Philippines Architecture – The three main island regions of the Philippines are Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao. The country has a total land area of 300,000 km2, which is around the size of Italy or slightly larger than the state of Arizona in the United States.

The archipelago’s 108 million people (in 2020) make it the world’s 13th most populated country; Luzon, the biggest island group, accounts for more than half of the country’s total population.

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View of the colorful vibrant city that welcomes its travelers _©

Since there are 20 active volcanoes in the country, much of it is mountainous and subject to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. Typhoons and other storms frequently hit it and batter it. Particularly in terms of language, religion, and governance, Spanish and US influences are still very prevalent. In 1946, under a constitution modeled after the US, full independence was achieved after self-rule in 1935.

The Philippines’ architectural tradition reflects its history and culture, with countless inspirations from different countries laying the way for the current styles we see now, a mixité of cultural elements amid Western-style structures. Philippine architecture has evolved alongside the nation and its people, yet memories of a magnificent past remain etched in the country’s history.

The modern Philippine architecture is the result of genuine development that has broadened the reception of its influences. Its architectural setting contrasts modest traditional huts, towering Spanish colonial defenses, American Commonwealth architecture, and modern concrete city structures. As a result, the Philippines has evolved into a cultural melting pot. This essay will look at how residential architecture and houses in the Philippines have progressed from their humble beginnings to the towering skyscrapers we see today.

The Philippine archipelago offers enormous areas and huge natural resources for the act of building homes, which the primordial civilizations exploited to their advantage in creating the earliest known Filipino home, with around 7640 islands—2000 of which remain abandoned. The Bahay Kubo (Nipa Cottage) is a tiny hut made of nipa, bamboo, and other indigenous materials. Many individuals still live in this style because of its basic design, ease of execution, and easily available materials. To this day, the Bahay Kubo may be seen in both rural areas and tropical resorts.

Bahay na Bato | Philippines Architecture

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View of the traditional dwelling _©

The Spanish colonial era in the Philippines saw the advent of stone and masonry buildings, which led to the development of infrastructure, including roads and bridges, opening the way for the introduction of another traditional Filipino dwelling, Bahay na Bato (Stone House). The Hispanic design, which originated in Central America, was appropriate for the Philippines’ natural disaster-prone environment, with adobe walls as its structural basis and wood as the major materials for the spacious open-layout upper floors.


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View from the street of Tsalet dwelling _©

With the handover of colonial control from Spain to the United States in 1898, the Philippines saw a number of architectural advances. One of these was the emphasis on hygienic standards, which set the groundwork for the establishment of a toilet, or cubeta, via a pail conservation system. This resulted in the birth of the notion of a well-planned community known as a Sanitary Barrio, and subsequently tsalet.

Tsalet designs, defined as “the crossbreed of tropical traits of traditional structures with sanitary structural principles and contemporary materials,” streamlined the functions of the Filipino house. Private garages had grown typical, and the inhabitants’ bathroom and kitchen were now located within the residence, utilizing modern amenities such as the flush system and modern appliances.

Bungalow | Philippines Architecture

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Independent house of the Philippines _©

During the American colonial period, important architectural advances occurred, including the invention of the bungalow, the most frequent style of occupation in the country. These low-rise dwellings have a pitched roof and a horizontal design, with a roof made of galvanized iron, concrete walls, and a yard, garden, or covered vehicle port—if not all three.

This typical Filipino house is usually seen in cities since it is cheaper and simpler to construct than a multi-story dwelling. Because elder care is important in Filipino culture, the bungalow is also perfect for older inhabitants because of its size, simplicity of upkeep, and adaptability for movement within the home. Bungalows also provide extra privacy to their tenants since the surrounding trees and fences may be used to conceal the windows.


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Row housing also called the Townhouses in the Philippines _©

Townhouses are another popular style of dwelling in the Philippines, generally seen in early urban residential projects. This style of architecture has been copied by subdivisions around the country, offering an urban feel without the need to reside in the city center. Townhouses are called “starter homes” for new families since they are the most cost effective in terms of lot area and overall cost of construction and upkeep.

Condominium | Philippines Architecture

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Philippines urban settlements _©

Condominiums, the most current and modern form of housing in the Philippines, have taken over major cities due to the comfort and convenience they give, making them the ideal abode for city inhabitants. Residents enjoy immediate access to gyms and recreational facilities without having to bother about yard work or garage maintenance. These residences include their own building security, landscapers, repairmen, housekeepers, and a variety of other services. Its visual influence may still be seen today in the skylines of the country’s major cities.

Ethnic Composition

Ethnic composition of the Philippines _©

Filipinos refer to the entire ethnically diverse Philippine population. The great majority of the people have Malay ancestors who arrived from the Southeast Asian mainland as well as what is now Indonesia. There are almost 100 culturally and linguistically different ethnic groups in contemporary Filipino culture.

Settlement patterns – Urban & Rural | Philippines Architecture

Urban and Rural settlement patterns _©

The central plains of Luzon and Panay, for example, have historically had the highest population density in the islands, with the exception of Cebu, where people have traditionally resided largely on the coastal plain due to the island’s mountainous and rocky interior. Rice or corn (maize) agriculture and fishing offer basic sustenance in these regions’ non industrialized areas.

Houses in rural locations are frequently modest, with just one or two rooms, and are elevated on piles. The open areas beneath the buildings accommodate tools and other household items, as well as live chickens and other smaller farm animals. Houses are generally built above the ocean, river, or floodplain to facilitate boat traffic and the ebb and flow of the tides, particularly in coastal fishing settlements. Elevated networks of walkways frequently link the residences in the neighborhood.

Demographic trends

Philippines Demographics  _©

The Philippines has a large population, however, it is not evenly distributed. Parts of Metro Manila have a population density that exceeds 100 times that of some peripheral places, such as northern Luzon’s mountainous region. The country’s birth rate remains much higher than the global average, as well as the Southeast Asian region’s average. Efforts to lower the general growth rate have had little effectiveness since the mid-20th century, in part because reductions in the birth rate have been countered to some extent by reductions in the mortality rate.

References | Philippines Architecture

  1. klaus (2015). Philippines – Country Profile – Nations Online Project. [online] Available at:
  2. (n.d.). Philippines – A country profile. [online] Available at:
  3. Philippines country profile. (2018). BBC News. [online] 9 Jan. Available at:
  4. ArchDaily. (2022). The Evolution of Architecture in the Philippines Through the Years. [online] Available at:
  5. HiSoUR – Hi So You Are. (2018). Architecture of the Philippines. [online] Available at:
  6. ‌Borlaza, G.C. and Hernandez, C.G. (2018). Philippines. In: Encyclopædia Britannica. [online] Available at:

Prerana is upbeat, strong willed and fiercely moral. She is an aspirant in the architecture field with a keen interest in researching and understanding parallels between human behaviour and architecture. She believes in breaking stereotypes whether in architecture or life. Prerana's enthusiasm and optimism fuels her every move. When alone, one can find her with the animals and capturing stories through her lens.