Villa Kawayan: One Bamboo Hut Built, One Community Uplifted
Like a strong bamboo cluster growing from just a single bamboo sprout, a strong community can rise by building just one bamboo hut. Villa Kawayan aims to support the local island community by building one bamboo hut, one day at a time.
On a tiny island called Siquijor, in the heart of the Philippines, there is a small village called Tambisan where locals get their daily sustenance from nature. The forest that embraces the island on the mystical mountain of Bandilaan is dotted with bamboo or kawayan in Filipino. Bamboo provides livelihood to the farmers that harvest it, the artisans and craftsmen that build homes with it, the market vendors and the weavers that make crafts and baskets with it. Bamboo supports the local community in Tambisan and a small bamboo enclave in this community called Villa Kawayan is starting a small movement in empowering people with this valued gift from nature.
Villa Kawayan is a cluster of bamboo huts all built with bamboo, sustainably sourced from the island of Siquijor and built by local artisans and craftsmen living in the small local community of Tambisan. The word kawayan also means to wave, mimicking how the bamboo sways with the wind. Villa Kawayan waves and welcomes all to discover the native bamboo huts humbly made by the local people in Tambisan. A stay in a bamboo hut in Villa Kawayan aids not just one but many families in the community as they bring smiles and memorable experiences to all in a bamboo paradise situated near one of the island’s best beaches, the Paliton Beach.
Advocacy that started miles away from home
It took years of traveling and living far away from home for Bunny Liwanag, founder of Villa Kawayan to be inspired in building a place that will promote the use of bamboo, and empower people living in poorer communities in the Philippines, where she grew up. As the singer for reggae groups, Hemp Republic and Tropical Depression, she saw people from poor municipalities in different islands where they performed and she knew that they needed much assistance and livelihood. Songs were there to uplift the spirit but concrete action had to be done to support families living on just a dollar a day.
Liwanag moved to Paris in 2008 and took up business studies then worked at the Philippine Trade and Investment Center in Paris where she started to create case studies on fair trade products made in the Philippines that can be promoted in France. She knew that she had to give back to her own country and there were other pieces in the puzzle to be identified in her search on how to pay it forward. An eventual trip to Indonesia in 2017 led Liwanag in finding another missing piece of the puzzle that would support her developing advocacy in using natural and fair trade products to improve the lives of the marginalized.
In Indonesia, Liwanag was assigned by ArchiExpo e-Magazine to do a feature on the Green Village, a bamboo architectural masterpiece designed by Elora Hardy, founder of Ibuku in Bali. There she discovered how bamboo can be a powerful force in changing lives as it can be used in building homes that are sustainable and required many local people to be part of the building process. People are given opportunities to work at the Green Village, to accommodate the growing number of travelers who were looking for an alternative sustainable place to stay, like a native bamboo villa or a hut.
Destinations like the Green Village in Bali practice new luxury, as what luxury travel influencer Roxy Genier has shared with Liwanag during one of their meetings. The old definition of luxury based on a consumerism model cannot cut it at this time when real value comes from nature itself and the people working with it. New luxury is sustainable and the driving force behind this ethos is the people who give added value to an experience that respects the environment, which then gives back the rewards to the people, creating a progressive and harmonious cycle.
Liwanag decided to start paying it forward after putting all the pieces of the puzzle together from her studies done in France, her investigative trip to Green Village in Indonesia and collaborative discussions on sustainability with Roxy Genier and started building Villa Kawayan in 2019, using up her life savings and funds from loans. The first bamboo huts were built, and Villa Kawayan started to slowly rise in the small village of Tambisan on the island of Siquijor in the Philippines.
Building the bamboo huts
It is not an easy task to build a bamboo hut. Finance was tight and small loans aided in the first phase of harvesting the bamboos, treating them naturally to prevent termite infestation and building the first bamboo structures.
Each bamboo hut required 5 workers to build it from the ground up, Using only basic tools without any heavy machines, the production time took 2 months, with the occasional rain and thunderstorms that paused any construction work. The workers were happy with all the work that they have, as the minimum wage on the island was very low and work was very scarce. Building the bamboo huts provided the opportunity for the local workers to feed their families and save enough funds that would last them for at least half a year.
The roofs of the bamboo huts were done by local palm weavers, who harvested the leaves of the palm tree and meticulously tied them together to a long and sturdy bamboo pole. Market vendors created baskets from bamboo strips and these were used as the lighting fixtures and decoration for the bamboo huts.
After 2 months, the first bamboo hut in Villa Kawayan was made, and another bamboo bar was also done that served as a meeting post for local officials when they had to do meetings on how to improve the roads of the little community of Tambisan where Villa Kawayan is located. In August 2019, a concrete road was finally built by the local officials who inaugurated the project at Villa Kawayan.
The second bamboo hut was built after additional funds were raised and the workers had a stream of income that would tide them until December of 2019. It was also at this time of the year that the local community of Tambisan had their annual fiesta, and the workers had enough food on their tables to share and celebrate during the fiesta, thanks to the income that they gained from constructing the bamboo huts.
The people of Villa Kawayan
At Villa Kawayan, families are given work to assist a few travelers who visit the community and who are looking for a place to stay. They are the Ates and Kuyas of the community, with Ate meaning big sister and Kuya meaning big brother in Filipino.
Ate Langlang is one of the mothers in the community who works at Villa Kawayan. She maintains the bamboo huts by cleaning and taking care of them, and she gets to earn an income that would help her family who was depending on the small income of her husband who is a fisherman. Ate Langlang shares (translated from Filipino):
“With the bamboo huts in Villa Kawayan, we have another source of income, we are happy. When there is a typhoon, there is no fish and no income for our family. Now I can contribute and save for my family even without fish caught by my husband”
Kuya Ricky, one of the carpenters in the community of Tambisan now has a sufficient stream of income as he is assigned to do the daily maintenance of plumbing, electricity and other carpentry work. Kuya Jerry Del Rosario, one of the founders of the See-Kee-Hor Cafe which is located in front of Villa Kawayan happily manages everyone at Villa Kawayan. He has become a beloved resident of the island of Siquijor as he promotes the whole community of Tambisan to travelers coming to the island.
Kuya Roan and Ate Beng are also a big part of the community of Tambisan who has lent their land to Villa Kawayan to have the bamboo huts built. The couple is assisting all families in the community by regularly checking up on all with community meetings and local assistance through their small sari-sari store which sells basic necessities.
These are just a few of the many people that Villa Kawayan is grateful for and they are the first batch of people that are part of the progressive growth that Villa Kawayan aims to slowly establish for all inhabitants of the community.
The journey continues
With just 2 bamboo huts built, the journey to building more bamboo huts continues and more aid and collaborations are needed especially during this challenging time where the island is at a standstill due to the global pandemic that has affected travelers and tourists from visiting the island. Paying it forward during this period to assist people who live on a day-to-day basis is essential.
With the opportunity provided by Vocal and Vimeo to promote small businesses like Villa Kawayan, many lives can be assisted. And once this global pandemic is over, we hope that people will have time to travel to other undiscovered small islands and visit communities that have local people gain their livelihood from what nature offers.
When one bamboo hut is built, one whole community is uplifted. And this is the continuing mission of Villa Kawayan. To build one bamboo hut, one day at a time until a cluster of bamboo huts have risen, supporting not just one, but many families along the way.
Would you like to build a bamboo hut or stay in one? Discover the bamboo huts of Villa Kawayan in the island of Siquijor in the Philippines and follow the stories of the people and the little community of Tambisan by visiting the website at www.villakawayan.com and get updated news on Facebook, Instagram, and Vimeo.