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Friday, June 21, 2013


By Arch. Ernesto R. Zárate, FPIA

An eastern orientation is usually required for stairs. Ilocanos position their stairs so that they rise with the morning sun. To them, if it were the other way around, you would be turning your back on your fate. But builders in Pandi, Bulacan, just like many typical Filipinos with the spirit of controversy running strong in their veins, believe that a stairway facing east is considered bad luck because, they say, anything facing the early sun dries up ahead of all others and, in the same token, wealth that is brought into the house will dry up much faster.

If there is no way you can make the stairs face east, at least make them face any nearby mountain. If your lot abuts a river, locate the stairs so that they rise towards the direction of upstream. This is so in order that good luck from your house would not be washed away together with the river’s flow. If the proposed house is beside the sea, or if you are building a beach house, plan the stairs in such a way that they run parallel with the shore to avoid having to grapple with the above precept. If the stairs were placed perpendicularly to the shoreline luck may flow in, but also flow out with the tides.

Do not place a large window in the wall directly facing the stairs so that good fortune will not easily go out through that window.

Most Western countries consider it bad luck to walk under a ladder. (Personally, avoiding this is more of a safety precaution.) In the early years of Christianity, according to mystics, the triangle symbolized eternity. A ladder set against a wall forms a triangle; thus passing under it is sacrilegious because it would be as though one was defying eternity.

Locally, one should not make into a passageway any area under the stairs. Tagalogs never use the space beneath the stairs as sleeping quarters (as the poor Harry Potter did). The underside of wooden stairs of Ilonggo houses are usually completely covered not because of peeping Toms but because the old folks say so.

For business establishments, especially the home-based small ones, the cashier or the place where money is kept should not be located under a staircase. In homes, rice should not be stored under the stairs because it would mean that whenever one goes up or down the stairs, “parang inaapakan ang grasya ng Diyos,” (It would seem like one is treading on the grace of God.)

When planning a structure with two or more storeys, the stairway should not be positioned at the exact center of the structure that would divide the building into two equal parts.

It is believed that the dried umbilical cord of a son or daughter of the house owner inserted in the staircase will strongly bond together the stringer with its supporting girder.

Workmen going up newly constructed stairs the very first time are admonished by the old folks to always use the right foot on the first step. As they go up and down the stairs on that first day, they must have full stomachs and must have money in their pockets. This is to ensure that prosperity and abundance will always be present in the house being built. The owner or contractor usually lends some money to the carpenters assigned to do the stairs. Oftentimes, the money lent for this purpose is not returned but later spent for snacks (pansit and soft drinks) to celebrate the successful erection of the stairs.

There was a time when dwellings in the north, from Moncada in Tarlac, and Pangasinan all the way up to the Cordilleras, had stairs—well, these were actually short ladders—that were removable and were stowed inside during the night or when the owners were away to keep off predators, rats, and thieves.

The Manobos of Agusan, meanwhile, place two spears across their doorway when they are away; if the spears point upwards, this would mean “keep out” but if they point downwards, the owners are saying “Please come right in and wait.”

It is but proper for a Filipino to call out “Tao, po!” when he announces his arrival at a house even before knocking at the door. This doesn’t mean he is asking if anyone is home—he is just declaring that it is a human being who is there, neither an animal nor a ghost.

In the olden days, Ilocanos living in small huts make known their absence from their houses by putting away the short run of their bamboo stairs or by straightening up the stairs making them point skywards thus not leaning on the threshold of the entrance door.

(From the book MORE FILIPINO BUILDING BELIEFS by Ernie Zárate.)

Feature Project: “BALAY TAWID” (FACTORA RESIDENCE), Sarrat, Ilocos Norte

This article illustrates the detailed process of an architect’s professional service in a residential project from its conceptualization to its completion.

The Factora Residence or Balay Tawid (Heritage House, Ilocano) is a 700-sqm, 2-storey, 11-bedroom house designed by Architect Raison John J. Bassig for the Factora family in 2012.  Located in a 1,100-sqm corner lot across the 16th-century Sta. Monica Church in Sarrat, Ilocos Norte, the design of the house was influenced by the architect’s desire to meet the family’s spatial requirements and the perpetuation of the traditional Filipino-Hispanic dwellings of the Ilocos Region.

