Karl Mendez 2 Malaya - A Cultural Shift of the Filipino Diaspora

  • Tauira / Student
    Karl Mendez
  • Kaiako / Lecturer
    Norman Wei
  • School
    University of Auckland

Malaya: Free

The pursuit of a prosperous future in greener pastures is the common thread that binds diasporic Filipinos together. While it is an honorable act of duty to oneself and one's family, questioning if it is worth the price is the driver of this investigation. In the 21st Century, millions flock out of the homeland even at the expense of their own national identity. As a race, Filipinos are a disseminated population serving others while simultaneously uplifting their loved ones back home. Consequently, this has resulted in the advent of a new concept of nationhood and what it means to be 'Filipino.' 'Isa na tayong bansang watak-watak sa buong mundo' (we are a country scattered all over the world).

This phenomenon gave rise to the Filipino Diaspora or Filipino Migration model implemented in the 1970s to compensate for this social framework. This event has turned the Philippines into one of the world's largest labor exporters in Asia. Unavoidably, it has become the 'panacea' or 'cure-all' for every middle-class Filipino worker to avoid poverty, high unemployment, minimal opportunity, and low-quality education.

Set in the Port of Cebu from Cebu City, Philippines, the design proposal challenges this systemic thinking to propose an alternative reality through architectural design. A speculative architectural scenario aims to promote nationhood and enrich the individual's sense of purpose and identity. The design speculates a testing ground from which an architectural port transforms and reimagines an empowerment agency for overseas Filipino workers and diasporic generations. It shall equip these unsung heroes with the skill sets and knowledge required to voyage into the global arena with an understanding of their cultural heritage. The floorplan intentionally evokes a sense of fluidity of movement and collaboration, allowing cross-pollination of knowledge-sharing and skill-building.

The design process incorporates and celebrates the pre-colonial way of living of ancestral Filipinos through design and research. This intention physically manifests by building boats and working within flexible, fluid spaces within the reimagined port design. This practice also revives the relationship between the built environment and water by using it as a mode of transportation. This traditional Filipino practice was a crucial component in the formation and development of ancestral Filipino communities. The remedied port of Cebu transforms into a beacon of new possibilities proposing a cultural shift towards the Filipino Diaspora. Everyone can appreciate the inherent connection of water within an archipelagic island nation. The design encourages the Filipino people to look within to appreciate and showcase what they can offer to the world, rather than continuously looking further out to find greener pastures. It simultaneously acknowledges the past while looking bravely towards the future.

The Original Filipino archetypes were analyzed to create links with other relevant archetypes shedding insight into building effectively near water. This design approach follows the core theory of 'Our Seas of Islands' by Epeli Hau'ofa, stating that islands are not a collection of independent bodies. Instead, it is a vast interconnected network that intrinsically binds people, culture, and architecture.