“Bahay kubo, kahit munti ang halaman doon ay sari-sari,” goes the old Filipino folk song that depicts how the traditional native housing, although small, can host a wide array of produce. The kubo’s bamboo walls and thatched roofing has hardly changed over the past years, but it’s certainly given a facelift in Mark Simpson’s latest property.
With two rental properties already in the area, Hong Kong-based Mark decided to provide tourists with an authentic local experience. “The original idea was to house my wife’s family, who lost their house during Typhoon Yolanda,” he explained. “They stayed for a short while, then decided to rebuild and continue farming, so the house was left unused.”
The circumstances allowed Mark to orchestrate major upgrades to turn the house into an attractive vacation spot for travelers who want to stay in more traditional accommodations. Of course, this Bahay Kubo is given a more luxurious spin. Designed by architect Gene Taatjes, the house features the usual bamboo walls and cogon grass roofing, but in a more modern shape.
Inside, the furnishings were custom-made by driftwood sculptor James Doran Webb, who takes Spartan pieces and adds unique touches—goat skin seats on the bar stools, dried bamboo stems to accent the windows, and chandeliers of cascading capiz shells. “All the tugas (molave) wood used in the frames and throughout the property is reclaimed from driftwood, hence complying with our policy of cutting no trees to make our furniture,” Mark says, adding that they’d taken their environmental sustainability a step further. “All the electricity is generated by 2.4KW solar panels.”
The house has no air conditioning, something that Mark says they won’t need when they’re on the property. “It’s an experience of being a little close to nature, perhaps. By using these natural materials, coupled with the design of allowing the free-flow of air, there really is no need for air conditioning, even in the summer.”
The experience continues gastronomically, with the properties’ chef and her team offering Cebuano and Filipino dishes. “Our focus is always on freshly prepared food, using as many local ingredients as possible,” Mark states. “Fish and seafood play a massive part in the food served, whether it be tangigue (Spanish mackerel) in a kinilaw, or fresh yellow fin tuna as part of a salad nicoise. We even use fresh mozzarella cheese (mozzarella di buffalo) made from local carabao milk on pizzas that come out from our wood-burning ovens.”
Already with a lot to offer, the property will soon have more to entice guests to experience living local. “We’ll soon have seating around our jackfruit trees, and a plunge pool in the garden,” Mark says of expansion plans. For now, though, there are a number of experiences that this Bahay Kubo has to offer. “I personally enjoy sleeping in the upstairs room, under the mosquito net and seeing the beautiful light that comes through the capiz windows as the sun rises,” Mark admits. We can see why going native might actually be a great idea.
Luyang, Carmen, Cebu
(852) 9162 5321
Photography by Jon Unson