Birthday party time again




I can’t believe my Little Miss Lily is turning 5!!!


And Stella is going to be 2! Wonderful age. But I will really miss having a baby around the house.


It’s that time of the year again. We’ve got two birthdays in a few days. Lily turns 5 on July 22nd and Stella turns 2 on July 24th. I am giving them their own little birthday celebrations at their school. Lily on Friday and Stella on Monday. These are little one hour lunch parties. All I need to bring is a cake, packed lunch and a little loot bag. I’ve been doing this every year since Sophia was in the same pre-school. It’s a lovely little hour. Relatively painless.

I told myself that we are done with big parties. Not until Lily and Stella turn 7. We had a busy year of big parties last year. Every birthday was a milestone – Sophia’s 7th, my 40th, Stella’s 1st and my dad’s 70th. Like a lunatic, I went all out. Hired a party planner and the works. It just dawned on me that I barely shared any photos of those events. I will make some posts about them to share some ideas. Here are a few highlights.


This was Sophia’s 7th birthday last year. I planned this in less than two weeks. I should say, the party planner did. But it took a lot of time from me to “conceptualize.” And I did the give aways. We originally thought that we could get by with just a little school celebration, but I couldn’t stand the thought of not celebrating a milestone. Why is the 7th birthday a milestone anyway? I’m working on a blog post about Sophia’s 7th birthday party.


Then a few weeks after that, I turned 40.


Patrick insisted it couldn’t go by without a celebration. So we invited close friends and got Up Dharma Down to play a few sets during dinner. Here’s Carlos and Tessa Celdran.


Then July rolls over and it was Lily’s 4th and Stella’s 1st. Lily was into Little Mermaid then, so we got this cake from either Goldilocks or Red Ribbon. I can’t remember.


It was a given that we’d give Stella a milestone celebration. I never really hired party planners before, until Sophia’s 7th party. So we went with the same planner, Funstuf. And because Lily got a little one hour school birthday party, we thought we’d make the big party for Stella a sort-of double celebration – with emphasis on Stella’s 1st birthday. We went with Alice in Wonderland. It seemed easy.


For giveaways we had a Photo Balloon booth. It was new back then and it was a hit. I wrote about it here.


We also gave each guest some waterproof personalized stickers. Both the photo balloon and stickers came from this supplier.


For my personal touch, we also gave out these handmade and handpainted wooden birdhouses. We worked like crazy the morning of the party and put some birdseeds, velvet ribbons and cute cards to go with them.


Then by December my whole family traveled from Canada to celebrate my dad’s birthday here. We had the works – a ballroom, all my dad’s retired pilot classmates and friends, speeches, slide show and a band. It was so much fun.


I had cupcakes made with helicopters for him.


So now, back to the two parties in a few days. I still haven’t ordered the cakes. But I’ll just do those from big chain bakeshops outside our village. Then since both Lily and Stella love Fancy Nancy books (Stella calls her Matty Matty), I gave in and decided to give them a Fancy Nancy party over the weekend. So crazy mother that I am, I’ll be doing three parties in a few days! Friday, Lily’s lunch party at school; Sunday Fancy Nancy party for the two girls; and Monday is Stella’s school party. And I haven’t gotten anything yet! Except invitations. And this time, I’m flying solo. No party planner.


I got some help and inspiration from my friend Alicia Sy. Her daughter had a FN party a few years ago.


The Fancy Nancy website has a lot of free downloads, so thank goodness!


And to add to the festivities, we are making these big pompom flowers that look so easy to make, according to Martha Stewart. We’ll fill our house with pink and purple pompoms and streamers. That should be good enough. And for fun we will have Craft Camp and 3D Me.


Wish me luck! Three more sleeps and it’s Lily’s day.




Cebu’s house on a hill



Like I said in previous post, there’s something in Cebu’s air that breeds amazing modernist architects. This is the house of Francis Noel, an architect. I always like seeing how architects live in their own house.

At first glance, it looks like just another “modern” house. But after talking with Francis and hearing him explain his concept, I was impressed. I’ve seen too many pa-modern effect homes by builders/owners who know very little about tropical architecture; homes that end up becoming one heat trap. If you’re shopping for an architect you must visit one of his/her projects at 1pm. Check to see how the house handles the heat. Francis’ house is a successful example, not just in modern style but also in terms of the functions of a tropical house.

The site posed a major challenge. Lot size is 416 sqm with a frontage of 22 metres. The shape is irregular (trapezoidal or triangular) with no sides equal. The street front had an inclination of more than 15 degrees from left to right. The highest elevation of the lot reached 9 metres above the subdivision road.

See how Francis Noel solved the challenge and came up with a beautiful and functional Filipino modern home for his family.


“The context of the site, logistics and the drive to create a Filipino Modern abode permitted me to design the house in multi-levels in a boxy form. Cubism is somewhat referred to the “ bahay kubo” ( where I always gets my inspiration). Wanting to be globally modern but yet distinctively Filipino, slim sleek flat roofs with deep eaves suggest modernity and contemporariness. The building envelope with stained wall timber cladding over massive concrete walls suggests Asian sensibility features. Wide glass window openings and doors permits daylight into the house and maximize views for most of the rooms.” — Francis Noel


“With the rugged terrain being offered, I took on the challenge to navigate our house during the planning stage through the rugged contour lines to prevent excessive earthworks and costs. This type of approach really saved us a lot of money. Difference in levels and elevations gave me an opportunity to create spaces that are visually distinctive without the use of too much walls and partitions but instead using user-friendly treads and risers (300mmx 145mm) in accordance to the Disability Act Law or Batas Pambansa 344.” — Francis Noel


The site has an inclination of 15 degrees from left to right.