Façade of the Factora Residence at night as seen from the northwest corner 
during landscaping works in December 2012
The Interior Courtyard and Fountain
Project History

The lot was the site of the family’s old house, a 2-storey chalet, built in the 1950s.  Movement inside the house was restricted due to poor accessibility.  Spaces were cramped to hold family reunions.  Inadequate storage caused bedrooms to be used as stockrooms.  Most parts of the house appeared dilapidated as shown by large cracks in the concrete, broken Capiz-windows, ceiling damages, exposed wirings, rusted pipes and clogged drainage.  These issues prompted the owners to hire a professional who could help solve the problems besetting the family’s home – an architect.
The old house as seen across the Sta. Monica Church in October 2011
The owners, 6 siblings, spent their childhood in this old house until most migrated to different parts of the world.  Due to their divergent locations, communications by and through the architect were done via email and Skype.  On February 9, 2011, the owners consulted the architect about their spatial, structural and utility problems.  The architect evaluated the house and the concerns of meeting the family’s wants and needs as well as blending the site with the environment.  The architect proposed his services to the owners in designing a more durable, more efficient and more beautiful home.

Design Concepts

The architect illustrated his ideas and presented a conceptual design on March 15, 2011 showing the inspiration, form, and space layout of the new house.  Some concepts were approved while some were discarded.  Discussions on pros and cons of each owner’s preferences and the architect’s opinions transpired for several weeks until initial plans were refined.
Conceptual design sketches presented in March 2011
A new scheme was presented by the architect featuring a central interior courtyard bounded by naturally-ventilated and handicapped-friendly halls leading to all areas of the house.  Bedrooms, each pair with common baths, were located east (cooler side) while service areas were located west (hotter side).  Only the east and south wings extended to the 2nd level preserving views to the Sta. Monica Church.
Layout showing zoning, access, vistas and orientation 
of the proposed scheme presented in May 2011

Perspectives showing the exterior appearance 
of the proposed scheme presented in May 2011

Walls and arches were brick-cladded akin to the church’s exterior.  Capiz-like aluminum windows, wood-finished concrete ventanillas, Tegula-shaped metal roofs, and synthetically-landscaped azoteas merged the traditional with the innovative design of the house – an allusion to the architecture of the Bahay na Bato.  The owners unanimously approved the scheme on May 20, 2011 with the concern of fitting the design within their budget.

Architectural Design Development

The scheme faced several revisions amid 5 months of brainstorming.  The first, on June 17, 2011, proposed a prayer room, air-con locations, grilles and paint color options.
Azotea with grilles and exterior color revised in June 2011
The second, on July 08, 2011, reduced the house by 50m2 to cut costs while retaining the optimal room sizes. 
Spacious living-dining areas revised in August 2011
The third, on August 26, 2011, had larger bedrooms without the common baths; spacious living area omitting the TV wall divider; prayer room reverted to a balcony; and entrances minimized for security.  The last, on September 13, 2011, included bigger kitchens; common baths in the southeast; and cabinets for custodial supplies.  The final design development plans, with 11 bedrooms (6 owners, 3 caretakers, and 2 guests), a living area with loft, dining, 2 kitchens, 6 baths, laundry, foyer, lanai, 3 porches and 2 roof decks, were approved on October 19, 2011.
Final design development plan in September 2011

Specifications and Engineering Design

Having considered various brands to lessen costs, the architect canvassed ideal materials to be specified.  After updating the plans and specifications, the architect directed his engineers to design their respective engineering systems.
Architect’s conceptual structural framing in October 2011

The civil engineer, aided by the architect’s structural concepts, designed a reinforced concrete grid system.  Foundation consisted of 35 isolated footings, 1.20m below grade, braced by tie beams.  Columns, of 250mm x 250mm sectional area, supported beams of varying depths bonded to two-way slabs 125mm thick.  Exterior and interior walls were 150mm and 100mm thick concrete hollow blocks, respectively.  Welded steel trusses and purlins were used for the roof framing.

The master plumber designed a double-filtered water supply system, distributed by polypropylene pipes, and connected to both the municipality and a private deep well.  Water heaters were provided in most bathrooms.  Sewerage system, through vented PVC pipes, led to a septic tank built 15m from the well.  Rainwater, from gutter-less roofs to a series of trenches, was allowed to permeate the soil.  Proper grading of the site’s sloping terrain averted water runoff to the house.

