Filipino Living in a Modern Bahay Kubo

Within the UP Los Banos campus is a 63-year-old bamboo house for a big family.

Original Article: Katherine Lopez Photography: Miguel Nacianceno Pictorial Direction: Issa Villar

Through the years, the bahay kubo or nipa hut has become a symbol of Philippine culture and traditions. It is also an ideal choice for homeowners because it is warm, inviting, and reminds one of the simpler days gone by. These are the things that the Calma-Lazaros love best about their own bamboo house.

Isolina Calma decided to build the bamboo house on an 800sqm lot inside the University of the Philippines Los Banos (UPLB) campus in 1951. Isolina’s creativity and hard work resulted in a comfortable home that she lived in with her husband and UPLB professor Dr. Valeriano Calma and their eight children. One of their children, Josephine, now lives in this home. Apart from Josephine’s 20 grandchildren, guests of the University and the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) also visit the space often.

Original article by Katherine Lopez. Pictorial direction by Issa Villar. Photographed by Miguel Nacianceno. 

Read “Tales of a Bamboo House” in the July 2011 issue of Real Living Magazine. To download a digital copy of Real Living Magazine, visit Summit Newsstand at


From outside the gate, the abundance of flora is a welcoming sight. Lush greens abound in the lanai, ushering guests in.

Outdoor Living Area

Another living area is furnished with a wicker armchair, sofa, and glass-topped coffee table. Wicker is woven fiber used to make light yet sturdy furniture pieces. Because of its rustic and organic look, this material can be used in a traditional Filipino home.

Formal Living Area

While this living area is found indoors, the space feels like it is connected to nature because of a picture window that provides a great view of the garden. It is furnished with old gallinera chairs made with polished wood that lends warmth to the space. Floors, ceilings and other details are made with kawayan tinik or Bambusa blumeana Schultes, a type of spiny bamboo native to the Philippines.

Informal Living Area

The house has multiple living areas so that the family can entertain guests.


Hanging by the antique piano is a portrait of Isolina, the grand old lady of the bamboo house. To ward off termites, Isolina believed that bamboo should not be cut during months with names that end with the letter “o”, namely Enero, Pebrero, Marso, Mayo, Hunyo, Hulyo, and Agosto. According to her, bamboo could only be cut from September to December and preserved by soaking in Laguna de Bay. Although Isolina was very particular about when to get and how to treat the bamboo, Josephine explains that this type of wood is fairly easy to clean and maintain – all you need is a damp rag and a bit of liquid floor wax.

Dining Area

In the dining area, the walls are made from sawali or oven split bamboo mats. An accent wall that looks like it is covered with bubbles is made from leftover bamboo. Framed photos of the Calma and Lazaro families are proudly displayed atop polished buffet consoles.


On one corner of the dining area is a glass cabinet filled with coffee sets, tea cups, and trays. These pieces reflect the family’s love for entertaining.


Since Josephine’s mother was fond of gardening and her son CV is the former president of the Philippine Orchids Society, the family simply had to have verdant surroundings. The house is surrounded with ferns, bromeliads, bougainvillea, and tropical plants.


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