Francis tried to employ as much green technology or procedures in designing and building his house. He also took a lot of inspiration from the bahay kubo and bahay na bato. Visible from this picture are the opened slats under the eaves. This allows hot air to escape from between the ceiling and the roof. Wide eaves supported by poles (or like a  tungkod) gives enough shade from direct sun. I was particularly enamored by the wooden screen.


Sun baffles or timber screens protects the interior rooms thru the  dramatic introduction of shadows on the floors. With the introductions of layered walls and berm, thermal comfort for the house is generally achieved.


The style of minimalism is adopted in this house as evident of the structural framework being exposed in the interiors.


“Another challenge was to orient the house towards the view (the blue water of Mactan Island) looming in the horizon (East- NorthEast) and the afternoon sun which is at the West-Southwest. Having to build the house within the height limit of 9 meters from the highest lot elevations ( SHHA Guidelines ), the house had to have an extensive digging of 3.50 meters or more down from the original thus created a Berm.” — Francis Noel


I asked Francis what made this house green architecture. “Through the use of recycled materials “finger joint lumber” or “retaso”, proper planning and site utilization, celestial windows and timber screens for optimum visual and thermal comfort, landscaping, rainwater harvesting with the used of cistern tanks. Also by designing the house relative to human scale (floor height elevations), adherence to disability law, passive cooling thru the introduction of cross ventilation (side walls with window openings), long deep eaves to create shadows and depth, white walls and ceiling for natural room illumination. We also employed CFL bulbs and other environmental friendly materials for optimum savings in electricity and adherence towards the principle of sustainable development.” — Francis Noel


Perhaps one of the greater things that makes this house about “green living” is that Francis built his home office within the property — no need to drive a car to go to work. Talk about reducing your carbon footprint. And just beside his home office is a separate unit for his parents’ in law. I love that about Filipino families.


Read more about the work of Francisco Noel Architects.

House of Buck Sia


This house was shown in UZ a couple of weeks ago. Designed and built by Buck Richnold Sia, a young architect based in Cebu. This is Buck’s own house. He lives here with his wife Dulce. I met Buck through the Creative Cities program of the British Council. I like his way of thinking and how he translates his ideas into real space. I don’t know what it is about Cebu and modern architecture, but it seems abundant there. So much talent.

Buck’s firm, Zubu Design Associates, is committed to the pursuit of Progressive Architecture. “Architecture that is up to the times; to say the least, modern.” More photos and plans from his website.

This house is very interesting, not only because of its modernity, but also because it is built on a very limited space. The lot area is only 145 square metres. The floor area of the house is 150 sqm. He was able to put in three bedrooms, a den, and 2.5 toilets and bathrooms all in two storeys. In Buck’s on words:

This house attempts a more international style with planes creatively stacked. It also mixes color and texture with the massing and planes. The eastern wall with the firewall connects with the clerestory canopy that creates the 1st of the many elements. The flat roof and canopies create a horizontal effect that sandwiches the yellow plane. That plane with it, also the frontmost of all the elevations, is flanked at the side with the louver enclosed glass panels and the rust-effect tiled wall. The interior also feels the linearity of the space, with the cantilevered stairs as the backdrop.


















Mad man



Like I promised, before the week ended I’d come up with another layout like this. Thanks to the training and guidance of Isabel Gatuslao, I was able to do this layout all by myself. I’m getting the hang of things. I hope.

One of my readers suggested that I post something for the guys. I meet a lot of men who tell me their wives or SO’s read my blog. I thought it was very sweet of them to even know that. How involved. So here’s something for your man. I don’t know how relevant it is to most men, but this is my husband’s world.

Here are a few of the things he has, and some that I wish he had.


1. Project Selima & Matt Secret Identity Eyeglass Kit, $40. After years of being in denial, he finally accepted the fact that he needed reading glasses. At first he bought a few drugstore kinds of cheap glasses. Then this pair comes in the mail. I was impressed. It had a vintage feel and a lot of wit, check out the case. Very Clark Kent. It came from what I thought was just another hipster blogsite. But Matt Singer used to work as a designer at Jack Spade, yadda yadda. You can read more about his work on his site.  2. Nato nylon watch straps, SGD $14.90. Ever since I met him, Patrick had always been wearing vintage watches. A few years ago he ordered nylon grosgrain straps from the Russian army via antique sellers. I knew he was on to something. Then similar colourful straps started showing up in stores like J.Crew. I always say, he’s ahead of his time.  3. Brooks England bicycle saddle, $121. This particular model was designed in 1910. It is apparently very comfortable and well worth the splurge. He has a few of these saddles to go on a few of his bicycles. How a person can have more than one bicycle is beyond me.  4. Red Wing Postman Oxford. He is almost always in oxford shoes, beautiful lace ups and wing tips. He thinks this one is cool because of the postman look. He hasn’t bought this yet. The site is in Japanese. 5. Reiss Roma two button notch lapel suit, on sale for $456. He doesn’t wear suits to work. Though he’s in management, he works in media. Sometimes I wish the business culture here dictated men to wear suits. This looks really sharp. And the good news is that the price is marked down.


I’m dying to know what you think. Guys?




Flowers from LV



I received the prettiest flowers yesterday from Louis Vuitton Manila. There was no occasion, just well wishes for my new website. Funny, I was thinking of buying fresh flowers the day before. Then this lovely arrangement comes. Flowers make me really happy. It was a perfect Friday.

Thank you Rhea DeVera Aguirre and Vanessa Mayuga-Santos