Character Check

Culture and personality come together in one homey Talamban abode.

With its tropical weather and laidback atmosphere, Cebu has become a melting pot of cultures and people—people from all over the world finding a place on the island to call their own. The result is a mismatch of cultures and personalities that, having come together, have created a character that has become, in a way, what Cebu is all about today.

Such is the character found in one family home in a village in Talamban, where various influences abound in a place that is somehow still rooted in Cebuano sensibilities. The husband and wife—French and Taiwanese, respectively—have fashioned a residence that embodies their characters, their travels around the world, and their current home country of choice.

“We moved to Cebu exactly 10 years ago,” says the husband. “We were seduced by the idea of a tropical city, where we could enjoy a pleasant lifestyle full of sunshine and still work and create fashion accessories for our export business.” Before 2002, the couple had been in the same business in Taiwan, where the weather can get too cool for comfort. Now, truly, the couple takes full advantage of Cebu’s weather, with a home that opens up seamlessly into the outdoors.

Sitting at the end of a sloping driveway, their one-storey house is large and airy, with rooms that seem to flow into each other. The entrance’s double doors open up into a large living room which, in turn, has French doors leading into the patio. Large entryways lead into the other parts of the house. “We tore down some walls,” says the wife as she motions toward the doorway to the bedrooms. The result is larger spaces and a breezier feel, perfect for the hot weather that prevails on the island.

In fact, the pool right outside the living room is another respite from Cebu’s sometimes stifling hot weather. The cool blue pops against the grass, and is punctuated by outdoor furniture and cozy lounge chairs from Coast Pacific that simply match the tropical atmosphere. “We definitely think that contact with nature is important [so] we arranged part of our house to be outdoors and virtually blending with the garden,” the couple agrees. The lush greenery includes orchids, palms, and other tropical plants that attract birds, dragonflies, and butterflies—creating a veritable “private little resort within the city.”

“We like our home to remain sober while avoiding any overstatement or mainstream fashion,” the husband says. “We like to maintain a certain coziness and peacefulness in it. The idea is for all of us to feel at ease the moment you pass [through] the door.” Venturing further indoors, one would see that the couple was able to do just that.

More than its structure, what makes the house so remarkable is that it belongs to people who appreciate art and culture—a fact that is realized even from the entrance: a figurine of the Buddha playfully displaying strands of colorful beads on one hand, is set on an antique wooden table, while the coffee table is decorated with flower arrangements done by the wife herself.

The living room is almost bursting with pieces that come with their own stories, like the lamps and statuettes that were hand-carried through various flights. Hanging over a console table is an old Chinese painting, which features an elderly man with extremely long fingernails. “It is a sign of wealth,” the wife explains. “Long fingernails mean that he doesn’t have to work.”

More of such paintings of Chinese ancestors may be found in the small study cum library, their subtle symbolisms embodying instant lessons on Chinese culture. Paper soles hint that the person was carried around everywhere, the animal painted on the robe signifies the person’s profession—these, for example, are insights that the residents don’t mind sharing with their guests.

Additions to the couple’s art collection are pieces from their daughter, who often takes to painting when in a melancholic mood. Featuring oddball characters in bold colors, the art gives a breath of modernity into the house. Its surreal shapes are the perfect foil to the classic shapes and neutral colors of the large antique furniture pieces, which come from around Asia but are sourced from a local supplier.

The study has doors that open up into the backyard, but it is filled with items that keep one’s attention inside the room. The paintings are there, as well as a traditional calligraphy set positioned on the wooden desk used regularly by the wife.

Interesting, too, is the dining room, which is anchored by a massive dining table made of two bancas (local outrigger boats) topped with heavy wood. As impossible to miss is the large, beautifully carved wooden arch—an intricate antique from India bought in Cebu. It stands over the doorway leading to the bedrooms.

The bedrooms are simple and reflective of the personalities of those who sleep in them. The daughter’s room is done in white, with colors popping from the artworks and accessories inside, many actually done by her. A Native American headdress sits on one table, and a papier-mâché cat, atop a bookshelf. Personal photographs and mementos are tacked to a corkboard nearby.

To keep the breezy feel of the space, the owners decided to tear down the wall and its small windows, and provided their daughter’s bedroom, instead, with a sliding door that leads into a small lawn. Then, a little farther off, either through the lawn or through the carpet-strewn hallway, is the master bedroom, its low bed and minimal furnishings giving off a really laidback vibe.

The various articles in the house and how they have been put together embody those who had selected them, and that’s exactly how the owners want it. “We didn’t get a designer,” says the wife. “A house should reflect the people living in it.” And that they have managed to achieve, and are planning to do again in their next home, which is currently under construction. The wife explains that everything in the new house is based on what they want, from the design and the layout to all other details—perfect for making sure that the house has spaces that can cater exactly to what the family needs.

That certainly is the case for their current home, where every room has the cozy feeling of being lived in. While some houses may have already become stiff in trying so hard to be impressive and stylish, this one is comfortable in just being a place where its residents can return to and feel completely at home. In fact, this house isn’t trying to be anything; it just is.

  • by Shari Quimbo
  • photography Adrian Yu and Christine Cueto
Shari Quimbo
Shari Quimbo

Shari Quimbo is the managing editor of Zee Lifestyle. In her spare time, she likes cooking for family and friends, and escaping to the beach on weekends. Follow Shari’s adventures on Instagram at @sharinuh.

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