When we think of house-moving, we envision finding a new home or apartment, packing and moving things. But today, we will explore an unusual house-moving custom in the Philippines. Philippines is a sovereign island nation in Southeast Asia. The Philippines is located on the Pacific Ring of Fire and is located near the equator, so the country suffers from earthquakes and tropical storms, but has abundant natural resources and high biodiversity.
One of the unique features of Filipino culture is “bayanihan”. Everyone in the village will gather, lift the whole house up and move to a new better location to avoid floods, landslides or just to have better neighbors. “Bayanihan” usually takes place in rural areas, where houses are made of light materials like bamboo and wood.
Bayanihan is derived from the word Bayan, which means “town”, “community” or “country”. Bayanihan literally means “to live in community”. The Bayanihan culture stems from that meaning: “to help the community, to be one of those who work together to achieve a certain goal.
In the rural areas of the Philippines, houses made from indigenous materials such as coconut leaves, are very light. When a family wants to move, they ask the men in town to help carry the house to a new location. This is a very fun activity. 15-20 men carried the house simultaneously. The family then expressed gratitude by preparing food for everyone to share.
Today, the Bayanihan Festival is an organized activity that represents our culture. It is a kind of fundraising activity where people reenact the Bayanihan activity of many years ago. People bring their homes from one place to another, to raise funds to help victims of natural disasters. For the festival, people make houses from native materials and race the houses to a remote location. The festival attracts many tourists and everyone can participate. The distance can be 1 to 5 kilometers.
In modern times, Bayanihan does not mean exactly what it used to be. In short, the spirit of cooperation and mutual help. For example, before the school year starts, a community will gather on a specific day to clear everything and trash. It is no longer about taking home. Another example, as you may have heard, is that the Philippines is vulnerable to typhoons. After the storm, people gathered to help clean the area and rebuild the house. That is today’s Bayanihan.