Domestic and Public Space under American Colonial Rule in the Philippines 1898-1946.

The Spanish rule over the Philippines culminated in 1898 and was swiftly replaced with American colonial rule, which would be observed until independence of the Philippines in 1946. [1] Following American intervention within the region under President William McKinley’s government, the “Benevolent Assimilation Proclamation” was decreed declaring “America’s duty to civilise the Philippines with superior American Culture.”[2] Educational, social and urban reforms were undertaken within the Philippine region by the American government. When examining urban reform however, the topic surrounding the “transformation of Filipino domestic architecture” has received little attention, according to Kiyoko Yamaguchi.


The role which architecture played in the assimilation and further representation of American values was profound as Yamaguchi has examined. As it was through the undertaking by the “Filipino elite [as they] expressed their social and economic success by building their dream American style house.”[3] Moreover, according to Yamaguchi such residences served  to represent “Filipino elite’s self-perceptions and appropriation of an imagined America in the Philippines.”[4] Through this adoption of American style architecture, in which upper class Filipinos gained inspiration from prints of modern American architecture, such changes were achieved within private space, for example through the inclusion of a porch. The role of the porch for Filipino elites would now be symbolic of the “new accent to the Philippine Urban home.”[5] Whilst in the private space such symbols would come to reinforce the upper class status of the Filipino elite, whilst within the public space “public structures.. [served as] monuments to Americanism.”[6] The role in which emulation of American houses played in Filipino upper class’s modes of self perception is thus in fact what Yamaguchi would comment as being “one of the earliest and brutal, lynchpins of American colonialism.”[7] Thus using urban and residential reform to enforce western values upon Philippine communities.





Yamaguchi, Kiyoko, ‘The New “American” Houses in the Colonial Philippines and the Rise of the Urban Filipino Elite’. Philippine Studies, Vol.54,No.3, The Book, II (2006), pp.412-451.

[1] The Treaty of Manilla in 1946 signified Philippine Independence.

[2]  Kiyoko, Yamaguchi, ‘The New “American” Houses in the Colonial Philippines and the Rise of the Urban Filipino Elite’. Philippine Studies, Vol.54,No.3, The Book, II (2006), p.414.

[3] Ibid., p.416.

[4] Ibid., p.414.

[5] Ibid.,p.430.

[6] Ibid.,p.466.

[7] Ibid., p.416.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *