Home Improvement

7 Popular Local Materials For A Filipino Home

Show your love for Filipino design and culture with these local products and the indigenous materials they are made from

Original Article: Tracy Villadelrey Photography: Yanko Design & Dairy Darilag (Main Photo)

When you say Filipino home, more often than not, the first thing you'd think of is a bahay kubo. However, over time,  it has evolved into a more modern structure—not just in design, but also through the mediums used.

READ: Pinoy Dictionary: Parts of a Filipino Home

If you're in the process of completing your space and thinking about adding touches of Filipino design into your home, you may want to work with materials that are sourced all over the country. Here's a list to guide you:



Initially used as material for rope, the abaca found its way inside Filipino homes as a great material for furniture and decor. The versatility of abaca, or Manila hemp, makes it easy to work with or create different designs with it. Furniture makers and designers choose this material for their works because of its durability and availability.

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READ: 10 Things We Love About a Filipino Home

Coconut Shells

Coconut shell laminates are considered at par with the quality and appearance of turquoise shells or ivory. When you look at photos of homes—whether in magazines or online—a wide array of boxes, lamps, tabletops, chairs, household accessories, and even wall treatments make use of these materials.



Homes in the provinces often use bed frames, sofa sets, and tables made of bamboo—proving that it's a versatile must-have that designers and homeowners should consider. Aside from being used in different pieces of furniture, bamboo is also sturdy and can give your home a laid-back tropical vibe. As a bonus, it can last a lifetime, too.

READ: 5 Design Ideas for a Modern Filipino Home


Capiz Shells

If you think about it, you have seen capiz shells in different homes, in various forms. These shells are often used in crafting wall art, decor, and even lighting fixtures. Invest in one piece and use it as a focal point in the living area or dining room. There's no doubt it'll be a conversation starter at your next dinner party.



Made of climbing palm tree leaves, the rattan is another favorite of many designers. Rattan furniture pieces have evolved over time—as seen in the works of acclaimed designers Kenneth Cobonpue and Ito Kish, to name a few.

Santol Wood

Quite common among Filipino backyards and farms, santol is mostly known for its fruit that is popularly consumed and used as an ingredient. Little did we know that it has more to offer—while it is less dense than narra or molave, it is way easier to work with and polish. It is also highly resistant to wood borers (bukbok) which makes it ideal for skeletal framework. 


Rice Hull Ash Cement (RHAC)

Concrete is essential in modern homes, but if you're looking for a more cost-effective and sustainable alternative—RHAC is the answer. Ash from rice hulls or husks, when burned under 700 to 750 degrees Celsius, offers binding properties that make it a suitable additive to cement solutions.


Tips When Using Local Materials for Your Home

Quality Selection

Choose high-quality materials that are well-made and maintained to avoid problems, such as warping or cracking when using them. For example, if you’re planning to use wood for your future projects, make sure that it has been properly dried and treated.

Work with Professionals

Work with skilled professionals who have experience with handling the materials of your choice. In the long run, this will minimize waste and maximize the aesthetic appeal of the materials used.

Design Considerations

Incorporate the materials into your design or theme in a way that showcases their natural beauty. It can be used for statement pieces like a grand staircase, carved doors, or custom furniture, to name a few.

Proper Wood Finishing

For wood, apply the right type of finish to protect it and enhance its natural beauty. Different types of wood can be polished to a high shine, and finishes can range from clear varnishes to stains that accentuate its grain patterns.


Regular Maintenance

You need to take note how each of the materials you’ll use should be maintained. While some of them are low-maintenance and will just need dusting, some may need regular upkeep, such as repainting, replacement, and repairs.

Sustainable Sourcing

Ensure that the material you are using has been sourced sustainably. For hardwood, a lot of them are  protected species in the Philippines and their trade is regulated. Research on this aspect to make sure you’re not supporting people who take part in illegal acquisition of the materials.

Cost Consideration

Be aware that some materials can be expensive due to its quality and demand. Plan your budget accordingly, and if the material is too costly but you want it, consider using it as an accent material alongside less expensive ones.

Frequently Asked Questions About Local Materials in the Philippines

What are some local materials commonly used in Filipino homes?

Filipino homes often incorporate materials like abaca, bamboo, rattan, capiz shells, Philippine mahogany (Meranti), nipa palm, and various types of wood such as narra and molave. These materials are known for their durability, availability, and cultural significance.


Why are local materials like abaca and rattan favored by furniture makers?

Abaca and rattan are favored for their versatility, durability, and ease of working with. They allow for a variety of designs and can be used in a wide range of furniture and decor items, bringing a touch of Filipino heritage into modern design.

How are capiz shells used in Filipino home design?

Capiz shells are often used in crafting wall art, decor, and lighting fixtures. They can serve as a focal point in living areas or dining rooms and are appreciated for their translucent appearance and the soft, diffused light they create.

What should be considered when using wood in home construction and renovation?

It's important to select high-quality wood that has been properly dried and treated to prevent issues like warping or cracking. Regular maintenance and the right type of wood finish are also crucial to protect the wood and enhance its natural beauty. Additionally, sustainable sourcing is key to ensure that the use of wood does not contribute to illegal logging or environmental harm.


Can local materials like nipa palm and anahaw leaves be used in modern homes?

Yes, materials like nipa palm and anahaw leaves are traditionally used for thatched roofing in bahay kubo (nipa huts) and can be incorporated into modern homes for a natural and sustainable roofing option, adding a rustic and tropical vibe to the design. it can also be used as part of building and renovating modern homes.

Are there any tips for maintaining local materials in the home?

Different materials require different maintenance. Some may need only regular dusting, while others might require more attention such as repainting, replacement, or repairs. It's important to understand the maintenance needs of each material to ensure their longevity and appearance.

How can I ensure that the local materials I use are sourced sustainably?

Research the origins of the materials you plan to use and opt for suppliers who adhere to environmental and conservation standards. For hardwoods and other protected species, verify that they have been legally and responsibly harvested.


This story is based on a previously published article in July 2016. With reports from Nica Jose.

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