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EAST Partners with Mahintana Foundation to Create Affordable Bamboo Housing

Updated: Apr 28, 2022

In a country where typhoons are a frequent occurrence and the cost of building a home can be high, low-cost housing is a challenging endeavor. When serving indigenous communities in particular, the project needs to be economical, practical, easy to build, and relatable to its target inhabitants. With this perspective in mind, Emerging Architects Studio (EAST) recently partnered with Mahintana Foundation, Inc. (Mahintana) to create buildable housing prototypes for the B’laan, T’boli, and other Lumad communities of Polomolok, South Cotabato.

Our team, together with our collaborators, visited the project site at Polomolok.
Polomolok Site Visit

Mahintana is a non-profit foundation whose primary focus is simple: to improve their target communities’ quality of life in a holistic manner. With their public health, livelihood, and housing programs, they’re able to help make these communities resilient and sustainable. It was serendipitous, then, that EAST had been aspiring to partner with an NGO for its 10th founding anniversary, in search of an innovative yet straightforward way to enact social change with design.

Group photo with the president of Mahintana Foundation Inc., sir Martiniano L. Magdolot.
L-R: Executive Director Liza Hora, SEED Farm Project Manager Angel Sumapal, Zenia Libron-Pullante, Kim Pullante, and President Martiniano Magdolot

EAST, together with other partner consultants, is working pro bono with Mahintana for a project called SEED (Sustainable Eco-tourism and Environment Based Innovations Demonstration) Farm. This is a multipurpose endeavor designed to guide Polomolok indigenous communities in making the most of the land they inhabit—from workshops on sustainable farming practices to livelihood programs. EAST is currently looking to develop a model house design that members of the communities can easily replicate, and a pavilion that will serve as SEED Farm’s central learning hub. This pavilion is also where training sessions, seminars, and tourist visits can be conducted.

Our team went to different facilities to inspect locally available materials.
Checking locally available materials

It’s important to ensure that the model house is affordable but durable, which is why bamboo was chosen as the main construction material for this project. Bamboo is often known as the “poor man’s timber” because of how abundant it is in the country and how readily accessible it is to people living in rural or underdeveloped areas. However, it is a much more sustainable option compared to other types of wood due to its quick growth rate (around five years versus wood’s 10-20). It is also readily available in the Polomolok area thanks to a previous project by DOLE Philippines, in which bamboo plants were planted to prevent soil erosion.

On-site discussions with our collaborators

EAST is collaborating with Landscape Architect JC Zamora of JC Land Dezign, Architect Joevic Mondejar, and Architect Zenia Libron-Pullante, all of whom are upcoming bamboo designers and volunteers of the Bamboo Bootcamp. Bamboo Bootcamp is an education center that allows designers and other professionals to learn “the different ways the ‘Green Steel’ can be used for livelihood–from handicrafts, to furniture, all the way as being used as a sustainable building material that doesn’t compromise design, sustainability and durability,” according to their website.

Introduction to local culture and socio-economic context together with our collaborator LArch. JC Zamora

While bamboo structures have also been known to decline in quality as years pass, however, this is only because the actual bamboo used is not properly treated. This is why SEED Farm will be housing its own bamboo treatment center, which will prevent decomposition and maximize the material’s sustainability. EAST will also be applying design principles specifically related to bamboo such as elevating the structures off the ground to further increase each structure’s longevity. EAST will be sharing more details about the design in the future as the project progresses.

EAST Bamboo workshop headed by our collaborator, Zen Libron-Pullante

SEED Farm’s target completion date is three years from now. Its end goal is to create a one-stop-shop where people can learn about how to best utilize bamboo and build homes and structures based on existing models. EAST is currently studying the properties of bamboo and assessing how the material will influence the final design of the model house. This collaboration will hopefully open doors for other communities to be served—and for bamboo to become a more viable option for building bigger structures in the future. And this endeavor, as a whole, hopes to inspire professionals from the design and build environment to extend services to our fellow countrymen who need assistance. For anyone who would like to volunteer their skills to our cause, send us an email at

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