MORE often than not, people often go to some quiet and tranquil place to seek refuge from the daily grind.

It is often nature that perfectly gives them the perfect setting to just clear their minds and to recharge their spirits. Respite from the stress and chaos can mean being covered by the shade of a tree facing the beach or lying on a lush bed of grass in the mountains. In this juncture, nature seems to silently yet soothingly whisper, “Take a break, relax, breathe.”

This seems to be the inspiration that a newly wed couple in Bohol commissioned their Cebu-trained architect to design their home, their ultimate refuge, three years ago.

“The husband wanted to have an indoor garden where one could possibly enjoy the outdoor feel from the inside. The wife also wanted to have a high ceiling to create a more spacious feel of the interiors.

“Both wanted to use wood as a major architectural element in most parts of the house because they have collected old hardwood, sourced from their grandparents and parents,” recalls architect Niño Guidaben, who finished his architecture studies at the University of San Carlos in 2007 and passed the architecture board exam two years after.

The result was what the architect referred to as the “breathing house,” a residence that truly fitted the conditions on where it was standing. The house is a proof that Filipinos can still achieve class and efficiency without having to use styles that are completely alien to the local environment (yeah, Mediterranean- or American-looking houses in the Philippines are just out of place).

And everyone was happy. The husband got his interior garden, which is an important lightwell (also light well or air shaft) that affords additional natural lighting, especially in the inner spaces of the house.

It is reminiscent of ancient Roman houses which had central atria that was the main source of natural lighting inside, aside from their main door since there were minimal windows on its exterior walls for privacy.

These atria also had an impluvium (i.e. sunken part) at the center, a pool that gathers rainwater for domestic use. However, in this house in Bohol, the garden serves as a permeable ground for rain which helps cool the interior by acting as a wind flow outlet.

The wife also got her wish to have a high ceiling, especially in the social areas like the dining and living rooms. High ceilings meant a little less cramped feeling for the users due to a more dynamic air exchange inside the house.

This cooling effect is also made possible by the dominant full-length jalousie windows (which are more ideal in the Philippines compared to French or sliding glass windows) that generously admit light and air in.

Studying the location carefully, the architect made sure that his creation would adapt to the contours of the land and where the prevailing winds would usually come from.

“The tropical design approach reflects the traditional Filipino design of the bahay kubo which encourages permeability to wind and light. We have this deeper relationship with nature that makes us more conscious to these elements,” architect Guidaben says.

The house withstood the earthquake and typhoon that affected Bohol in 2013. The architect attributed its resilience to the use of wood that “absorbed” the shock from the tremor and then the open layout of the house to allow wind to freely flow into its spaces and avoid damage by resistance against these strong winds.

“I have always compared it to the resilient Filipino spirit, that despite our ‘challenged’ situations, we have withstood the signs of the times. We just manage to laugh and see the brighter things in life,” says the architect.

This resilience assures its users that their ultimate refuge keeps them grounded and harmoniously connected to their natural environment.