Not long after moving to the Philippines, I heard someone use the term nipa hut. I guessed it would be something like a thatch home that most of us learned about in grade school. I was right as it is very similar. In fact, a nipa hut does have a thatch roof. The roof is made from the leaves of the Nipa palm (Nypa fruticans). Although these days, they often use tin roofs held down with old tires and other discarded items.

Nipa PalmThese were the homes of Filipinos before the Spaniards arrived and are still very common in the Philippines. The structure is made from bamboo that have been tied together.

They are sometimes built on stilts. I was a bit taken by the first one I remember seeing. It was on stilts and it caused me to think back to how impressed I was with a home on stilts when I saw them in a grade school film. I remember it was one of the first pictures I took in the Philippines as it was during my first walk.  I remember something else about that walk. The sidewalk was made of concrete slaps suspended over a drainage ditch. Some of the concrete slabs were missing! Great place to step and break your leg. It was one of my first clues of just how different of a place I was in. I also remember seeing a book title about the Philippines of “Watch Your Step.” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve tripped on things around the Philippines. A post will be sticking up a few inches in a parking lot for example. When I run into that, I still think, “If you did that in the USA you’d get sued.” If there was an open sidewalk in the USA, someone would call “Action News 3” and have a film crew out there in outrage. You’re not in the USA now. You’re going to have to “get use to it.” That is what Jessie often told me when I first got here. You know what, I did. I have gotten use to little things like that and I think I’ve also learned to be more relaxed.

She really provided the motivate for my getting use to the changes. Without her, I might not have had as much reason too get use to these things. However, also having limited financial resources was a motivator. I could live in the USA but I’d only be existing. I couldn’t afford to breath there. Here I have many opportunities that I wouldn’t have in the USA. I’ve spoke of those many times so I won’t go into them again now.

Some expats live in nipa huts. That would be a hard pill for me to swallow. I doubt they are that easy toNipa Hut keep air conditioned. haha They are most common in rural areas. You’ll see them right in Cebu City too though. There are quite a few in Bogo City. On the outskirts they are more of a rule than an exception. They are all over and the picture on the right is very typical of what you’ll see. They will be under coconut trees, often in a spacious area. Sometimes they are packed next to each other. This often creates quite the fire hazard.

So many times I read in the paper about a fire where more than 100 families are left homeless. These homes are often very close together and when one burns they create a chain reaction.

These homes are amazingly strong. After about four months of living in the Philippines, I experienced my first typhoon.  It was Typhoon Frank or Fengshen in the Philippines. It was a moderate storm, a category three storm. A lot of people died in that typhoon when a ferry capsized not a long way from Bogo City. At the worst of the storm, the wind sounded like it was exploding. I think it was massive down burst of wind.  I thought these nipa huts would be blown completely away. However, most were still standing after the storm. A lot did have roof damage.

I see some expats speak of these in a condescending way. Maybe some wealthy Filipino do too, I’m not sure. I’ve never experienced that. Don’t do that, you’re not better than someone else because they are poor. You were lucky enough to be born in the West. I saw one writer say they represent the spirit of communal living in the Philippines and that they are an icon of the Philippines. They do exist in other countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia.

There are many grand homes in the Philippines too. Mostly owned by Filipinos. Housing is generally much cheaper in the Philippines. If the Philippines every relaxes land ownership rules that could very well change. Only Filipinos can own land in the Philippines. However, you can take out a 50 year lease on land. If I ever do something like that, I’ll insist that beside my home will be a nipa hut, complete with a thatch roof made from the Nipa Palm.

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Filed under: Living In The Philippines

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