The electrical engineer designed a 230V, 60Hz, single-phase power supply distributed by copper wires, in thermoplastic high heat-resistant nylon-coated (THHN) insulators.  The main lines, 150mm2 in size, served a 227-amp load on separate power and lighting panels, each with 24 circuits.  The system had 10 motor outlets, 24 ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) outlets, 51 convenience outlets, 12 TV outlets, 6 phone outlets, and 296 lighting outlets controlled by 123 switches.

Construction Blueprints for the Building Permit

The architectural and engineering blueprints, with 27 sheets (14 Architectural, 4 Structural, 5 Plumbing and 4 Electrical) were drafted in November 2011.  Signed and sealed by the respective design professionals (Architect for Architectural, Civil Engineer for Structural, Master Plumber for Plumbing and Electrical Engineer for Electrical), the blueprints, with the specifications and estimates, were submitted to the owners on December 07, 2011 for the building permit application.
The architect submitting the blueprints and clarifying 
the technical details to the owners in December 2011
Bidding and Selecting the Contractor

The owners, having dealt with unreliable contractors before, sought the architect’s help to avoid the same difficulties again.  The architect insisted that contractor selection must be through a bidding process.  To protect the owners’ finances, the architect wisely stipulated in the bid conditions that the house must be built below the approved estimates.

The architect invited 20 prospective contractors wherein 7 expressed their interest to bid.  From February 13, 2012 to March 01, 2012, only 4 submitted their tenders, 2 withdrew and 1 disqualified for missing the deadline.  The architect verified that all data were submitted by the bidders: their licenses, proofs of satisfactory performance, bank statements, company profile, manpower, equipment owned, and other guarantees.  In examining the bids, only 2 passed the criteria.

On March 07, 2012, with the building permit approved, the 2 qualified bidders were separately interviewed by the architect and the owners.  Details of the construction contract were negotiated.  The architect instructed the bidders to show their projects for final assessment of their works.  The next day, the owners decided to award the construction of their new house to Asean Pearl Construction & Development Corp.  The contract was signed on March 12, 2012.

Construction and the Architect’s Extended Services
On March 15, 2012, the contractor began demolishing the old house.  Structural and pipe works for the new house were done by May 2012.  Walls were plastered in July 2012 while roofing, ceiling and exterior painting started in August 2012.  Midway in the construction, the owners insisted that antique-inspired motifs be infused to the minimalist interiors.  The architect expedited the modifications by designing Vigan-style furniture and lighting fixtures, wood and metal trims, and customized cabinets to the owners’ satisfaction.  The architect facilitated the fabrication, procurement and installation of these interior components including appliances, window covers, finish hardware, kitchen accessories and wall paintings.
Excavation works after the demolishing the 
old house and clearing the site in March 2012
The architect and the project engineer discussing 
the structural works in May 2012

The architect instructing the engineers and the foreman on the 
wall layout for the common baths in July 2012
Custom furniture designed by the architect being 
fabricated in Bantay, Ilocos Sur
By October 2012, all doors, windows, tiles, fixtures, carpentry and floor finishes were fitted by the contractor.  The owners additionally requested the architect to modify the outdoor areas by providing personalized designs of the fountain, grilles, fences, landscape and signage.  By mid-December 2012, lighting fixtures and appliances were installed while interior painting and site works were about to be completed.  An average of 30 workers per day was employed by the contractor.
The architect checking and fitting the wine glass holders at the kitchen nook
The architect demonstrating to the engineer and the carpenter the layout of the 
family’s signage to be constructed in the bedrooms
The architect and the engineer discussing the modified fence construction
Diverse works on the house façade
Installing the decorative chandeliers
The architect worked a total of 88 days of 8-hour on-site supervision.  All construction queries were responded to by the architect.  Unforeseen problems required the architect to play a vital role in resolving issues.  When changes were proposed by both the owners and the contractor, the architect had to render quick but objective decisions considering the viability and aesthetics of their suggestions.  All payment requests of the contractor were first evaluated by the architect before the owners paid their bills.  Likewise, the architect assessed all additive changes ordered by the owners and advised the contractor to make appropriate adjustments to the original contract price accordingly.

