House of Dakay
The House of Dakay is the oldest surviving house in the town of San Jose de Ivana in Batan Island, the largest of the 3 inhabited islands of the Batanes island group that lies off the coast of Northern Luzon in the Philippines. It is a traditional structure with thick walls made of stone and lime and with a roof thatched with cogon grass. Named after the family that owned it, it is known as Vahay ni Dakay in Ivatan. It has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Building.
The house is located in San Jose de Ivana, more commonly known as Ivana. One of the smallest towns in Batanes, it is 14 kilometers from Basco. Along its coastline are found the ports that serve as a gateway to the neighboring Sabtang Island.
A small house, the House of Dakay has been designed and constructed in the traditional style that is distinctive to the houses of Batanes, called vahay in Ivatan. The house is typical of the architectural style of Batanes that emerged with the coming of the Spanish missionaries around 1795, replacing the indigenous wooden huts of the natives. It features 2 stories, lime and stone walls that are as much as a meter thick, and cogon roofs that are about 1/3 of a meter thick. Stone cutters and masons and carpenters were imported from Cagayan to help in the construction of these houses. It is designed to be durable and to provide shelter from the strong winds of the island, which lies along a typhoon belt.
The House of Dakay was built by Luisa Estrella in 1887. On September 13, 1918, a strong earthquake hit the island. Most of the town of Ivana was leveled to the ground. The House of Dakay was one of the few houses that remained standing and one of the 5 that have survived to this day. Estrella eventually bequeathed the house to her favorite nephew, Jose Dakay Estrella, from whom the name of the house is taken. The house is now the residence of Florestida Estrella, known as Lola Ida, who is the only living descendant of the family. She grew up in the Visayas island and is now over 82 years old. She welcomes visitors to her house and is perhaps the most photographed personality in Batanes, having been featured in magazines such as Reader’s Digest. Although her relatives live in concrete houses beside hers, she refuses to move or change as she finds that the design of the house is effective in protecting her from the elements.
Most of the original parts of the house have been retained and kept in good condition, including the shutters and the floors. The thatched cogon roof of the house, however, has been replaced completely every 30 years since 1917.
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