A SOJOURNER’S VIEW: The Bau Haus

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DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 22 Oct) – A new restaurant cum bar has just opened in Davao City and is located along Dona Vicenta Village, off JP Laurel St. From the corner of Chow King, which is directly in front of Victoria Plaza, one walks just a few meters down the road and immediately sees the sign—THE BAU HAUS. The building’s facade can immediately grab the attention of any architectural student as it has a fascinating style quite unique among the buildings along this street.

Just reading the name of the resto, one can easily miss what it refers to. But one has to read it aloud—THEBAU (and the sound of the combined words of course refers to the name of this city) HAUS. Got it? But Bauhaus also has a German meaning. Wikipedia has this explanation of the name:

“The Staatliches Bauhaus commonly known as the Bauhaus, was a German art school operational from 1919 to 1933 that combined crafts and the fine arts, and was famous for the approach to design that it publicized and taught. The Bauhaus was founded by Walter Gropius in Weimar. The German term Bauhaus—literally “building house”—was understood as meaning ‘School of Building’, but in spite of its name and the fact that its founder was an architect, the Bauhaus did not initially have an architecture department. Nonetheless, it was founded upon the idea of creating a Gesamtkunstwerk (‘total’ work of art’) in which all the arts, including architecture, would eventually be brought together. The Bauhaus style later became one of the most influential currents in modern design, Modernist architecture and art, design, and architectural education. The Bauhaus movement had a profound influence upon subsequent developments in art, architecture, graphic design, interior design, industrial design, and typography.”

THE BAU HAUS in Davao City certainly lives up to the German Bauhaus for it combines all aspects of the creative arts—architecture, decorative arts, interior design, exotic cuisine, music and will eventually house both a sculptural and visual arts galleries as well as a robotics section. Its total package was conceptualized and executed by one of the few Renaissance man of this city—Jon Traya. Wearing different creative hats—architect, constructor, furniture designer, interior designer, chef, visual artist, farmer and more—Traya dreamt building The Bau Haus a few years ago. He knew he was going to pursue the school of “geometric explorations of consciousness” and the building that houses The Bau Haus is characterized by all kinds of geometric explorations that bring the diners of this resto to a consciousness of their roots and identity.

What provoked Traya’s dream was getting a copy of Macario Tiu’s Davao Cuisine—Recipe of the 10 Tribes of Davao City published by PWC Davao. Tiu had gone around the city researching indigenous food preparations from the Islamized groups (Maranaw, Maguindanao, Tausug and others) and those who held on to their indigenous belief system (Blaan, Mandaya, Manobo and others). The book provides information on ingredients used and the process of cooking so Traya went out of his way to find out if the instructions would yield positive results. He tried and tried until he got the taste right. Today these are the specialties of The Bau Haus as a restaurant, perhaps one of its kind not just in Davao City but throughout Mindanao. For the moment their bestsellers are the following: Piaparan A Manok (from Lake Lanao), Kaliya (Sulu), Landang (the Pulangi River Basin), Pianggang (Sulu) and Titula Itum (Sulu). Those of the Lumad are still not in the menu as ingredients are difficult to access or it takes special attention, e.g., in the case of food cooked in bamboo. There are, however, other dishes to choose from, like vegetable salad or adobo ala king Paella, from classic garlic chicken to sweet and sour pan fried fillet smoked bangus. The prices too are reasonable: a group of us who dined recently ordering at least three of those in the menu paid less than P150 each (and we had a few drinks, too).

Having opened only a few months ago, the crowds coming for lunch and dinner have just began to swell. One can easily spot Muslims dining here, some of them claiming that the food they ordered tasted like the ones cooked by their grandmothers and mothers at home in Marawi or Sulu or wherever they came from. For the moment, the resto is not yet accredited as solely serving halal food as pork can be made available if ordered in advance.

Sitting comfortably in the uniquely designed furniture, one notices how ingenious is the use of steel for the building’s posts. These not only hold the roof, but serve as lamp posts as soft lights are attached to them. And as this is a green resto, climbing vines are planted to weave their way through the steel posts. As the ceiling gives way to sunshine and light during the day, the plants inside should flourish in the months to come. The handcrafted lights on the ceiling are also one of a kind. A table designed by Traya, which one can see in the offices of the second floor, takes its inspiration from mangroves that seem to support the table top.

Traya used to own CALLE 5—a bar cum café along J.P. Laurel St. further up the road. It closed early this year and people wondered where it transferred. It turns out CALLE 5 is at the back of The Bau Haus, separated only by a glass door. It retains its former identity and thus local bands still perform there every night. Eventually this hall of Calle 5—during the day—could serve other purposes, including holding seminars or a culinary workshop for those interested in learning about The Bau Haus’s special cuisine and other dishes.

There is more to this building’s complex. There is a second floor above Calle 5 and part of it is a patio that Traya envisions could be for outdoor gigs or even an in-situ sculptural exhibition hall. An airconditioned adjacent room will be the future visual arts gallery. To both sides of this hall are the business offices of Systems and Shelves—Traya’s business firm. Already the entire complex is envisioned to be a center for “Taste Learning Differently” involving the design of collaborative spaces which aims at “creating a space where imagination is the only limitation.” This Center hopes “to eliminate the gap between thinking and creating through the promotion of experiential learning, designed to accommodate diverse range of activities covering a wide array of inquiry such as Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics.” In time, it will build up its Robotics section, making it an educational resource to create a fun and interactive way of learning.

In the end Traya’s dream is “to draw inventive and creative individuals by fusing together their natural creativity with technology by providing them a space that serves as outlet of creativity, a highly interactive place where they will be able to practice their critical thinking skills, explore their imagination and come up with solutions to real-world problems.” One is quite excited how The Bau Haus will end up one day!

[Redemptorist Brother Karl Gaspar is a professor at St. Alphonsus Theological and Mission Institute (SATMI) in Davao City and a professor of Anthropology at the Ateneo de Davao University. Gaspar is author of several books, including “Desperately Seeking God’s Saving Action: Yolanda Survivors’ Hope Beyond Heartbreaking Lamentations,” two books on Davao history, and “Ordinary Lives, Lived Extraordinarily – Mindanawon Profiles” launched in February 2019. He writes two columns for MindaNews, one in English (A Sojourner’s Views) and the other in Binisaya (Panaw-Lantaw).]

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