The Vinta House by James Jao is inspired by Badjao sails
Jao was inspired by the sail of a vinta, the traditional boat of maritime people in the southern Philippines
March 1, 2018
Written by Santiago Galias
Photographed by Erwin Lim
Built on a one-hectare property on the side of a gently rising hill in Iligan City, Lanao del Norte, facing the Iligan Bay, the roof of the Vinta House appears to billow softly in the gentle breeze, just like the sail of a vinta, the traditional boat of the Badjao and other maritime people of Mindanao’s Sulu archipelago.
The clients, a cosmetic surgeon and neonatologist, called on Cebu-based architect James Jao to build their dream house in 2002. They wanted something apart from the growing number of foreign-looking houses in Iligan, something modern yet proud of their southern heritage, with views of the blue-gray waters of beautiful Iligan Bay. Because of its location outside the typhoon belt, and protected by the mountains surrounding the city, Iligan enjoys relatively clement weather.
At almost 400 square meters, the two-storey house has a U-shape footprint. On the ground level, the main door leads straight into the living room. On the south side are the dining room and the kitchen with stairs leading down to the service areas. The private areas are located on the north side, separated by a hallway. These areas include the family room, the daughter’s bedroom with walk-in closet, the master bedroom and a balcony overlooking the west and the bay. The lower ground level contains the service area, which includes the dirty kitchen, service patio, maid’s quarters and laundry area.
An unusual feature of the Vinta House is a ramp from the living room veranda leading to the lower ground level, where the guest room with a spacious patio is located. Jao says he added the ramp because he “wanted to connect the upper ground level down into the lower ground in a more graceful movement.”
The veranda by the living room offers a panoramic view of the sea; likewise, the dining room and master’s bedroom are oriented in that direction as well. Extending from the dining room is a cantilevered balcony perfect for al fresco dining.
The master bedroom has a breathtaking view from the northeast to the southwest. The curved ceiling of the master’s bedroom follows the roofline, creating a high ceiling with floor-to-ceiling glass panels. From the balcony, the view of a full moon can be enjoyed at times. Roll-up blinds reduce the heat and filter the extreme sunlight that washes into the house.
The Vinta House’s sustainable features start with its orientation to maximize passive cooling. Wide glass panels allow natural sunlight to stream in, minimizing the use of electrical lights until dark. The use of Galvalum roofing material and reflective foil insulation minimizes the absorption of heat, while the use of veneer for the doors and wall panels instead of solid timber reduces the need for cut timber from the forests.
Although the house was completed a decade ago, maintenance work for the upkeep of the structure has been limited to superficial touch-ups. The owners do have some ideas for renovations, such as the expansion of the walk-in closet in the master bedroom, the construction of a gazebo in the garden and a lap pool.
“After ten years, I am very satisfied and happy to have built and lived in this house with my wife and daughter,” says the man of the house. “The best thing I love about it is coming home at the end of the day, watching the sunset from the balcony while having wine and cheese until it gets dark. My daughter grew up here, and now she’s off to college in Manila, but all the fun and memories are all in this house until she comes home for term breaks.” In the meantime, husband and wife enjoy each other’s company, reminiscing over a glass of wine, their vinta sail gently billowing above them.