Nipa Huts: Traditional Filipino Rural Living

Nipa Hut in the Philippines
Traditional Filipino Nipa Hut

Traditional Nipa Huts in the Philippines

Nipa Huts are a living symbol of rural life in the Philippines.  It is the home of yesterday that has changed and survived even until today. Nipa Huts or Bahay Kubos are an icon of Philippine rural living. They are built differently in different areas, according to the conditions and circumstances of the area. Nipa Huts are a living Pilipino icon.

There is no real definition of how a Nipa Hut is made, but there are several things that most have in common. The conditions in the Philippine lowlands have led to some basic similarities. Most of these huts are built-in three layers. Depending on whether they are in or near water. Most Nipa huts are built on stilts. Since most of the island has water to deal with, usually the bottom part of the hut allows the water to freely go under the hut.  This is true especially near the coast and in boggy areas. There are a few exceptions to this rule in modern times, but it is followed even today in most areas. Only some of the materials have changed. Today, often the stilts are simple concrete cinder blocks rather than the traditional hardwood. Regardless of the materials used, the benefit to this style is protection from floods and also it keeps small animals out of the living area, such as rats.

Above the stilts is the living area or the tagalong. This area is accessed by a ladder. It is built open and is well ventilated to help keep the home cooler and to allow natural light to penetrate the home. They often have bamboo slats for floors, which allow the cool air to come up from the silong. The Philippines is very hot and humid, so the traditional Nipa hut allows for cooling. There may or may not be a ceiling. Often times the ceiling is not built to allow the hot air to rise and leave through the roof.

The roof is usually tall and steeply pitched, creating a space above the living area for the hot air to go. They are built with thatch, a material that is readily available. This gives the hut a cooling effect in the long hot humid summers.  These roofs also were the reason many of these small huts survived the ash fall from the Mt. Pinatubo eruption. Many more modern homes succumbed to the weight of the ash and collapsed.

While modern Nipa huts have changed, the design has stayed basically the same. The walls are often built with bamboo rods or mats to allow the house to be cool in the hot summers and warm in the rainy season. They are still built-in a square shape and are left open for light and coolness.  The windows are large to help give light and often are held open with a long bamboo rod, to allow for air flow. This is the modern Nipa hut—an icon that has survived and adapted over time.

On your next trip to the Southern Leyte, Philippines, take a trip to the rural areas and see living Filipino history. History is alive in the Philippines, so pack your bag and grab your passport. Make this the year you explore the Southern Leyte, Philippines.

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