Architect Teng Jacinto: The Enduring Legacy of a Simple Man

Architect Filoteo "Teng" Jacinto wants to be remembered as a man who lived simply.  With his calm and quiet demeanor it is easy to understand why. Yet, his unassuming presence belies a remarkable legacy, one that has been transforming the architectural landscape of Negros for the past 70 years.

Arch. Teng Jacinto has been working for the past 70 years. Today at 94 years old, it seems that he has no plans of slowing down.

Humble Beginnings

Born in Nueva Ecija in 1928, it was not architecture that first caught the interest of Jacinto as a young man. Contemplating on a career as an engineer, he first enrolled in Engineering in Mapua Institute of Technology in 1947.  Later, he had a change of heart and switched to Architecture, a pivotal move that would place him alongside his future partners, Nene Garcia and Toto Unson.

It was during his sophomore year in college when Jacinto was first exposed to the rigorous discipline of Architecture under the mentorship of his professor, Cesar Concio. Working as a junior draftsman for the development of what would be the UP Diliman campus, Jacinto vividly recalls how Concio, Mapua's first Dean of Architecture, singled him out among his many students.

The pool area shared by the Urra family.

"I was pinpointed by my professor. I don’t know if he saw my diligence or he saw my tenacity. I was very, very lucky to be there. To be part of the team that created the campus of UP Diliman," Jacinto fondly recalls. "I was working at UP (then) taking the bus to Mapua at four o’clock in the afternoon every day. It was a tough, tough grind for me – for us who were working and studying in Mapua. But it molded (me) and made me stronger."

The lanai  in Alfredo Montelibano, Sr.’s home features mahogany wood paneling, lattice work on the ceiling, and built-in woodwork.

It was this same brand of perseverance and hard work that Jacinto brought with him to Bacolod in 1952 when he worked on his first major project with Unson and Garcia, his classmates and close friends who were both from Bacolod. Their client, the late Alfredo Montelibano, Sr., widely known as Agurang Peding, was a political leader who was instrumental in shaping the physical landscape of Bacolod. Known to be meticulous, he constantly challenged the young Mapua graduates in designing his house. It was also from him that they learned the true value of collaboration. Indeed, the Montelibano house was the great precursor of what would become an incredibly prolific career.

One of the  open corridors in Sea Breeze Hotel.

The JUB Brand

In 1954, Garcia left Bacolod to pursue other interests. But shortly after, Nonoy Benedicto, a friend who graduated from the University of Sto. Tomas, returned home to Bacolod and joined the team, officially solidifying the Jacinto-Unson-Benedicto, or JUB, partnership.

It didn't take long before word of the trio's magnificent work reached Cebu City.  Soon, high-profile clients started lining up. One of them, Annie Osmeña Aboitiz,  was so pleased with her newly-built home that she recommended JUB to design the Aboitiz buildings in Cebu and Makati. And the rest, as they say, is history.

The Montelibano Mausoleum in Murcia, Negros Occidental

Enduring Designs

Jacinto's design choices often revolve around the interplay between structure and environment. He believes that architecture is not just about building a structure but is also about retaining sensitivity to climate. He eloquently expresses this in his designs, always using glass to create harmony between the interior and the exterior, while allowing natural light to come in. He also incorporates cross-ventilation features and creates pocket gardens to help regulate airflow.

The Kings’ residence in Cebu City. Photo Credit: Jan Gonzales

In Ricarido King's residence in Cebu City, the double-height living room, punctuated by the sweeping staircase, floor to ceiling wood paneling, and expansive picture windows give the space a dizzying sense of grandeur.

This high-impact effect is also seen in Michel and Amparito Lhuillier’s home, also in Cebu. Aptly called La Vista, the awe-inspiring structure sits atop Cebu's much coveted mountainside residential area. Jacinto's design reflects the idyllic features of tropical architecture that culminates in the spacious lanai. Flowing seamlessly from the interior, the lush outdoor space is the perfect setting for intimate gatherings while providing an uninterrupted view of Cebu and Mactan Island.

The all-white concrete home is nestled within the Magsaysay farm in Murcia, Negros Occidental.

In Negros Occidental, Cecy Magsaysay's modern farm house juts out of the verdant landscape like a precious gem. The awe-inspiring structure, with its concrete shell construction and skillfully-placed structural elements, is a great study in Modernist Architecture. And while the house might look intimidating at first glance, the generous use of glass doors and windows brings the beauty of nature into the interior of the home. Even more welcoming is the use of sand on the floors of bedrooms and the dining area. Though distinctively modern, the house adopts one trademark element of traditional hacienda homes – the viewing area. In Magsaysay’s farm house, the top of a water tank structure doubles as a tower from where the owner can view the sugar plantation.

The spacious  living room in Arch. Teng Jacinto’s residence in Bacolod.

But if there's one house that embodies all of Jacinto's design principles, it would be his own home. Completed in 1958, Jacinto initially built it for his young bride, Nelia Puentevella. Over the years, it has been remodeled several times to accommodate his growing family. It is surrounded by several pocket gardens that one can access via sliding doors from different areas around the house. These help with cross-ventilation, creating openings that allow cool wind to enter and hot air to exit.  

"It was not my principle but I saw the wisdom of it all," admits Jacinto. "Although it is slightly more expensive because you create more walls, you spend more money but then you create also (something) beautiful...I tried to incorporate it in every design I encounter."

The Ramon Montelibano residence in Bacolod City.

The Legacy of a Simple Man

For Jacinto, the work of an architect is never-ending and that a structure is only really beautiful when it can evolve and continue to serve its tenants.

"Frank Lloyd Wright which we, in my generation of architects would agree, was the best...But when you look at the details and everything else, there are things that you think you can do better," he explains. "So that’s how I feel. (After) you build ...that is not the end of it. It has to evolve, it has to continue growing, continue serving, and continue to be enjoyed."

With a storied career that has so far spanned seven decades, Jacinto has worked on more than 500 houses and a number of buildings and establishments. Today at 94 years old, it seems that he has no plans of slowing down, still busy helming several projects including two commercial buildings and a rest house.

Yet, despite his immense achievements, Jacinto is very clear on how he wishes to be remembered.

"There goes a guy who lives simply," he says with genuine modesty.  "Very simple and being happy with what he had, what has been thrown in his way. As a guy who is thankful for all the benefits that he had received and to say that I have raised my children and my grandchildren to the best of my ability and hope things for them will be alright… to be able say 'thank you' to everybody. Thank you, guid."

Text By: Pauline Mangilog-Saltarin
Photos By: John Kimwell Laluma
Video By: Grilled Cheese Studios

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