Maranao’s torogan a good example of disaster-resilient house

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 26 Aug) – Want ideas for disaster-resilient house? Look back at pre-colonial Philippine architecture.

That’s one of the many things that the people behind SwitoDesigns Studio want to share in their upcoming event “Balay-Balay Ta,” an interactive 3D architecture puzzles exhibit that will showcase a 3D prototype design of the Maranao’s royal house called the torogan.

“The torogan has remarkable disaster-resilient features that can be potentially relevant to the community today,” said architect Gloryrose Dy. The torogan is the grand ancestral house of the Maranao royalty known for its intricately carved panolong (beam-ends) with okir designs.

Children play with an interactive 3D architecture puzzle of the Maranao torogan. Photo courtesy of SwitoDesigns Studio
Children play with an interactive 3D architecture puzzle of the Maranao torogan. Photo courtesy of SwitoDesigns Studio

Traditionally, this ancient multipurpose dwelling is built upon six to seven large stones that are half buried in the ground, making it adaptable to extreme situations like earthquakes.

Mentioning data from a University of the Philippines College of Architecture infographic, Dy said that the torogan is a multi-family shelter of Maranao royalties. It can accommodate the datu and his extended family.

Traditional practices of having two carabaos fight inside test the strength of a torogan. In old times, torogan roof was made of thick cogon grass. But today, this was replaced with GI sheets. The roof, walls, flooring, doors, and windows are made of bamboo tied together with rattan.

Aside from the decorations that display status and wealth, the torogan may be designed to resist flood by being elevated to up to 2.21 meters from the ground using tree stumps. Furthermore, elevated piles rest on rounded boulders to act as roller supports during earthquakes. Raised flooring likewise braces the structure against flooding, termite attacks, and wood decay.

Apart from the possible practical architectural applications of the torogan in contemporary house making, the group also wants to highlight the cultural significance of this ancient house through their event.

One of the main highlights of the event are playtimes with kids with miniature torogan puzzle pieces and an Okir Workshop with Al Nezzar Ali, okir visual artist and scholar. Storytelling, painting, and puzzle building challenges will also be held in the event for kids.

Dy said that SwitoDesigns is eying to reproduce these torogan toys by collaborating with local artisans Felix Banlota and toy designer Kim Vale.

The current torogan puzzle to be featured in the event is designed by Vale, a fine arts graduate of the Ford Academy of the Arts in Davao City. The puzzle design was based on published studies of the torogan by the late Maranao scholar Dr. Abdullah T. Madale, as well as the architecture thesis of Henna S. Dazo, who surveyed the existing torogan in Marawi City, Lanao del Sur. Dazo recently graduated from BS Architecture at the University of the Philippines-Mindanao.

Producing these for the market, she said, will help children (aged 6-12) appreciate traditional Filipino architecture more, as opposed to simply buying plastic toy pieces of Western architecture.

“My vision is that every Filipino child would know what a torogan House is. When I was in first year BS Architecture, I did not know there were other Filipino traditional houses because we were only taught that we have the “bahay kubo” in high school and elementary. Now, I want to disprove this notion. With the Balay-Balay 3D Architectural Puzzles, I hope that Filipino children would know more of their local and traditional architecture and be proud of their Filipino heritage. This is how we can contribute to nation building – by starting with the education of our young,” Dy said.

SwitoDesigns (Archtitecture Design Studio) is the design arm of social startup Switotwins, Inc. that handles project consultation and management. “We aim to educate, advocate and provide services in the field of architectural designs and research,” said Dy, who is among the people who lead the group.

“Switodesigns emphasis is on the design of assembly buildings such as religious buildings, community facilities, convention centers, theatres and cinemas, art galleries, museums and public schools,” she said. “We also take pride in our advocacy to promote environmental designs with the use of recycled materials in our architecture.”

“Balay-Balay Ta!” opens on August 28 and will run until September 5 at the Ground Floor of Abreeza Mall. This exhibit and workshop series is funded by the The National Commission for Culture and the Arts. It is set to tour Cagayan de Oro City, Marawi City and Manila after the Davao exhibit for a series of workshops and exhibits.