Finding the Filipino in school building design

I’m not an architect so I can’t pinpoint what school of design Philippine school buildings are built by.  But I know it’s not done in Filipino.  In fact, the design is foreign.  Wouldn’t it be an achievement to nation-and community-building if school buildings are designed to impart what is Filipino?

What we know as the quintessential Filipino structural design is the nipa hut.  Why not design schools using an improvement of this model?  If I’m correct, Imelda (Marcos) was the pioneer in this attempt albeit in national structures such as the CCP, a few of the local airports such as the Baguio City terminal, and the PTA beach resorts.  If you look at these structures closely – CCP for one – you’d see that it is an improvement of the nipa hut.  The DOT should spearhead a similar program today, bring back Filipino architectural design in public buildings at least.

And DepEd to start with its school buildings.  With the dark poorly-ventilated cell-like rooms, white-washed or bare walls, and bare concrete floors, you’d think prisoners, not young learners, are in there.  And what’s with the neurotically-straight lines of tables and chairs throughout the school year?  I’ve yet to visit a public school here that has an arrangement of tables and chairs other than the straight line.  The lack of humanity in the design of the public classroom clashes with societal cultural values of the Filipino – karangalan (dignity) and kalayaan (freedom); the westernization and utilitarian of the design suppresses pagkatao (personhood) of the Filipino and the Filipino core value, kapwa (shared identity).  Add to these the use of English as the primary language of teaching, it is no wonder that the Filipino child, at the end of Grade Six, has totally lost his/her Filipino identity and values.   What we have is a learner who is neither here (Philippines) nor there (US).  And this is the child who will become an adult who because of this learning experience does not find meaning in ‘bayan‘ or ‘pagmamahal sa bayan‘.

I cringe when DepEd personnel themselves complain that the children are not learning anything or that they are different from their peers of yesteryears.  I believe they ought to seriously look into themselves and the system first.  And look into the most obvious and neglected but one of the most important aspect of learning, the school building design.