The architect inspecting the custom-designed lamp post grilles
The architect and the workers installing the customized ceiling fixture at the porch
The paintings of a local artist were mounted by the workers
Adjustments on courtyard trench drain grilles
Project Completion

On December 22, 2012, the new house was substantially completed.  Imperfections found by the architect were instantly repaired by the contractor.  For the owners’ interests, the architect required that defects caused by improper installation are guaranteed to be rectified by the contractor without costs to the owners for a period of 1 year.
Capiz windows from the old house reused as lighting fixtures for the foyer
Modern/vernacular-inspired main stairs at the loft-type living area
Hallways around the house provided with handrails for accessibility
Problems beyond the responsibilities of the architect and the contractor were matters concerning public utilities, such as, blackouts, water shortages, and lack of local drainage system.  The architect addressed these anticipated issues ahead of time by designing provisions for an emergency power supply, an elevated water tank, and drain pipe stub-outs around the lot.  The back-up generator and water tank are to be purchased and installed by the owners when their finances permit.

Overall, the new home of the Factora family was greeted with praise and admiration.  The 6 siblings and the caretakers, with their respective families, each had their own rooms complete with closets, desks, and storage spaces.  As a result of careful planning and interrelationship of spaces, movement around the house was more convenient. 

The interiors were less cluttered with ample built-in cabinets and better furniture layout.  Heat gain was minimized by proper orientation of rooms and appropriate use of insulating materials.  Visual connectivity of the outdoors from all areas inside the house was maintained.  The design of the house exemplified the fusion of the contemporary with the vernacular that essentially synthesized the soul of the structure with its surroundings.  With the architect’s help, the owners had fulfilled their dreams of a beautiful home that shall be their legacy to their family’s heritage, to their parents and to their community.

Raison John J. Bassig, 30, is a registered and licensed Architect (1st placer, 2006 Board Exams), Master Plumber (10th placer, 2007 Board Exams), and Environmental Planner (4th placer, 2008 Board Exams).  He is the principal architect and owner of Le Studio de Raison, based in Quezon City, Philippines.

For more detailed photos of the design and construction process of the Factora Residence, kindly visit the Architect’s Facebook Album “Factora Residence (from concept to reality)” or by copying the link provided below and paste it on your web browser’s address bar:

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Why should you approach an architect?

For most people a house is the single biggest and most valuable investment you will make in your lifetime. The value of that property is measured by either its resale potential or ability to generate income. The question which you have to ask yourself is what would be the best thing to do to cut on costs.

So…why should you approach an architect?

1. Save money: When presented with a costing from a contractor few people know what to look for which leads to expensive realizations at a later stage. In other words; whatever you are saving on architectural fees will be going into somebody’s pocket in any case…Architects are trained to spot hidden or missing costs. They can also advise a client regarding the application of alternative and cost saving measures, without sacrificing quality.

2. Relieve stress: The construction process can be stressful, especially if you do not know what you are doing. Having the process carefully planned will help notify you when something is wrong. Asking the correct questions will make all the difference. Not knowing what is really going on can be very stressful.

3. Security: “The contractor ran off with our money”. We’ve all heard the phrase. This is a concern which can be addressed by appointing a qualified professional. During the construction process a contractor would submit interim payment certificates, which would be validated by an architect prior to being presented to the client for payment.

4. DIY doesn’t Sell: So many potential buyers have viewed properties where a badly done renovation has left a foul taste lingering. Do you think that the current owner was ever under the impression that he might be doing serious damage to his investment? One’s personal preference and taste does not necessarily coincide with that of future buyers. In fact the costs involved in rectifying your DIY fetish will only discourage future buyers.

5. Integrated design vs. a couple of ideas slapped together: Architects are trained to perceive the greater opportunities presented by a situation. This leads to more informed decisions and in the end a more coherent whole. Having an architect draw up a master plan will assist you in planning the process step by step and prevent you from incurring unnecessary costs at a later stage.

6. Objective Advice: Being sentimentally involved with your property means that you are not always able to make the correct decisions. Unless your budget is endless the construction process will always involve sacrifice. An architect will be able to advise you when and what to sacrifice in order to unlock the maximum potential of your property.

7. Qualified advice: An architect’s training includes an undergraduate degree comprising 5 years full time study. After completing his/her studies successfully, an architect still has to complete 2 years in practice training and then pass a Professional Licensure exam. This adds up to a minimum of 7 years which is almost the same time it takes to become a doctor (integrated course)). The question to ask yourself: Have you ever been to the doctor and negotiated a price or even told him what to do and how to do it?

