffers from the drought or will be subjected again to the late typhoons that are more ferocious than the earlier ones. Some farmers have resorted to planting camote. Yes, our plain and simple much maligned camote. And guess what – they earned more from the bountiful harvest than if they had replanted rice. Maybe we should tell them to go-plant-camote instead.
Others said peanuts which is a summer plant is also a good substitute apart from restoring nitrogen back to the soil. But then, not all soil is suited for peanuts, especially if the land is irrigated. Baka nasaysayaat pay no tabako laengen, kunada pay. But that means waiting for a suitable crop during the rainy rainy season.
Which brings me to the title of this column. Maybe our foreparents knew something we don’t. They built their houses above the ground then. The bahay kubo has never been on the ground, it had always been built on stilts. And considering that earlier communities were built along river delta and river banks, they were that connected to nature and they knew that come rainy season, the rivers overflowed their banks to create a fertile valley where they could grow their food. The pantar they know is not a suitable place to live since the river will always claim it back during the rainy season.
Our forefathers also structured their houses such that it weathered the strongest typhoons and rains but lets in much, much air during the hot summer season. If you ever lived in a bamboo bahay kubo you know the cooling effect of the datar made of slats of bamboo and nipa or cogon roofs that acts as soundproofing to the pitter-patter of the rain.
Or in the Cordillera, most houses were above the ground with rat guards on the posts. Again the architecture suited the climate. Closed houses tapering to the top to cushion the occupants from the cold and the incessant rains. Again, it was basic necessities serving people who were closely attuned to nature.
Then the Spaniards came and built pueblos away from the waterways. But earlier architecture as preserved in Vigan or Laoag were bahay na bato with wide areas on the ground floor for the calesa or caruwaje and the burnays of wine, vinegar and sugar (muscovado or pulitipot). I remember when I was grade one in Tagudin (ages ago, mind you) that the rich although no longer housing caruwaje on the first floor, used them as stores or storehouses for their grains and other riches. The Lorenzanas had a big bahay na bato in front of the plaza that housed their lucrative loom weaving (inabel and clothing) business on the ground floor while the second floor was the family home. The famous Lorenzana bagoong was in another building. I have not been to Tagudin for a long time so I am not sure if the big house still stands.
The bahay na bato was also a repetition of the concept of the bahay kubo. Although of a more massive scale and showing to one and all who is landlord and who is overlord, it echoed the need for airy spaces during summer and warm, dry place in rainy season where the floods cannot reach.
After the recent habagat flooded large sections of Luzon and after our experiences of massive flooding last year in the Visayas and Mindanao, architect Palafox who after the Ondoy/Pepeng destruction was a voice in the wilderness of good city planning was at it again. And again he got interviewed on the need to raise our houses, our structures and even our road system to mitigate the effects of global warming and rising sea levels. Our country being an island state should know this. And we should know that throwing our garbage into rivers and building on esteros is not good city planning, di ba po?
We should listen and listen closely to what the environment is telling us and make appropriate measures if we do not want to live with the dalag. # nordis.net