The uniquely graceful roof of the Vinta House has made it something of a landmark in its area. Fabricating the roof was easy enough, says Jao. To ensure continuous coverage of the roof, Jao ordered customized lengths of Galvalum sheets. The choice of blue tint for the glass was merely to enhance the view of the bay.

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.

The riotously colored paintings by Leah Padilla reinforce the informal and ebullient personality established by the blue denim upholstered sofa in the living room. The door on the left leads to a private hallway that connects the family room, daughter’s and master bedroom.

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.”

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(Left) View of the cantilevered balcony from the ramp. No, it’s not for wheel chairs. Jao designed it for the residents to walk down to the veranda towards the koi garden and wide lawn. The blue tiled space underneath the cantilever is for outdoor dining on a rainy day or for barbecue. The blue tiles were selected for this space to mimic the color of the ocean, which, by the way, has inspired the owner to finally have a lap pool added to his home. (Right) The room behind the koi pond is the service/laundry area.

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 cantilevered balcony is 4.5m wide and 6 meters long, sizeable enough for one to feel detached from the main structure, and to fantasize of sailing away into the blue vistas ahead.

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.

Floor-to-ceiling windows fronting the bay allow a view of the sea from the master bedroom. The ceiling measures 6 meters in height at its peak, following the curve of the “vinta sail” roof. Mahogany panels cover the wall by the bed’s headboard from Bo Concept.
The cantilevered balcony is 4.5m wide and 6 meters long, sizeable enough for one to feel detached from the main structure, while one is dining al fresco. The blue tiled space underneath is for barbecues or outdoor dining on a drizzly day. The blue tiles were selected for this space to mimic the color of the ocean, which, by the way, has inspired the owner to finally have a lap pool added to his home.

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. 

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This article first appeared in BluPrint Vol 5 October 2013. Edits were made for
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