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Casa Boholana: Vintage Houses of Bohol by Erik Akpedonu, Czarina Saloma (review)
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Erik Akpedonu’s architecture degree from the Lippe University of Applied Sciences in Detmold, Germany, and coauthor Czarina Saloma’s PhD in sociology from Bielefeld University in Germany and BA in sociology from the University of the Philippines place them in a position to embark on a study of Philippine heritage structures, underscoring not only the architectural elements but also their social importance. Their study is crucial as the country is beset by problems in cultural heritage preservation. Many iconic structures have already been lost and countless other structures face threats, including opposition from stakeholders, misdirected redevelopment plans, poor urban planning, apathy and neglect, and outright demolition.

The same problem affects domestic architecture, a widely and intimately familiar but largely neglected component of urban heritage. Literature concerning its history and social context is sadly lacking. Fortunately Akpedonu and Saloma’s Casa Boholana, which focuses on houses in Bohol, helps fill this void as it seeks to raise awareness and foster the preservation of the country’s vernacular urban architecture. By documenting all aspects of the province’s heritage houses, the book succeeds in identifying the threats to these houses and the steps to address such threats.

The introductory chapter analyzes the history of Bohol’s built environment, which followed a trajectory different from those of other provinces. Twenty towns in Bohol were burned during the Philippine–American War, which accounts for the dearth of Spanish-era houses at present. However, Bohol is unique in having been spared from destruction during the Second World War; hence, outstanding examples of American-era houses remain today.

The methodology, limitations, and assumptions of the book are clearly delineated, a step that is crucial in establishing familiarity with the houses and their sites. The discussion of the methodology also enables other field researchers to either replicate the study or broaden its scope by covering houses not included in the book.

The results of the research reveal features common to Bohol’s houses. These features include the wooden- or sawali-walled ground floor. In some cases, ground floors do not even have walls. Bohol’s houses also follow the same footprint for both the ground level and the first-story sections, contrasting markedly with the overhanging upper story of houses elsewhere in the country. Moreover, clay-tiled roofs are rare in Bohol, where the preferred roofing materials are thatch and galvanized iron. This feature of Bohol houses may be due to lack of funds, preference for the coolness brought about by the use of thatch materials, the absence of good material for clay tiles, or the undocumented replacement of old with modern materials.

Bohol’s houses embody the spirit of the times when they were built. As such, houses from particular historical periods share certain characteristics. Since classification is one of the main features of the study, technical terms abound in the section on “History of Bohol and Evolution of the Boholano House” to refer to parts of the houses that are typical of the period. A glossary, when used together with photographs of the houses in part two, “300 Boholano Vintage Houses,” is of great help in understanding and visualizing these terms. Referencing would have been easier though if the glossary also had illustrations. Nevertheless, photos of houses typical of each era are provided, which, together with the equally illustrated section on “Classes of Houses,” help readers get a good grasp of domestic architecture.

The chapter entitled “Profile of Boholano Vintage Houses” further orients readers to Boholano houses. The distribution of houses shows that, although older towns generally have more vintage houses than newer towns, there are exceptions to the rule, like the town of Guindulman, which does not even have a single vintage house despite having been established in the eighteenth century. Also, the social significance of vintage houses may be gauged by the profile of the original owners. Most of the vintage houses were built by professionals, businessmen, and landowning families. The rest were owned by politicians, artisans, and other groups. Some clans also have descendants who own houses in various towns. Meanwhile, the type of ownership is a factor that decides the fate of the house. In some cases affluent members of...



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