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    This low-lying country has historic ties to India and Pakistan, but today maintains a wholly unique culture. Explore Bangladesh!

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    This archipelago nation is culturally diverse from big cities to isolated islands. Begin Your Journey!

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Architecture of the Philippines

WARNING: Terrorist threats continue in the Philippines, please read this travel warning before going!

Most of the Philippines early architecture was constructed of wood so there are few remaining examples today. Traditional housing was in wood and bamboo housing on stilts or in trees; generally these houses or huts had sloped roofs to shed the rain. This changed with the arrival of the Spanish in 1571, who continued to build in wood, but also incorporated local stones, coral, rocks, and bricks among other materials.

One of the Spanish's main missions was the conversion of the people to Roman Catholicism and of the little remaining architecture from this period (most was destroyed during World War II), most is church architecture. Much of these early churches were built in Luzon, Bohol, and Cebu, including the earliest (still standing) church of any significance, the Baroque-styled San Agustin (1599-1614) in Manila. Most of these early churches copied the styles that were popular in Spain or in the Spanish American colonies (like Mexico) during this time and San Agustin is no exception.

The Augustines did most of the missionary work on the islands and hence, many churches are named San Agustin, including San Agustin in Paoay, Ilocos Norte (1694-1710), which is a unique combination of European and Filipino styles.

The Spanish also encouraged the local people to build in stone or brick for this housing. This new material and slight alteration in style is best seen in Vigan, Ilocos Sur or in Taal, Batangas. Despite this relationship, the Spanish defended themselves with the construction of massive forts and castles. This is best displayed with Manila's Fort Santiago (1571, but expanded, re-built, and restore numerous times over history).

In the 1800s, just as in Europe, a number of revival architectural styles were developed, including the Neo-Gothic and the Neo-Byzantine styles. The Neo-Gothic style is best seen in San Sebastian in Manila, while the Neo-Byzantine's highlight is Manila Cathedral (1878-1879).

In 1898 the United States defeated Spain in the Spanish-American War and they gained control over the Philippines. They continued the trend of "neo" building with Neo-Classical architecture, most heavily pronounced in Manila, but again most of these buildings were destroyed during World War II.

In the 1900s numerous styles, including the "neo" styles were being built, primarily in Manila. Included in this group was the Luneta Hotel (1918; renovated in 2007) in Manila, which is in the French Renaissance style. Art Deco was also popular in the 1920s and 1930s, but little remains outside the Far Eastern University campus in Manila.

During World War II most of the country's best architecture, which was primarily based in Manila, was destroyed. Since this time, as in the past, most of the country's most iconic architecture has been in the form of churches, although modern construction in Manila and in other large cities or beach resorts has also helped define the style.

Among these modern buildings, some of the highlights include the Parish of the Holy Sacrifice in the University of the Philippines and the Coconut Palace (1978) in Pasay. However, Manila and Cebu are also home to modern buildings like skyscrapers and nearly every island resort boasts modern beach hotels, many of which are fairly unique.

This page was last updated: July, 2012