Notice the traditional houses seen on the rice terraces in Ifugao. These houses stand on a world-renowned location yet they can certainly hold their own. In fact, they’re architectural marvels themselves.

You can call it Bale or the “No-Nail” house. These traditional Ifugao houses have been constructed without the use of nails. Banaue Ethnic Village and Pine Resort cited anthropologist Otley Beyer as saying that Bale is the “first pre-fabricated house in the world.” Its architectural ingenuity still comes out despite its simplistic appearance.

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Freed from the hassle of nails, the Ifugao house can be dismantled and conveniently relocated to a new location where it will be reassembled. Made from the timber of amuwagan trees, Bale stands on four posts buried 50 centimeters underneath and only covered with stones. The thatched triangular roof also shields dwellers from the tropical weather.

According to Banaue Tours, local carpenters called munhabats built the Ifugao houses and did so as part of dangah or a free service for their community. Munhabats employ the methods of dopah and dangan which means they measure lengths and widths with only their extended arms and fingers. The Ifugaos also observe pagan rituals such as ngilin during the construction of the house so munhabats abstain from sex right before they start building the Bale.

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The Ifugao house has the appearance of a windowless stilt house on the outside. Yet its overall design is functional and the interior surprises with more space than imagined. The one-room house consists of three floors. The first is the ground level where the homeowner places wooden discs called oliang so that rats can’t get in the house. The second level can be accessed through a detachable ladder. This is where family members gather, sleep, eat and cook. The third floor is composed of a patie which doubles as storage area and roof support. As accent pieces, you’ll find animal skulls displayed inside the Bale.

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