Here’s A Complete List Of The 46 Parts of A Filipino House
Know your history of the parts and furniture pieces of a traditional bahay na bato, from Azotea to Zaguan
Entering a well-preserved Filipino ancestral house is like boarding a time machine. Our generation is fortunate, because the heirs of these remaining antique houses have put tremendous effort in preserving their ancestors’ dwellings for us to experience and learn from it.
So when traveling back in time through ancestral houses, avoid getting lost by knowing the names of important house parts and the things to see in a fully furnished bahay na bato.
For starters, the traditional rooms in a typical Filipino ancestral house from the 19th century consist of the caida (receiving room), sala mayor (main living room), comedor (dining room), oratorio (prayer room), cuartos (bedrooms), cocina (kitchen), and azotea (an open balcony that served service kitchen). These rooms are located on the second floor living quarters.
Some houses have entresuelo (mezzanine) that were divided into function rooms such as a despacho (home office) and a couple of guest rooms for an old aunt or cousins visiting from the province. The ground floor with the zaguan that looks like a damp dungeon serves as parking space for the family carriage and carrozas, and storage for farming supplies and produce. It also houses the cuadra (stable) for the horses.
The following is a list of selected house parts and furniture found in each room of a bahay na bato. Homeowners who may want to recreate the look and feel of an ancestral house might also find this glossary helpful:
Ah Tay bed
A intricately carved four poster bed famous for its kalabasa detail (squash) bedposts made by a famous 19th century craftsman from Binondo.
A water cistern located in the azotea that was filled with rainwater or potable water bought from an aguador (water vendor). In some occasions, table silver and jewelry are lowered into the slimy bottom of the aljibe to hide them from local bandits.
A vertical pillow rack used to air-dry pillows, bed linens, and banig (woven mats) during the day. It was placed at a corner in the sala of single-room house at a time when family members slept together on mats spread on the living room floor. It was eventually moved into the bedroom when the use of proper beds became popular.
Aparador de Tres Luna
A towering three-door cabinet in the master bedroom crowned with fretted scrollwork. It was named for the mirrors attached to its doors.
A storage bin for used, soiled clothes. It is made out of a wooden frame with rattan screen (solihiya) woven onto the sides. One side opens for the contents to tumble out without having to invert the hamper.
Expensive, patterned hand-painted tiles imported from Spain used to decorate the stair landings or descanso. A locally made version is the Machuca (a trademark, proper name is “encaustic tile”).
A slatted wooden dishrack attached to a dining room or a kitchen window. It is used for air-drying newly washed tableware and kitchen utensils before they were kept in the platera (sideboard) or pamingganan (plate cabinet).
A hat and cane rack placed at the caida or the staircase landing.
A metal version of the cane bentwood chair. Batibot means “enduring.”
Pierced wooden panels above doors or walls of each room that allow light and air to circulate in the house. A status symbol were the calados designed with art nouveau patterns by famous sculptors of the time such as Emilio Alvero and Isabelo Tampingco.
A decorative colonette that divides a window into two sides. Most popular styles used are the Solomonic columns that spiral upward into a Gothic arch.
Latticework panels that framed the translucent capiz shells used to completely shut windows at night or during a storm.
Coral rock quarried from reefs during low tide was used as ground floor building material in places where no adobe limestone is available.
A sewing table traditionally placed in a lady’s bedroom and seldomly used as a side table.
Spanish word for mirror. In building terms, these were transoms above windows to allow more daylight in. Transoms that have tracery patterns were called espejong calado.
A bench with a built-in chicken coop underneath. These were designed for tradesmen and tenant farmers who brought in fighting cocks while waiting for the master of the house.
A rocking chair, also called tumba-tumba or mercedoras.
Lavadores or lavadera
A freestanding washstand with a swinging mirror and basin. This was a standard bedroom accessory, along with the orinola.
Media aquas or tapangcos
Metal window awnings or canopies decorated with tin cutouts.
A small room at a tower that is in the highest floor in the house and is used as a lookout. It is topped by a weather vane with the letter O for oeste, the Spanish word for west.
A dresser with a mirror. The full-length mirror usually comes with two adjustable side mirrors and a marble top called the tremor.
This food cabinet with slatted doors to keep leftover food properly aired also functions as a plate cabinet. Its legs stand on tin cans filled with water or petroleum to discourage insects from crawling towards the food.
Blocks of white stone that paved the zaguan of houses near the port. They were originally used as counterweights of Spanish galleons.
Jalousies on window panels that shield the house interior from the sun while letting air in. A free-standing persiana called biombos was used as divider between the dining room and the volada to conceal a servant pulling a cord to swing the cloth fan over the dining table called the punkah.
A service door that was cut on the side of the main doors to serve a pedestrian passage while the wide and tall double doors opened to the carruaje (carriage) and the empty carozza (float to carry saint’s statue during processions).
A lounging chair that allow a sitter to stretch out his legs on the unusually long armrests.
A chair made for the convent but found its way to the gentry’s residence. It is wider than a lounging chair to accommodate stocky friars, hence its name.
This hollow space beneath a bahay kubo was for storing livestock. In a bahay na bato, this was sometimes used as storage of family jewels and jars of silver coins. Back then, tenants caught stealing were imprisoned by landlord in the silong.
Teja de curva
Clay roof tiles that were laid carefully on the roof of a bahay na bato. A tile roof traditionally kept the bahay na bato cool.
A carved altar that enshrines statues of saints made out of wood or ivory.
A tall, glass-fronted display cabinet meant for keeping porcelain plates and glassware. Another version is the cristaleria that was exclusive for keeping glassware.
A bell-shaped glass jar (or bell jar) that was used to encase statuettes or a diorama of biblical scenes.
A small shelf with glass that keep curios free from dust.
A small window located right under the barandilla (windowsill) that allows air to come into the house through elaborate grillwork or wooded balustrades. Blank boards were slid in and out to regulate the amount of air and cover the ventanillas completely.
Comes from the Spanish word volar, meaning “to fly,” and this refers to a cantilevered walkway that runs along the window side around the house. In the past, the galleria volada was used by servants to go from room to room, since the main floors of the house were reserved for the masters.
Glenn Martinez is a heritage enthusiast and a travel blogger. Follow him on his artistic and cultural adventures in his blog Traveler on Foot.
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