8. Restrictions: A zoning ordinance is a legal document, which records all land-use rights on properties in its area of jurisdiction. It includes regulations and restrictions on such rights and how they can be exercised. The zoning ordinance is enforced by the Office of the Building Official (where you apply for Building Permits). Zoning restrictions include: building setbacks overlooking features, bulk calculations, heritage concerns and can often be complicated and time consuming.

9. Insurance: Few people are aware that not having a professional might lead to dire consequences later. Essentially what you are doing is creating a loophole for your insurance provider. Even if nothing goes wrong during the actual construction process. Any damage to the structure, even though it only manifests itself years later will be attributed to the particular alterations, if not conducted appropriately.

10. Legal: Lastly, it is the most legal thing to do. Only Registered and Licensed Architects (RLAs) are allowed to practice architecture in the Philippines. Architects have been issued the Certificate of Registration upon passing the tough Licensure Examination in the Philippines and are also granted the Professional Licenses (PRC Cards) to be able to practice. Republic Act 9266 solely grants to RLAs the right to sign and seal architectural documents.


“Drafting is the soul of architecture”

By: Arch. Ernesto R. Zarate

I wonder if this old man’s envy is common to others his age—envy for those younger architects who are experts at what is now known as “electronic drawing.” Envy for not being able to create such clean beautiful lines without the use of a drafting table, scale, T-square, triangle, pencil, eraser and other paraphernalia. It’s the fingers now that do all the work, pressing numbers and letters on the keypad of a PC or laptop.

Honestly, I don’t remember being taught how to draft. What is vivid in my mind is when our instructor in college scolded me for using the scale like a ruler. “It is only used for measuring,” he sneered. Although later I would discover it could also be a convenient tool for cutting tracing paper from a roll or for scratching an itchy back.

I remember the very first time I used a T-square. It was so cumbersome. I hadn’t learned the technique yet of pulling on to the ruling surface with my left arm while positioning or holding down the triangle with the hand. Later also would I learn the convenience and good sense to draw vertical lines along the left side the triangle starting from the bottom towards the top and for horizontal lines from left to right.

I also had to unlearn how to hold a pencil when drafting. And that one had to twirl the pencil as a line is drawn so that pantay ang pagkapudpod and you end up with a rounded pencil point, not chisel-edged which could tear the paper and ruin your work. But with the early mechanical pencils (or “lead holders” as they were called then) the leads were about 1/16 of an inch in diameter so one had to constantly sharpen the point of the pencil either with a “pencil pointer” contraption or a piece of fine sandpaper stapled to a piece of flat stick. Extreme care would always be taken in sharpening pencil points because there was always the danger that the dust from the graphite particles would smudge one’s work.

For general drafting work, I always used “B” especially during humid weather or within an air-conditioned drafting room. “HB” or “F” for the fine thin lines. During dry days though, I would use “HB” for general drafting; “F” and “H” for finer lines. You see it is not the lead that is the problem but the softness of the paper, or moisture absorbed by the paper you being used (“Snowhite” was the “in” brand then). The harder pencils were for dry weather and the softer grades for humid or wet weather.

Before my eyesight started to fail, I used to pride myself in drawing bricks to scale (1:100M) without any miscue in the verticals of a “running bond” pattern (what many mistakenly call “hollow block pattern.”) Ahhh… them were the days… And I used to pride myself in having different gradients or thicknesses of lines. I used to observe how the drawings were done in the Architectural Graphic Standards and copy the line gradients as best I could. I also tried to copy, again as best I could, the style of lettering used in the book… some sort of flattish expanded Helvetica or Arial—all caps. If there was time, I would always ink my title blocks using my trusty “Doric” lettering set (I couldn’t afford the more elaborate “Leroy” set then).

In the early 60’s, in the office we established with Arch. Ruben Payumo and three other aspiring architects, we copied the drafting standards set by Adrian Wilson (where Archs. Lina Orobia and Freddie Hocson, our other partners, used to work together with Ruben) where specific sized letters and callouts were followed. And for a more “professional” look, I even adopted their lettering style of using the triangle for all verticals or stems of block letters. Neat.

But it was always the layout of the drawings in a sheet that drew special attention. These were never done haphazardly. They were always aligned vertically and horizontally—in good order and harmony. It was like setting various dishes on a buffet table… they had to be pleasing to the eye and look invitingly delicious.

That was architectural drafting in the old days. I am sure ALL the great architects of the Philippines today took pride in their drafting work… MANUAL drafting, that is. Electronic drawings? Ah, anybody could do that… even a CAD operator who knows nothing of architecture can do that. But manual drafting? Truly, that is the soul of Architecture.

by Ernie Zárate.)

