Young artists rediscover ideology behind bahay kubo
By Rachelle Cruz
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Bahay kubo kahit munti, ang halaman doon, ay sari sari, singakamas at talong…
These lyrics from a children`s song bring nostalgia of youthful memories, of homeland, where carefully-woven huts dotted across farmlands sit under the searing heat of the sun. The Bahay Kubo is an indigenous Filipino hut, typically constructed using materials of bamboo and nipa/anahaw leaves interwoven, with varying architectural designs. The native hut is an iconic symbol of the Philippine culture, and is an embodiment of the Filipino value Bayanihan, which refers to the spirit of community effort to achieve a unified purpose.
The Bayanihan: An Interactive Art Installation at Daniels Spectrum opened the KULTURA festival on August 7, and was led by Toronto-based artists Julius Poncelet Manapul, Kristina Guison and Tim Manalo, in collaboration with Regent Park and Cabbagetown neighbourhoods to collectively construct a life-sized woven Kubo. The artistic process aimed to explore the themes of home, family, and migration, while highlighting their own personal stories of cultural transitions and adjustments.
“The Bahay Kubo grounds you to those childhood memories, especially if you grew up in the Philippines because there’s a lot of children songs written about it, there’s imageries about it and really represents the idea of community, of different families, different people, coming together, where there’s a sense of connection and again that knitting of family values,” Manapul explained.
Using materials that speak to the culture, the hut is 6 feet by 8 feet, and 10 feet high, made of wood, and strips of Filipino newspapers to cover the roof. In keeping with the spirit of Bayanihan, members of the community were encouraged to use paint on paper to create their own version of what home means, and integrate their artwork as these coloured papers formed the walls of the hut.
“One person cannot build it. It’s not a one-man project. That’s the ideology behind the Bahay Kubo. Even the idea of relocating it, it’s not one person moving it, it’s the community. I think that it was great to parallel that idea with the installation and how the installation can be finished when we have everyone’s help and input,” Manapul continued.
And perceptions of the kubo can change over time. For Kristina Guison, through her former lens, having been born and raised in Manila, she saw that the hut represented poor families residing in the provinces. Yet, in revisiting the Philippines, it gave her a newfound appreciation of its structure, design, and symbolic meaning, “Now I don’t see it purely in a social economic way, it’s a cultural thing – cultural differences, tribal regional differences. I fell in love with the different kinds of Kubo there and I look at the windows and there are millions of variations of patterns,” she exclaimed.
The artists explained that the process behind the construction does not merely question the idea of the hut as a settlement and submersion into a new culture experienced by Filipino immigrants, but it also reflects the idea behind The Balikbayan. Filipinos are always in transition, moving across borders, parallel to the hut that can be moved and relocated.
But for Tim Manalo, he explained that he does not necessarily have to journey back to the Philippines to create a more “authentic” artwork. His artistic processes involved reflecting upon his cultural expression to trace his roots. “Identity for me cannot happen without including my upbringing especially Filipino culture. This is my upbringing – I am Canadian but Filipino culture is part of me,” he said, noting that his immersion in the Filipino environment inspires and shapes his art work and ideas.
Julius Poncelet Manapul majored in Drawing and Painting from Ontario College of Arts and Design, and most recently graduated from his Master’s in Visual Studies at the University of Toronto.
Kristina Guision is currently in the Sculpture and Art Installation Program at OCAD
Tim Manalo was also in the Sculpture and Art Installation Program in OCAD and graduated in 2010