An Old Fashioned Pinoy Bahay Kubo In Palawan

This Puerto Princesa kubo shows that other than being a temporary structure, it can become a permanent family home

Original Article: Rachelle Medina Photography: Ocs Alvarez Pictorial Direction: Gwyn Guanzon

Along a main road in Puerto Princesa, Palawan is a lush, almost-mystical grove of Philippine mahogany trees. Then past all that foliage, a clearing appears where—fairy-tale-like—two large thatched huts emerge. One of the huts is the famed Café Arturo, while the other, more enclosed hut, an actual bahay kubo complete with thatched roof and sawali walls, is the Banzuela home.

The Banzuela kubo is humble on the outside, but delightfully complex on the inside. For starters, unlike the traditional bahay kubo that is elevated from the ground and has a single-level living area, this one has a high ceiling with a sleeping loft for the couple (the children sleep in a two-storey house next door). A large wooden post in the center of the structure supports the thatched ceiling and roof, and intricately woven rattan joins each wooden and bamboo truss, column, and beam. 

"Experimental lahat ito," explains Christine Banzuela, restaurant owner and lady of the house (or rather, kubo). "It took so long kasi labor-intensive." From the central post radiates the living and dining areas, as well as the kitchen, all in open plan. Then I find a contemporary twist: French doors all around, which when thrown open, do not look out of place at all.

It is a house that sits naturally in its setting, and is as unpretentious as its owners. The kubo is the ultimate throwback to when life—and living—was simpler. But Cristine has yet more plans for the area. The children's former playhouse, now a beehive where the family harvests honey from, will be cleared, and a circular garden is slowly being developed into a space for extra guests. "Mina-magic pa," is how she puts it. 


Unlike the traditional bahay kubo, which is raised from the ground on stilts, the Banzuela kubo is planted firmly on the ground, with a cement floor finished with clay tiles.


The bulwagan or main hall in the kubo is simply decorated with a baul and a carved Palawan boat. French wooden doors provide a contemporary touch to the structure. Says Christine about their design process of the house: "Walang blueprint ang bahay namin," she admits, "And husband ko, dinrawing lang yan sa lupa!"

Living area

Sawali (split woven bamboo) wall and ceiling panels are rustic looking and airy. A bamboo window lets in natural light and cross-ventilation but provides security.

Dining area

The dining table occupies the space directly under the couple's sleeping loft. Note the intricately woven joinery of the ceiling rafters.


The Banzuelas waited a long time before they found a bamboo pole with the perfect, naturally curved shape to serve as a railing for the stairs that lead to the sleeping loft.

Ceiling detail

A sturdy wooden post rises to the ceiling and supports the entire thatched roof, which rises here above the sleeping loft. The pawid (palm) roof is reinforced with bamboo rafters and brackets.


The Banzuelas? charming bahay kubo sits comfortably in a clearing within the family's six-hectare compound. The family used to live by the Puerto Princesa pier, but they found it too noisy. "One day sabi ko, 'Lipat na tayo,'" relates Christine. They started planting the mahogany trees, and made clearings for the restaurant and home.

Read the original article ("Going Native") in the April 2008 issue of Real Living Magazine. Download your digital copy of Real Living on the Real Living App. Log on to for more details. 


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