The Tapsi Turvee World of Pinoy Signs and Names

By: Arch. Ernesto R. Zarate

HOMESPUN WIT AND HUMOR are manifest in the signs the Filipino puts up and the names he coins. He is quite creative. It may even be claimed that he is either very inventively humorous or humorously inventive.

In the early fifties and sixties, for example, when the basic transportation fare within Metro Manila was just ten centavos, the creative Filipino jeepney driver, instead of using a formal statement to request passengers to sit properly in public conveyances, posts the sign “Upong Diyes Po Lamang.” One admires, too, the truck driver who crudely paints the quaint warning at the rear of his vehicle “Potpot Bago Losot.” A more sophisticated bumper signage is “’Wag Gumitgit; Baka Sumabit.”

However, the Filipino blue collar oftentimes makes use of many well-meaning signs that often makes me wince, like “Parking Strickly for Costumers Only”; the cryptic “No Beer is Prohibited to Minors Below 18 Yrs. Old”; the mind-cringing “Specialize in Vokswagen”; and the irritating “Road Close.”

Do Filipino drivers know how to read traffic signs or is it because they just don’t care? Here’s a testimony of their indiscipline: Along the highway, an ordinary “NO OVERTAKING” sign is not enough. After a few hundred meters, it has to be followed with “STRICTLY NO OVERTAKING.” This makes me sometimes wish that the next signpost along the road would be a large arrow pointing to a total wreck of a car with a placard beside it that says “AYAW MANIWALA KASI, E. ”

From EDSA, when you turn towards Ayala Avenue or the central business district of Makati, you would be confronted by this officious looking sign: “CLOSED DOOR POLICY STRICTLY ENFORCED.” Don’t take this as a sign of snobbish corporate exclusivity. It simply means that buses plying the route are required to keep their doors shut so that reckless passengers cannot jump in or out in the middle of dangerous intersections.

A friend who lives out of town and only occasionally comes to Manila was wondering why so many new signs were put up for a visiting Chinese VIP named “PED XING” until she almost got arrested for jaywalking.

Shortly after the EDSA Revolution, a makeshift sign was painted behind the giant bust of Marcos on the mountainside along the highway to Baguio that says ”PUEDENG UMIHI DITO.”

At EDSA Crossing in Mandaluyong, naughty street vendors scraped off the letters “W” and “D” from a “DITO PO TUMAWID” sign to the delight of passers-by.

Not far away, along the side road near the China Overpass, I found a perfect illustration of irony and an innocent denigration of government ineptitude. The common government infrastructure sign, “THIS IS WHERE YOUR TAXES GO,” was used as a temporary barrier over an open storm drain manhole.

And now, lets turn to signboards of commercial establishments. Among my early favorites are the ironic “Funeraria Mabuhay,” and the intriguing “3 Sisters Vulcanizing” (One wonders if the girls are still doing their thing till now). Now, we have “Elizabeth Tailoring,” “Goldirocks Gravel & Sand,” “Peter Pan De Sal,” “Scissors Palace Barber Shop,” and “Mercy Buko Fresh Coconuts.” “Cinna Von” does not sell sweet pastries—it is a Laundromat. “ Pansit ng Taga-Malaboni” is a noodle shop found near Boni Avenue, Mandaluyong City. And if you love James Bond thrillers, this one would surely stick to your brain: “Farmacia With Love.”

Here are other store names: “Maruya Carey” (selling turon and maruya), “Wrap and Roll” (a lumpia outlet), “Isda Best” (a fish restaurant), “Curl up and Dye” (beauty parlor), “Petal Attraction” (flower shop), “Maid to Order” (a placement agency), “Doris Day and Night” (a 24-hour karinderia), “Candies Be Love” (a candy store), and “Ali Baka” (a shawarma establishment).

Oftentimes, a catchy name would spell the difference between success and failure when trying to attract customers into a store or eating-place. Riding on the popularity of the brand names of big chains may help in memory recall but somewhat cheapens the business establishment. Just like these flippant puns: “Caintacky Fried Chicken” at Cainta, Rizal, or, “Aristobak,” an eatery frequented by taxi drivers behind the classy Aristocrat Restaurant in the old days. I’m sure you’ve also heard of the insolent imitations like “Mang Donald’s,” “Jobillee” and “Magnobia” almost infringing on the copyrighted brand names of the food giants. How about the jeepney that was remodeled and now serves low-priced quick lunches at sidewalks? Its name? “VIAje MARE.”

