OUR country and people are truly blessed to have a patriot who has championed the cause of Filipino Design in Philippine Architecture. No world-renowned architect has espoused the tropical indigenous design for Filipinos in the past half-century other than Francisco “Bobby” Mañosa.
Architect Mañosa has been most famous for his adaptation of the nipa hut or bahay-kubo, the structure of local architecture in our country. The same house design has worked over the centuries with “our climate, environment and culture.” In spite of the lack of an architect, the nipa hut is designed with a “deep understanding of our living conditions,” says Mañosa whose name has become synonymous with the bahay-kubo.
It is phenomenal that Architect Bobby Mañosa has modernized the humble nipa hut by infusing “today’s design materials and technology” and yet retaining its distinctive design elements.” This is the essence of his “Philippine Architecture for Filipinos.” In “Designing Filipino,” Mañosa explains that he has been “designing Filipino because interpreting Filipino design is beautiful and can stand at par with other world-class designs.”
Indeed, for decades now, the great yet humble Architect Mañosa has advanced the “Contemporary Tropical Filipino Architecture” in the frontier of the global scene.
A source of Filipino pride is the Coconut Palace that was designed by Mañosa, which is also known as the Tahanan Filipino. It is now the official residence of the Vice President of the Philippines where columnists, editors and top officials of The Manila Times were invited last January for a tour and lunch with Vice-President Jejomar Binay.
At the Tahanan Filipino or Coconut Palace, the outstanding features of our Filipino arts and crafts were perfectly blended with the structures, such as coconut lumber, rattan, capiz shells, native banig (mats) and textile fabrics with modern materials like glass, metal, concrete and granite and/or marble. The Tahanan Filipino is certainly one of Mañosa’s masterpieces that can and will make Filipinos proud of their cultural heritage.
Integrity in philosophy of Filipino design
What really inspired me to write this article was when I read the Special Issue 3 2014 of the BluPrint magazine. The cover story was on The HEIRS issue entitled “Succeeding their Father’s Success” that featured Architect Angelo “Gelo” Mañosa and others like Andy Locsin, Ed Calma, Paul Peña, Karima Palafox and Toni Vasquez.
When Gelo Mañosa was asked what he admires most about his father Bobby Mañosa, his answer was the “integrity of his philosophy.” The heir to the Mañosa & Co. architectural firm pointed out that Francisco Mañosa “has always been focused on the love for Filipino architecture.” He told of the story that tested his father’s consistency.
“There were even times when things were really bad after they shot (Ninoy) Aquino. In that one year, there was only one interior design project that the firm got. Just one! And he was already an established name at the time. Anyway, there was one project that came in, it was with Cardinal Sin.”
The project was an eight-hectare retirement village in Tagaytay for Japanese priests from Tokyo. The only condition was for it to be designed reflecting Japanese architecture with tatami flooring and shoji rice partitions. Architect Mañosa went to Cardinal Sin and asked: “But your Eminence, Japanese architecture here in the Philippines?”
Cardinal Sin told Mañosa to just turn a blind eye, but the latter did not. He did not accept the offer, but told His Eminence that there might be other architects who would take the job.
Consistent with his philosophy, Bobby Mañosa said in the same interview in BluPrint magazine: “I would only accept projects that would further my philosophy of promoting Philippine architecture. If someone wanted a colonial house, I would refer him to some other architect.”
His son Gelo would further continue working based on his father’s integrity: “He always stuck to designing contemporary or vernacular Filipino architecture, and it’s hard to do that, because you limit yourself to a niche market. That tenacity and that integrity is admirable, especially in a span of 40 years.”
In the article of the Philippine Daily Inquirer of October 2013 entitled “Francisco Mañosa’s ‘lonely crusade for a truly Filipino architecture,” he said: “I was quite consistent in my thinking and philosophy about pushing the envelope of Philippine architecture. I can say I have never done anything but Filipino architecture and have turned down countless projects because we were misaligned with this philosophy. I have no regrets.”
Meeting Bobby Mañosa
I first met the venerable Architect Francisco “Bobby” Mañosa some ten years ago at the Arts & Crafts Fair at Ayala Alabang in Muntinlupa.
Arch. Bobby Mañosa was introduced to me by Emmanuel “Jackie” Barcelon, brother-in-law of my wife, who had worked with the Ayala Alabang Village Association (AAVA) for many years since the 1990s.
Years later on, Bobby and I would meet again due to our advocacy of the Pilipinas Sandiwa Heritage Foundation, Inc. In his book Designing Filipino: The Architecture of Francisco Mañosa that he gave me in September 2011, the dedication was typical Mañosa: “Architecture must be true to itself, its land and its people!”