CULTURAL HERITAGE: A PIECE OF HOME AWAY FROM HOME
Junart Kim S. Nieva
While a warm sun, fresh breeze and coconut trees elicit images of a tropical destination, there is an iconic abode that, when added to the aforementioned, will make one immediately think of that paradise in Southeast Asia. The native Bahay Kubo – or nipa hut – was the traditional home of early Filipinos even before the Spanish came, and even today it still exists.
It is a fact that last year since the pandemic hit, many people have discovered new talents, relived past hobbies and developed new skills, which would have not emerged if not for the lockdown measures imposed throughout the nations.
Meet Niva Blanco Bruce – or tita Niva – a British Filipina originally from Roxas City, Capiz. I had the honour of meeting her many years ago through Diana, a good friend of mine. She recently started a project – miniature Bahay Kubo-making – a challenge she set herself into to make life under the new normal a little less unnerving and a little more worthwhile. She lives with her husband Russell in London.
Just last month, the world commemorated Earth Day in many fashions, and I am delighted that awareness campaigns of previous years are being dramatically transformed into action. The models that tita Niva creates are made from recycled and recyclable materials, such as wooden sticks, mesh nets and bamboo, among others. She said, “I use recycled materials where possible and try to make use of any material I come across to reduce waste.”
Her love for creation started at a young age, as she made clothes, bags, toys and decorations by hand. “I have always enjoyed making things and challenging myself to be more artistic and creative,” she shared. “Through this, I bring to life the simplicity, industry and creativity quintessential to my home country, the Philippines.”
Even as a single mother of one, I can say she had an amusing life. From the Visayas, she moved to Bukidnon, then to Manila, before settling abroad. There are only few people I know who have actually spent significant part of their lives in all three major islands of the Philippines!
Although she’s been living in the UK for quite a long time already, she confessed she misses the Philippines dearly. “This endeavour helps me reminisce both good and trying times in my life back home; it inspires me to be always grateful.” For the record, she lived in an actual bahay kubo with his son many moons ago, which made the craft more endearing to her.
A nipa hut may seem just another type of old architecture, but along with it comes typical cultural values reminiscent to Filipinos such as bayanihan (communal unity), family orientation, adaptability, creativity, industriousness and hospitality. Tita Niva, working from home, focused on perfecting details in her miniatures. According to her, it is the details that really make her bahay kubo – kahit munti (pun intended) – alive.
This May, the Philippines celebrates National Heritage Month. I would like to commend tita Niva for bringing this iconic symbol to the UK, thereby helping promote cultural heritage beyond its point of origin. I truly believe that her goal of inspiring people especially the younger generation in developing their creativity and sparking interest with handicrafts will come to fruition soon.