What I personally found cute was this small karinderia near Banawe, which boasted of delicious home-cooked food—“Cooking ng Ina Mo.” It became so successful that a competitor, wanting to get even, perhaps, put up one just like it right across the street—“Cooking ng Ina Mo Rin”!

Still on the subject of business names, small gift shops or boutiques owned by three partners often take the first syllables of the owners’ first names to call their shop. “Felumar’s,” for example, may be owned by the kumadres, Fely, Lumeng and Maria. “Rodeliz,” meantime, comes from the first syllables of Rowena, Delia and Elizabeth. Following this trend, business partners Potenciana, Tangerine and Innamorata, should either change their given names, choose a store name not based on their names, or maybe should not go into partnership at all.

The Filipino loves to concoct delicious names. Not so long ago, for instance, an alternative basketball league (MBA or Metropolitan Basketball Association) was established to complement (if not compete with) the very popular PBA or Philippine Basketball Association. Similar to the NBA of the USA, the original plan was to decentralize the game and organize several teams to represent different areas in the country. That kicked-off a mad guessing game among punsters on what names these ball clubs would be sporting—the more preposterous, the funnier. Early suggestions were: “Cavite Anting-Antings,” “Batangas Balisongs,” and “Cubao Farmers.” Later contributions were getting more outlandish—“Bulacan Sweets,” “Pampanga’s Best” and even “Baguio Beans.” Who would be courageous enough to play against a team that calls itself the “Muntinlupa Inmates”? The only lineup that could probably match up to them would be the “Iwahig Internees.” Then there is this mythical group of tall boys from Bicol called “Legaspi Towers” and the paradox of a team, the “Pandacan Giants.”

Even well known personalities are not invulnerable from the blitz of creative name-callers. For instance, there is this gravel and sand company owned by four guys whose family names are Andrada, Trinidad, Ortega and Yap. Their corporate name? “A.T.O.Y. Co.” How about this small talipapa in Guadalupe that is named “Orly’s Mercado”?

The “gaya gaya, puto maya” syndrome is not an exclusive Filipino trait. The Japanese, for instance, came out with “Land Cruiser,” an all-purpose, all-terrain utility vehicle when they copied the British “Land Rover.” But what do you think the Filipino called its copy of the “Pajero”? You guessed it—“Parejo,” with the “j” pronounced the way Spanish do.

Chateaubriand, ratatouille or coq au vin are popular French dishes. But did you know that we have our own version of escargot? It is called “iskargu” which is the short for the common man’s ulam: isda, karne at gulay.

Let’s be more plebeian. Roasted chicken feet are simply called “adidas”; barbecued chicken intestines, meanwhile, are “IUD’s” because they do look like those birth-control devices; a broiled chicken kidney is “bato.” Char-grilled pork ears are labeled “Walkman.” An exotic aphrodisiac fare of pork testicles is listed as “Great Balls of Fire.” A menu item with the name “The Day After the Fiesta Special” is actually “paksiw na lechon.”

The combo breakfast of tapa, sinangag and itlog is now commonly known as “tapsilog” (“tapsi” for short), “tusilog” has tuyo as the main entrée, while “longsilog” has longanisa. Many more creative combinations have been invented since. Then the eateries where these are served followed suit. One such outlet calls itself “Tapsi Turvee.”

“Truth in advertising” disallows the use of claims for a product or service that are refutable, but is limited to just that—claims. In other words, if a word or words describe some salient feature of a product but is endemic to the name and no claims are made about it, it is okay. For example, “Katialis,” a local skin ointment, actually does not remove the itch but attacks the cause of the malady. In the same manner, if you call your building “The X Tower,” it’s okay even if the structure is only six stories high. One cannot complain that there are neither plains in the hilly subdivision of White Plains, nor hills in the relatively flat Greenhills area.

Whether he lives in an exclusive subdivision or in a cramped hovel under a bridge somewhere, the Filipino’s talent and penchant for dreaming up names and signs are incomparable. Aside from the admitted fact that “likas na palatawa and Pinoy,” he is proud to call his country “The Land of a Thousand Smiles.” That is why he swears by the sign that says: “Bawal ang Nakasimangot Dito.”

by Ernie Zárate.)

