Year of Grace, Day 187. Unlikely Philippine cottages

Some years ago I finally made it to Batanes, the most northerly of the Philippines’ 7,100 islands, having dreamed of them since childhood. These islands and their culture are quite different from the rest of the country. The thatched cottages, built to withstand interminable battering from typhoons, are nothing like the customary ones in Luzon. The walls are built of cobbles — of which there are plenty on the beaches, apparently thrown up by past volcanic eruptions — and set with limestone-based mortar. Some of the historic buildings, such as a  church dating back more than 3 centuries, have walls so robustly set that restorers have had difficulty prying the foundation cobbles apart, even with modern tools. The knack of making such enduring mortar has been lost to local builders; perhaps the secret may still be found in Europe.

This charming cottage seems straight out of a British countryside — Cornwall perhaps or Devon. Minus the exotic palm of course (though in some sheltered parts of Cornwall, protected by the warm Gulf Stream, there are magnificent gardens with subtropical plants).

Who wouldn’t be tempted to have these splendid cobbles or boulders for a wall? Nowadays these are protected.

Boulders sunrise

This wall, from one of the oldest houses, has what look like fossils.

Shutters are often painted blue — a feature that I really like.

Blue shutters hse cycleBlue shuttersOccasionally there is an exception, like this one, on the island of Sabtang.

I shall be posting more on Batanes. My trip there was one of the more memorable ones I’ve ever taken. I would dearly love to go back!

6 thoughts on “Year of Grace, Day 187. Unlikely Philippine cottages

  1. Traditional Japanese homes have thatched roofs. I was rather surprised to see them in England the first time I went there. I don’t think they originate in the British isles as they are found in continental Europe, China and probably many other areas.


  2. I believe people everywhere created houses in response to local climatic conditions with materials that were most plentiful in their environment. And so thatching material in the British isles — from temperate reeds — would be different from that used in tropical or subtropical countries. However, the churches and official buildings in Batanes built during the Spanish colonial period might have employed Spanish construction techniques common to that time. Some restoration projects in Germany are known to use egg whites to mix with mortar. Amazing! Can you imagine the amount of eggs needed for a cathedral?


  3. Thank you for this. I have a lot to learn about my own heritage. These type of buildings found in the “typhoon zone” of the Philippines is new to me even as they are obviously several centuries old structures.

    Most of the homes in Okinawa are now concrete and one of their major industries is cement manufacturing. They have the same needs as Batanes so it’s not surprising. I had always wondered how the northern parts of the Philippines can live through the regular battering by typhoons. It’s a pity that the technology behind these buildings have been lost among the locals.


    • Thank you for your comments, Roi, and for dropping by. The domestic buildings are now being replaced by or patched with concrete, as you can see in one of the houses. Though the bond between concrete and lime-mortar structures is not very successful. There are ongoing restorations going on of the traditional architecture, but some concerned conservationists wish they could use traditional techniques as well.


  4. hi Jeanne! I was just reading more of your lovely posts on our Batanes islands- I too used to dream of visiting them since childhood 😉 … but, I always imagined they were grey or whitewashed stonehouses – I’ve always loved small, thatch-roofed stone houses surrounded by flower gardens= sooo romantic, yes. DK has plenty of them – as you may already know. (we’d visited a few ‘old towns’- open air museums in Cph, Ribe, Aarhus, Aalborg, Skagen)… Also imagining little English and Spanish cottages … I wish our Philippine artists, architects! designers/decorators could do more research, rediscover, and restore old architectural skills & knowledge— and use them for current home building… Have you been to our Casas Filipinas in Bataan?
    Cin Cin, Esther 😀


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