Contrary to popular (and even educated) belief, lowland Philippine Christian groups do not share a uniformed culture. In fact, just a glance at a province’s architecture, particularly on residential homes, can tell a lot about the diversity and varying cultures of Filipinos living in the lowlands.
From this, we can safely say that the concept of the “BAHAY KUBO” is not an absolute description of the common Filipino house. From every town to every province, there is a stark difference between construction, materials used, and layout between each “kubo”. This article will attempt to explore that through the eyes (or the windows, so to speak), of a Balé Kapampángan.
But before we completely explore the ins-and-outs of a Balé Kapampángan, we have to understand the concept of how Kapampángans see and perceive directions, as their understanding of these concepts directly influences how they build their homes.
Up with the Sun, Gone with the Wind
Kapampángans have several ways to tell their directions, but in a discussion about the traditional Balé Kapampángan, the template followed towards building one is to take in consideration is where the wind blows and where the sun sets and rises.
For reference, the cardinal and intermediate directions in Kapampángan in respect to the sun and wind are:
- North – Amiánan
- East – Aslágan
- South – Ábayátan
- West – Álbugan
- Northeast – Sabalásan
- Southeast – Bagyúan
- Northwest – Balaklaútan
- Southwest – Siguáran
The direction of the wind determines where key elements of the Bale Kapampángan are placed.
For instance, you’ll find that the bedrooms, or silid, are located in the north, where the cool Amian (northern wind) blows. On the other hand, the living room is located in the east, or Aslágan, where the sun rises, allowing people to work in that area during the day.
The kitchen is found on the opposite side of the house, where the sun sets. This is because the sun is harsher in the west, allowing leftover food to air out and not have the smell reek around the house.
For obvious reasons, this is where the casillas or Balé Malatî is located, which is the traditional toilet. Kapampángans knew that if they situated rooms susceptible to strong odors in the western parts of their house, the sun setting in the álbugan would effectively kill off the odors and smells.
It’s nothing short of clever.
What Makes the Balé Kapampángan Distinct
To distinguish the Balé Kapampángan from the typical Bahay Kubo, we have to explore the parts and structures that make it different from the rest.
The baldug acts as the entrance to the Bale Kapampángan, and is essentially a set of steps that literally drop down like a trap door, thus its name.
The function of the BALDUG is mainly for protection as it creates an effective means to deter intruders who might come raiding at night.
The BALDUG also helps determine whether or not it is safe to venture out during a typhoon. It’s location facing south to southwest means that it’s exposed to the bagyúan, where typhoon winds and rains come from. With this enclosure, it is the feet that get wet first, keeping the rest of the body dry. At the same time, it keeps the gusty typhoon wind out whenever someone enters or exits the main door.
Ever wonder why Kapampángans have a considerable amount of elevated space under their homes?
This space is called the súlip, and is almost a person tall. The space allows the house to be elevated, effectively protecting it from flooding, which is prominent in the lowlands and the delta region. However, because of the influence of Western colonial education, most households have gone away with this indigenous technology, which led to flooded homes year-in and year-out.
In some parts of the province, especially in coastal towns, the Bale Kapampángan is also characterized by the dalungdung, which is a passageway that connects the shore to the actual home.
Kapampángans believed that the ground their standing on was alive, and as such, they call it the Indúng Tíbuan, or the “earth mother”, and they even used to worship it by offering a blood sacrifice, also known as paráyâ, before they build the house or planting rice.
This concept of the Indúng Tíbuan has led to the belief that the Bale Kapampángan is also alive, and continues to expand and grow to accommodate more members of the family — thus the presence of the sulambî, which is basically an extension, or wings, where the extended family stays.
This is also the reason why Kapampángans call their ancestral homes Matuang Balé, as they believe their home ages along with them.
Does your Kapampángan home have these features? Tell us in the comments!
Based on Pasingtábî king Aldó ampóng Ángin, A Traditional Kapampángan Architectural Belief, A lecture by Mike Pangilinan, 2017 December 16. All photos and slides taken from the same lecture.