“Bawal ang patiwarik”

By: Arch. Ernesto R. Zarate

YOU MAY BRAND ME SUPERSTITIOUS… nay, not just superstitious but overly superstitious for delving on this topic. But, as I have often said in my books, “Oro, Plata Mata, Filipino Building Beliefs” and its sequel, “More Filipino Building Beliefs,” (with tongue-in-cheek, of course) “Wala naman mawawala,e. Kaya sumunod ka na lang.”

There is this Batangueño building belief that they call “Bawal ang patiwarik” or “Upside-down is forbidden.” This means that building materials shall be installed in a house with their natural ends where they should be—the bottom end of a piece of bamboo should be at the bottom part, and the top end should be on top. Even wood members have to follow this “rule.”

The poser, as mentioned in the books, is—“How would you know which is the bottom or top part of a piece of wood that has been precision-cut in a lumberyard?” The ends look the same. One cannot visually differentiate the bottom from the top, it seems.

Well, there are three ways in which to distinguish the natural top from the natural bottom.

First, tie a piece of cord or rope at the exact middle of the length of wood. Raise it up. The end that tips down is the bottom. You see, wood is denser at the bottom.

Second, scratch both ends of the wood and smell it. The end that has the stronger scent of sap is the bottom because, by gravity, sap settles to the bottom of the wood.

The third method is by observing how the piece of wood flows down a stream. (Lumber used to be delivered to the job site in this manner during the olden days.) The leading end is usually the heavier end, thus the bottom end. The lighter end always trails.

Batangueños abide by this “Bawal ang patiwarik” idea because of the belief that if a post or vertical member is placed in a house with the wrong end up, “palubog din daw ang buhay ng mga nakatira doon.” (The lives of the people staying in that house would also sink.)

This belief applies also to other things and not necessarily limited to just construction materials.

Which is brings us to the bone of contention of my “dissertation”.

The root cause of all the ills and troubles of the Philippine National Police is this: their logo is upside down.

What I am talking about is the shield symbol… it is upside down.

I am from the North. And I observed that all the ceremonial shields used by the Igorots have their three points up and two points down. It is the representation of a warrior in a defense position. This is similar to a boxer in defense who has his two hands up. The third point would be his head. While the two ends pointing down would represent his legs.

In the course of my researches for the books I have written, in all the illustrations I have come across of indigenous Filipino weaponry, it is the same… three ends up and two ends down.

Baligtad ang ginagamit na kalasag ng PNP.

“Bawal ang patiwarik.”

Maybe the leadership of the PNP can look in to this. As I say again and again, “Wala namang mawawala kung sumunod sa pamihiin, e. Magastos nga lang kung ngayon pang gagawin ang pagbabago.

by Ernie Zárate.)


By: Arch. Ernesto R. Zarate

Wikipedia tells us that “Numerology is any study of the purported divine, mystical or other special relationship between a number and some coinciding observed (or perceived) events… but are no longer considered part of mathematics and are regarded as pseudomathematics or pseudoscience by modern scientists.” Let’s leave this matter to these experts. We shall just concern ourselves with what Filipinos believe are lucky numbers, and as architects, on the auspicious dates to commence any endeavor like starting the construction, pouring of concrete for the foundations or beams, or moving in to the completed structure.

Many believe that these important endeavors must be carried out on dates that end in number “8” or “0” because as one writes these numbers, the hand movement is upwards. “5” and “2” and are not too bad and are permissible as the writing of the numbers ends in the horizontal. All the other numbers, however, end with a downward stroke and thus are usually not selected by staunch believers of this superstition..

But this goes diametrically opposite for other people. They say the 7th, 17th, or 27th, of the month are the best dates for launching any endeavor.

Aside from dates, for many Chinese, the Arabic number “8”, because it has the shape of two closed rings, or two coins placed one on top of the other, is considered luckiest or at least attracts good fortune. Many rich people from Hong Kong often buy at premium prices automobile plate numbers bearing the number “8”, especially “888.” It would not be improbable then that this also should be applicable to lot or house numbers.

In this regard, 1990 National Artist for Architecture, Leandro V. Locsin has to be the luckiest architect in the Philippines. He was issued PRC Reg. No. 888. We all know that PRC Registration Numbers are not chosen by successful examinees in the government exams—they are issued at random by the Board of Architecture of the Philippine Regulation Commission.

by Ernie Zárate.)