Houses in the Philippines: External Differences

Things are different here in the Philippines. It’s just the way it is. If you are thinking of retiring or working in the Philippines, it’s good to know just what some of these differences are. In our last video we looked at some of the historical factors that have affected the contemporary courting system, which is a bit different than Western dating practices. In this blog entry, we will compare and contrast some of the differences between homes in the West versus those in the Philippines.

The first thing you will notice is the preponderance of “hollow block” construction. Instead of using wooden framing – which would be devoured in short order by termites and water/humidity damage – modern Filipino homes are made of concrete cinder blocks reinforced with rebar and poured concrete. This provides stronger protection against bugs and rot, as noted, and also affords some additional protection against typhoons and super-typhoons.


Security wall and gate
Security wall and gate


Homes here are also usually surrounded by security walls topped with razor wire or broken glass bottles and provided with a lockable security gate for getting your car in and out. This practice has been utilized for over a hundred years, and even though it won’t stop a home from being burglarized, it does slow potential burglars down. And since so many homes here have guard dogs, it provides them room to roam around. On the topic of guard dogs, you may have noticed in the video that some families keep “alarm dogs” in little metal cages. This is pretty common, and to a Western eye, it is a very sad life (IMHO) for a dog.


Poor dog alarm....
Poor dog alarm….


One of the issues I have with our “Pink House” is the way the roof was constructed. It is fabricated of corrugated aluminum panels that are painted a dark color – red is the most common, which is probably a carry over from the Spanish occupation and use of red clay roof tiles. The dark color absorbs the heat, and it would probably make more sense to have them painted white or silver (like in the Mediterranean) to reflect the relentless solar heat that is common in the tropics. And although the house has intake vents under the eaves, there is no provision for venting the heat out of the top of the roof – no ridge vents or anything like that. So, the dark roof heats up, transfers it to the crawlspace, and it radiates down into the house all night. Ugh….. not good…..


Hot metal roof....
Hot metal roof….


Porches – called “salas” here – are usually made of tile laid down over poured concrete. Again, with all the wood eating critters lurking about and the prevelance of water and dampness, it doesn’t make sense to construct porches of wood like done in the West. The interiors of the homes are also tiled, which makes sweeping and mopping very easy.


Lot's of tile in the Philippines
Lot’s of tile in the Philippines


There are not many garages in the Philippines. You see them every now and then but usually what you have is a “car port” which is again, just a poured concrete slab. These can either be covered or uncovered. At Pink House we have a rickety metal cover that has a bunch of holes in it but generally does a pretty good job of keeping water off of the motorcycles.


Our carport with Michell's recovered scooter!!
Our carport with Michell’s recovered scooter!!

You don’t often see water pipes going into houses here. Instead what we have are basically garden hoses leading to the house that run off of the meters by the road. Water pressure can be a problem (especially when a lot of neighbors are using water at the same time), so what some folks do is install big shiny water tanks up on towers. An electric pump sends up water to the tank which in turn sends water down into the house at a much higher pressure due to the tank’s elevation. Tanks are also good as they provide a water supply if the mains are cut or if there is simply weekly water outages.


Water pipe - no, not a bong, man.....
Water pipe – no, not a bong, man…..


One last thing you won’t see a whole lot of in the Philippines are basements. The majority of the population lives along the coast, so the water tables aren’t that deep. Also, with the torrential rains that we get, having a basement would be more of a trouble than it is worth. Well, unless subterranean swimming pools are your thing.


Window grates
Window grates


Finally, most windows in the Philippines are protected by fabricated (welded steel stock) window grates.  Some are thicker than others, and although most can be cut with bolt cutters (or saws), it – like the security wall – does slow any potential intruders down.  It also makes a lot of noise when they are trying to break in, so it gives a home owner (or renter) time to utilize other methods to deter entry.  If ya know what I mean……   

One last note – concrete production in the Philippines is a MASSIVE industry, and you can find huge factories turning out tons of the stuff all over the islands. Approaching Cebu city from the south, you pass through one of these factories and the scale of the place is just amazing.

Got anything to add? Leave it in the comments section.

Take care all, and vive le difference!

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Momma McKrakken
Momma McKrakken


  1. Yes I agreee with you about dogs confined in small cages. Perhaps that is one of the reasons you hear dogs barking so often there. Many people here in the US do a similar thing by keeping a dog restricted on a chain although it may allow for more mobility, depending on the length of chain.

  2. Ned, I am curious as to why they do not vent the roofs? It seems obvious to alleviate some of the heat. Am I missing something?

    Have you thought of venting the roof yourself or having it vented? Or are you prohibited from doing so?



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