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Larger Than Life

When a high-profile couple needed their new home reimagined, interior designer-tandem, Almario sisters Ivy and Cynthia, provided the vision.

When a high-profile couple needed their new home reimagined, interior designer-tandem, Almario sisters Ivy and Cynthia, provided the vision.

by Ian E. Baol photography Genesis Rana



After some months of construction on their new home which they thought first to be just a small project, the homeowners were in limbo, not knowing how to push further and achieve their dream home that fit their lifestyle. Fashion designer Kate Torralba—the homeowners’ niece—then intervened and sought professional help in the couple’s stead and turned to her good friends the Almario sisters Ivy and Cynthia; a powerhouse design tandem whose roster of clients include designer Philipp Rodriguez, many of the Aboitizes, the Ayala Group, restaurants like Café 1771 in Ortigas, high-end residential areas North and South Forbes Parks in Makati and Tierra Pura in Quezon City, to name very few, not to mention other top hotels and resorts here and abroad.

But the couple had to be patient, as Ivy and Cynthia were jetting around the world on commissioned projects. Eight weeks later, leaving Cebu after seeing the house, Ivy Almario found herself immediately sketching her ideas, old school, drawing—in scale—the house’s proposed new interiors, and all from sheer memory (that’s right, without the help of any camera, computer, whatsoever).

Within a year the house still humbly sits on a quarried adobe hillside, but now God is in the details, and they are grand.

“The challenge was to visually expand the space,” said Ivy, “and I believe we succeeded.” I couldn’t find the words to express how much I agreed. “When I came to visit on my day-trip there were walls covering too many parts of the house. You couldn’t see this rock,” said Ivy talking about the solid adobe wall resulting from the quarried hillside where the house was built. “We thought, oh my, in Australia for example, they look for this, they buy this, but here you’re sitting on a gold mine. We have to make this the artwork,” as she pointed out, the point being unobstructed living spaces brought about the absence of walls to hang art.

But Ivy and Cynthia say the couple is already “modern” at heart. “The floating stairs, for example, was already there, so we helped them in the most exciting execution and accessorizing,” said Ivy, assured that she knew what the homeowners already knew wanted and that they just helped the couple get there.

Before Atelier Almario in the Philippines came to be, the sisters lived and worked in the US. Cynthia worked for a design firm in California that did the interiors of the Shangri-La resorts all over Asia (including Shangri-La Cebu) and several other hotels in the US. Ivy worked for four different firms in three years, as a rendering artist, then for over ten years she was on her own, earning a living as an independent rendering artist and eventually a junior designer, putting her clients’ concepts onto paper for their presentations. “It was then that I became a really good designer,” Ivy said, “by working for these companies, I was able to internalize how they solved design problems.” Eventually the sisters moved back to Manila, and the interiors of many high-end residential and commercial projects were never the same again.

Ivy’s Feng Shui is also considered by Manila experts to be perfect for projects. Her approach to space planning, and understanding and maximizing light sources, impactful door opening, and the general flow of energy is always strategic.

For this home, Cynthia and Ivy and said it could have been easy to take the surroundings’ natural beauty for granted, but as the design concept was to bring the outdoors in and maximize the existing spaces, they took down walls, used a lot of glass, and strategically set big mirrors.

Cynthia said the couple wanted their home to have a “resort feel” as they travelled a lot and enjoyed five-star treatment. The woman of the house wondered why they couldn’t just have it at home, “so as the designers, we made sure it would be very restful.” The master’s bedroom is elevated so all you see when you wake up are the tops of trees and the sky. For the headboard wall, a copyrighted design from Bonace, in Cebu, a mother of pearl wall. “Sometimes when I wake up, I forget I’m just at home,” laughed the woman of the house. Beat that, five-star hotels. The pyramid canopy above the bed expanded the sleeping area and the use of continuous glass panel windows provides an unobstructed view of the fire-trees of the fronting hill. Without having to bring in a landscape artist, they were able to bring the outdoors in and the homeowners agree that this part of the house has really changed their lives. For privacy they installed remote-controlled venetian blinds from __. Stepping outside the bedroom leads you into the outdoors; a balcony cum breakfast nook for six with a beautiful Dedon dining set.

Aside from the Kenneth Cobonpue Bloom chairs down in the living room, the Almario sisters tapped into the unique Cebuano talent getting items from designers and manufacturers professing a love for Cebuano products. Coast Pacific, Dedon, and Kenneth Cobonpue make up most of the outdoor furniture. Other items and décor the couple brought in from the US, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and the UK—of course with Ivy and Cynthia’s approval. “Take it easy, be patient, and wait for us,” the woman of the house recalls the sisters telling her before she went on her furniture shopping spree, admitting to over-excitement and being too eager to start buying already after seeing the sisters’ design prospect.

