Filipinos are a participatory people. Unlike most Western cultures that value individuality, our idea of a single unit is our family. Our culture expects children and parents to sacrifice their desires for the sake of this group, which provides its members with support, approval (and censure), a sense of belonging, and self-esteem.

While Filipinos aren’t high on individualism and openly expressing opposing opinions, they do like to personalize their belongings, environments, and experiences. Jeepneys and tricycles of identical chassis are made unique by the custom paint jobs and borloloy their owners adorn them with. Filipino cuisine is no different. The side dishes, dipping sauces, condiments, toppings, and budbod with which we complement, season, sprinkle, drop, and drizzle on our silog, adobo, sinigang, and kare kare make each meal out of the same pot a personal and different experience with each bite. Even our indigenous architecture reflects this penchant for personalizing. Datus set their houses apart from the common folk, and the common folk from each other, by the type and number of decorations marking the façades.

Design Better Extended Fiesta Housing Buensalido
Before the purchase of the lot or the construction of his house, the owner chooses from a catalog the shapes, materials, and even future expansions so that he may already prepare his starter home for growth.

The idea of the family as the smallest unit is also evident in our vernacular architecture. The traditional bahay kubo has one large open plan space where the family lives, cooks, eats, and sleeps, placing members in constant interaction with each other. The bahay na bato has an open plan that encourages communication as well. Spaces can be divided or doubled by sliding doors closed or open, giving residents the freedom to decide how to use the space.

Knowing the home is where a person’s morals, beliefs, and culture are formed, we propose to reflect the participatory, expressive, and family-orientated character of our culture in a sustainable, context-relevant, and environmentally sensitive horizontal housing development. We focus on the socialized and low-cost housing segment, as it has a supply backlog (currently estimated at 4 million houses, with a projected deficit of 6.5 million by the year 2030), and because it is this market segment whose housing is pre-designed by developers and built hundreds at a time.


Low-cost housing is cookie-cutter produced, built as cheaply and quickly as possible. Often themed to look foreign, many of our affordable housing developments do not respond to our context—our culture, tropical climate, and geography. If we continue to live in homes that copy foreign styles to appeal to the apparent colonial mentality some Filipinos still have until now, then we lose our identity and our culture.

Our homes shape us, and if we do not enable our real selves to come out where we live, we stand to lose our essence. We propose a horizontal housing development typology that is culturally relevant, climate-sensitive, and allows homeowners to express themselves and with minimal cost and maximum convenience, accommodate future expansion.

Macro principles

1. Holistic
 design and planning

Residential developments should be developed holistically, taking into account the way family members will interact, keeping them safe and secure, in reasonable comfort and convenience, and an environment that enables and promotes community building and the enjoyment of nature’s gifts.

2. Civic center

A space for governance, peace, and order should be a standard, depending on the size of the development.

3. Open spaces and walkability

Not all homeowners in this market are vehicle owners. And yet, low-cost housing developments are designed with the car as the priority. Apart from the standard sidewalk and planting strip format, greenways or mews (narrow linear parks) should be integrated into residential developments in equal if not greater proportion to the streets for cars.

4. Community farming

Cooperatives could be formed within the community, so the development isn’t just a place to live, but also an alternative source of income.

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Design Better Extended Fiesta Housing Buensalido

5. Backyard farming

The Co-op may have a program that teaches residents how to start a personal farm in their backyard, which then becomes a source of food for the homeowners, which they may also sell to the coop.

6. Community amenities and recreational facilities

More than the typical spaces such as community halls, religious services, sports facilities, it is the programs held within that are more important. Homeowners in this sector could benefit from learning skills that would empower them to be self-reliant and productive.

Design Better Extended Fiesta Housing Buensalido
Areas could be dedicated to community farming. Residents have the option to purchase food from their farm, which encourages sustainable living, and they can also have a share of the profit from the co-op.

House design

1. Catalog concept

A catalog shows interested buyers the options an owner may take to personalize his house to his needs, preferences, current and future lifestyle. He may specify the spaces he needs and arrange it in ways detailed in the catalog. From the start, he knows how he may expand his house in the future, so that he may prepare for the eventuality accordingly.

2. Modular elements

Aside from the modular plan, the house construction components (walls, floor boards, doors, etc.) shall be modular as well. Fenestration adjusts to the module type, and owners are allowed to specify the quantity and location of their windows, according to the spaces and arrangement they chose. From a pre-selected palette, buyers personalize the colors of their home as well.

3. Porch as strategy for community building

The porch shall be spacious, encouraging owners to use this area, increasing opportunities to talk with neighbors, develop relationships, and nurture community. Personally getting to know and trust the people around you encourages people to look out for each other.

Design Better Extended Fiesta Housing Buensalido
People, not cars, should be the priority, and therefore the design encourages walking and being outdoors, increasing chance meetings, neighborly interaction, and attaining a strong sense of community and, consequently, safety and security. Pocket parks should be integrated with these mews.

4. Basic sustainability elements

Low-tech and essential sustainability elements shall be used for the house design and construction. Modular parts (efficient use of resources and limited waste), prefabricated construction, insulated wall panels, low VOC materials, cross ventilation, natural lighting, provision for alternative energy, are some examples of this.

5. Stilts to future-proof

Many buyers have limited resources constraining their purchase to a small, one-storey house. When their family expands, they will have to vacate the premises as the house goes through an extensive vertical and horizontal renovation. The basic model shall be elevated on stilts (just like the bahay na bato and bahay kubo), the spaces (particularly the bedrooms) kept compact to encourage family members to stay in common areas to interact with each other. By elevating the house, the ground level is freed up to serve as another space for interaction and extend to the surrounding garden, creating a multi-functional social space similar to the bahay kubo silong

When the time comes for expansion, the structural components of the main house (columns and beams) are already up, and all the owners have to do is put up the walls. They need not even move out of the house. The whole house, its internal spaces, and also the furniture, could all be designed for maximum flexibility and ease of expansion.


Filipinos are one of the most optimistic people in the world, as evident in the fiestas and celebrations we have every single day. No matter how heavy our troubles, we can always manage a smile, a joke, a laugh. This indomitable spirit is what we want to bring to the fore and honor in our proposal. With the use of vibrant colors, the variety and customization possible, the fenestration arrangement, and the porch design, hope for a better future would be felt on a daily basis. A festive and optimistic atmosphere is attained.

Design Better Extended Fiesta Housing Buensalido
The owner participates in designing and personalizing his house, unlike most affordable housing projects in the country. The catalog concept increases the resident’s sense of ownership and affinity to the house they choose.


Through our proposal, we want to preserve, enhance, and even flaunt our identity in our architecture. With the world getting smaller because of access to affordable travel and the phenomenon of the Internet, at no other time have authenticity and identity become so important. Character is one of our few sources of differentiation. Because our homes shape us, we shouldn’t allow live in homes that do not respond to our context and do not adapt to our culture. Because if we do, we inevitably lose our strengths as a culture. 

Design Better Extended Fiesta Housing Buensalido
Architecture is only one means to achieve holistic community living. Nevertheless, we envision and look forward to housing developments genuinely dedicated to holistic design and planning.
Design Better Extended Fiesta Housing Buensalido
This proposal for the Fiesta Housing by Buensalido+Architects is an extension of BluPrint’s latest book Design Better. The book is available in National Bookstore and Powerbooks.

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