(An Essay on Architecture and Cultural Identity: Diwa Ng Lunan)
During our class activity about the Diwan ng Lunan, we described our feelings of our bedrooms and of two campus buildings, the Arki and Palma Hall. At first, I had a hard time describing them, maybe because I thought too hard. Eventually, I realized how obvious and natural these feelings actually are; we just don’t recognize or realize them easily. Based on the experience, I learned that knowing the right feelings takes not just a bit of creativity and proper observance, but also knowledge of our own identity.
Architecture is more than just lifeless concrete structures just as language is more than just letters forming words. The fact that we live in particular spaces makes them become part of who we are. As discussed during our previous lesson about the Self, architecture will always reflect us, no matter how hard we try to avoid it. We give the spaces character and life so that they also share our culture and our identity. Thus, even without trying or thinking hard, we tend to come up with feelings or instincts towards a certain place. Eventually, that space acquires its own spirit or “diwa” which triggers emotions, feelings, and memory. This so-called “diwa” – that is, according to what I have learned – is the over-all feeling we have as we interact with a place. That certain place has a story to tell. It has a message. It may bring back memories or bring out emotions including the sense of security whenever I enter our bedroom, the dirty feeling whenever I see the Arki building, and adventurous kick when I’m at the Palma Hall.
So, do our feelings and the spirit of the place even matter? When we were first defining architecture in class, it was mentioned that “Architecture means something”. We need to discover what that “meaning” is, especially when it comes to understanding Filipino architecture. Through the Diwa ng Lunan, we may better appreciate the over-all beauty of a particular building, structure, or space. And just as different places have different Diwa ng Lunan, they also have different stories and meanings. By allowing ourselves to respond though feelings, we are able to know what those stories and meanings are. Disregarding the Diwa ng Lunan would be like judging a person without actually getting to know his or her personality and identity. Without knowledge of the Diwa ng Lunan, Filipino architecture would end up looking like an old neighbor you never bothered talking to, thinking “Why should I befriend that old man? I’m young and it’s best to live with the young.”
Diwa ng Lunan, for me, is still a very complex idea. As of now, I just view it as the spirit of the place which is best understood with our feelings or instincts. Logical explanations may not be necessary at this point in time, though I hope to get deeper into it as the studying goes on. Leaning about Filipino architecture is also something I look forward to. That old man has a meaning and story to share. I want to go and sit beside that forgotten man, have a talk with him, and through the help of “diwa”, feel what it’s like to know the story most of the young have never heard before.