The man of the house, who documented the process very carefully, affirms that the sisters’ work is truly inspired, and inspiring, showing pictures from Ivy’s initial sketches to the construction phases. The exterior was envisioned by Architect Ed Gallego, and the interiors by Atelier Almarior’s junior architect Jay Rivero who has been in praxis since 2004 and been working with the Almario sisters since 2006.

The daughter’s room reads like a Marie Antoinette fantasy. She worked with the interior designers giving them pegs of her ideas, which fit like a glove with the sisters’ general chic aesthetic idea for the home. The ornate night tables and plush bed and seating were all fabricated in Manila and finished in Cebu and the mother made the lampshades herself. “It was a labor of love,” she called it.

In another interview, the sisters, who are known to be extremely close, so much to even finish each other’s sentences, refer to their general design mantra as being chameleon-like, “We design using a whole gamut of genres and periods, from traditional, transitional, contemporary, Asian fusion, modern, you name it, we do it.” They prioritize “great work ethic and passion for work,” with strong relationships “with God, family, loved ones, friends, clients and peers, staff and suppliers,” and even people they encounter every day.


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Netflix Original Releases We’re Excited for This August 2021. Part 3

Our selection of Netflix Originals for August Part 3.

The Witcher: Nightmare of the Wolf

Coming to Netflix: August 23


Netflix’s The Witcher series gets an anime prequel film focusing on the origin story of Geralt’s mentor and fellow witcher Vesemir. While we’re still waiting for the second season of the series, we’re sure this film will be more than enough to tide us over.


He’s All That

Coming to Netflix: August 27


From the director of Mean Girls comes another teen comedy starring TikTok star Addison Rae. He’s All That is a remake of the 1999 film She’s All That, proving Taylor Swift right in her theory of the 90’s coming back stronger than ever.


Sparking Joy

Coming to Netflix: August 31


We all remember when Marie Kondo helped us declutter our houses and better our lives with her hit show, Tidying Up With Marie Kondo. This August, she’s back with another show called Sparking Joy which follows her helping people struggling to balance work and home life.



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Netflix Original Releases We’re Excited for This August 2021. Part 2

Exciting Netflix Original Releases for this August 2021
Here’s the upcoming Netflix Originals we like for mid-August.  Great fun, exciting, and binge-worthy Netflix original releases.

Sweet Girl

Coming to Netflix: August 20

This is another Netflix action thriller film we’re excited for. This film stars Jason Momoa as a devastated husband determined to avenge his wife’s death while protecting his daughter and is sure to put us on the edges of our seats the whole way through.


The Chair

Coming to Netflix: August 20

Sandra Oh stars in this upcoming comedy-drama miniseries as the new chair of the English department at a major university, struggling to meet the demands and expectations of her new position. We’re sure this is another great binge-watch from Netflix.


The Loud House Movie

Coming to Netflix: August 20

The popular Nickelodeon animated series gets a film which features the characters of the series on a holiday trip to Scotland. This film is perfect if you’re a fan of the series or you’ve got kids who are.


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Zee’s Pick for the Week

Tickle Your Palate with Father’s Eggs

ZEE picks an interesting dessert for our reader’s sweet passions.  Plantation Bay’s Bakeshop by the Beach created a dessert specialty that will tickle both your palate and naughty thoughts.

Pastry Chef Gerard Apurado presented a unique treat for this year’s Father’s Day, it is called Father’s Eggs.  However, Father’s Eggs received highly positive feedback from their clientele and from food critics.  And the people could not stop ordering them; so why not make everyday a Father’s Day?

Father’s Eggs are delicately crafted custard inside an eggshell; plus, it comes in six different flavors:  coffee, pandan, strawberry, ube, plain custard, and mango.  However, each flavor is given a playful name by Chef Apurado.  The amazing part is that every flavor is so distinct and crave-worthy.  Chef Apurado is keeping the recipe a secret; but everyone can order Father’s Eggs at the Plantation Bay’s Bakeshop by the Beach Facebook page.

For other food stories, please check Chef Gerard Apurado’s blog


Photos by:  Rene Amodia and Ephraim Basbas

Plantation Bay’s Bakeshop by the Beach presents Father’s Eggs


Pastry Chef Gerard Apurado and his masterpiece, the Father’s Eggs.

The pastry commissary of Plantation Bay’s Bakeshop by the Beach preparing hundreds of orders of their famous Father’s Eggs. (photo grabbed from PB’s bakeshop by the beach FB page)


Father’s Eggs in Ube and Mango Flavours.


Father’s Eggs in Pandan and Coffee Flavours.


Ube, Mango, Strawberry, Plain Custard, Pandan, and Coffee.


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