Designing Filipino: The Indigenous Architecture of Francisco Manosa

“Three factors make an authentic Filipino architecture,” says award-winning Filipino architect Francisco Mañosa, “Filipino values, Philippine climate and the use of indigenous materials. The point is not to rebuild the bahay kubo and bahay na bato – their time had come and gone – but to learn from them. What is the essence of indigenous architecture? What makes it uniquely Filipino? And how does an architect build modern structures that meet present-day needs and retain allegiance to native values?”

Designing Filipino: The Indigenous Architecture of Francisco

Architect and Nationalist

Considered by industry experts as the most outspoken champion of indigenous Filipino architecture, Mañosa exhorts his fellow Filipinos to infuse their artistry with nationalism: “I design Filipino, nothing else.” A bold and definitive statement indeed, coming from an architect who in 1982 was hailed by Asiaweek as one of the seven visionary architects of Asia.

“Architecture must be true to itself, to its land and to its people. For the design of the built environment reflects man’s expression of his way of life, his emotional, philosophical, religious, technological and material values in response to his needs and environmental challenges,” he explains.

“We must believe in ourselves, our capabilities, innovativeness and creativity, and stop imitating alien cultures and architectures. We must believe that in accepting what we are and what we have – both their limitations and potentials – we can finally emerge as equals,” he adds.

Designing Filipino: The Indigenous Architecture of Francisco

An Ingenious Portfolio

A graduate of the University of Santo Tomas, ‘Bobby’ is a member of the National Commission on Culture and Arts, a trustee of the Katutubong Filipino Foundation, and a Fellow of the United Architects of the Philippines. His ingenious designs include the Coconut Palace, Nayong Pilipino – Bicol Region, the Shangri-La Hotel at Mactan, the Pearl Farm Resort in Davao, which garnered the Kalakbay Resort of the Year Award for 1994 and 1995.

Bobby’s breathtaking design of world-renown Amanpulo Resort in Palawan, has given him three international awards – the Asia-Pacific Interior Design Award for Hotel /Resort Category in 1994, and the prestigious Gallivante’s Award for ‘Best Beach Resort Worldwide’ in 1994 and 1995.

Designing Filipino: The Indigenous Architecture of Francisco

Mañosa also had varying influence in the design and construction of 34 churches nationwide, including the Mary the Queen Church at Moonwalk, Paranaque, Our Lady of Edsa Shrine of the 1986 Filipino Revolution, the St. Joseph Parish Church, home of the famed Bamboo Organ of Las Pinas, and many others. He has also designed several structures depicting Philippine architecture for use at tourist trade fairs in Germany, Italy, and other parts of Europe. At the Expo of 1992 in Seville, Spain, his work on the Philippine Pavillion received a commendation for its design and materials. His works can also be seen on the Diplomatic arena, like the Philippine Embassy at Washington D.C. and the Embassy Residence and Chancery in Riyadh, KSA.

Celebrating the Coconut

Commissioned by former First Lady Imelda Marcos in 1981, the Coconut Palace was designed by Mañosa as a showpiece for the versatile coconut and its viability as an export. Located at the Cultural Center of the Philippines Complex between the Folk Arts Theatre and the Westin Philippine Plaza, the Coconut Palace is made of several Philippine hardwoods, coconut shells, and a specially engineered coconut lumber conspicuously known as Imelda Madera.

Designing Filipino: The Indigenous Architecture of Francisco

The palace is shaped like an octagon, with a salakot roof, a chandelier made of 101 coconut shells, and a dining table inlaid with 40,000 tiny pieces of coconut shells. Highlighted as one of CCP’s most striking structures for its architecture and interiors, the palace celebrates the coconut as the ultimate ‘Tree of Life’. The design echoed everything from the coconut’s roots to its trunk, bark, fruit, flower and shell. There are a total of seven suites, each intended to showcase a distinct cultural group – the Ilocos Room, the Igorot Room, the Tagalog Room, the Visayan Room, the T’Boli Room, the Maranao Room and the Zamboanga Room. In each suite, authentic artifacts and motifs were used for the décor. During the heydays of the Marcos regime, the palace served as a guesthouse for many dignitaries and celebrities, like Libyan leader Muammar Al-Qaddafi, actors Brooke Shields and George Hamilton, among many. This historic landmark has been converted into a museum, with a butterfly garden and an orchidarium.

The symbol of Filipino freedom

Our Lady of EDSA Shrine on Ortigas Avenue serves to remind us of our love for freedom and continues to withstand the test of time. The architectural and structural design for the church was undertaken by Mañosa in collaboration with National Artist for Architecture Leandro Locsin and Architect William Coscolluela. The image of Our Lady Queen of Peace was sculpted in bronze by the late artist Virginia-Ty Navarro.

Designing Filipino: The Indigenous Architecture of Francisco

Designing Filipino: The Indigenous Architecture of Francisco

Magnificent mansions made of lowly bamboo

Manila’s rich and famous commissioned Bobby Manosa to design their mansions in such exclusive enclaves as Forbes Park. Mañosa has since compiled an amazing portfolio of opulent and beautiful mansions. He courageously incorporated bamboo into these architectural works of art – bamboo sidings, bamboo flooring, bamboo paneling, bamboo mosaics, bamboo ceilings, bamboo structural elements and bamboo subfloorings.

The ingenious ways he used the lowly bamboo was truly a sophisticated art. Mañosa says, “Bamboo is the only plant that can grow fast enough to cope with the growing demand for present and future housing. But unless we apply new found technology and encourage willingness and acceptance by the people, it cannot prove its worth.”

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