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The Homes of Zee

Living on the Edge

It isn’t really living until you’ve lived on the edge: in this case, experiencing total tranquility in a villa on the edge of a cliff. Then you go back to the city, and you’ve had the best of both worlds all in one week.

It isn’t really living until you’ve lived on the edge: in this case, experiencing total tranquility in a villa on the edge of a cliff. Then you go back to the city, and you’ve had the best of both worlds all in one week.

You need to see this,” Fay Hartstein recalled saying to her husband, Jay, showing him in an e-mail, a photo of an infinity pool, somewhere in a sleepy town south of Cebu. It was overlooking Sumilon Island, with sweeping views, they’ve dreamed of owning a house with a view like this for a while. After scouring almost half of southern Cebu, the couple was soon the proud owners of this very private property in the fishing town of Mainit, Oslob.

Fay confesses to love both the openness and intimacy of the place: the former being the ability to see so many islands in the distance such as Negros, Bohol, Siquijor, and Sumilon, and even the tip of Mindanao on a clear day, while the latter being cut-off from the rest of Cebu and the hustle and bustle of the city. Even the sound of commuter buses and cars on the highway are immediately muffled once you reach the main living areas.

The property has three structures: the main house and two guest villas, which were already built before the couple acquired the property. The steps to the ocean, however, were unfinished and the house was unfurnished but this was not a challenge at all for the couple.

“We love the Filipino-native look, but with a modern touch,” and found Murillo furniture to be perfect as the couple had also noted that furniture company had some pieces included in the Andre Agassi and Steffi Graf Kreiss Collection. “Much of the house and the Guest Villa have various pieces of furniture, and we took great care to give the place a feeling of comfort, while keeping a tropical look.” Fay being from Cebu, and Jay being from L.A., the couple shuffles between the two cities regularly, with beautiful daughter Moira in tow. For the time spent away, they decided to rent the place out, and Villa On A Cliff was born.

Villa On A Cliff is a tropical estate suspended on an oceanfront cliff, roughly 20 meters above sea level. It is a fully-staffed vacation home, with four full-time employees. “George and Charito do most of the cooking,” noted Fay. “George is from Bicol so we do a mean Bicol Express at the villa.” Jay also recommends George’s fried calamari and Charito’s bam-i and leche flan “which always seems to get rave reviews.” To maximize your dining experience at Villa, it’s advised to call ahead so they can plan an excellent set menu. A masseuse is also easily available.

The two guest villas are always ready for occupancy. Villa 1 is the most elevated of the levels. It is equipped with its own bathroom, a refrigerator, a queen size bed, and a cozy seating area. It is air-conditioned but you can let the sea breeze in without letting the bugs with the sliding screen doors. The second villa is perched on a lower cliffside and has the same provisions as the first villa. The lower level of the main house also has two bedrooms with a private bathroom and allows exclusive use of the living and dining areas.

Security is not a problem: apart from the towering wall around the villa, and the full-time staff living there as well, the property is also guarded by two big dogs, Bo and Robin. And as it’s better safe than sorry, the couple had installed a security system as well in the main house.

Staying in Villa On A Cliff doesn’t necessarily entail a sedentary lifestyle, although that can be very appealing. There are many activities you can busy yourself with. Oslob has suddenly and is increasingly becoming a popular destination to see and swim with the spotted whale sharks, or butanding. Oslob has its own waterfall as well, Ginatilan Falls, and Kawasan Falls is merely a short bus ride away. “We also love taking our three-seater kayak for a ride down the shore,” mentioned Fay, or take a quick trip to Sumilon island for some snorkeling or hiking, or plan a diving trip to nearby sites, then come back to the villa to slowly take it all in, and reflect on what adventures have gone on in the day.

Oslob’s close proximity to neighboring Dumaguete also makes it an ideal vacation property. When you’re done with the many activities in Oslob and its nearby towns, a daytrip to Negros Island is also very feasible.

For more information on Villa On A Cliff, visit and add them on Facebook: Villaonacliff Cebu, e-mail them at: villaonacliff@gmail.com, or talk with them via Skype: VillaOnACliff

  • by Ian E. Baol
  • photography Genesis Raña


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The Homes of Zee

LOCKDOWN FUN: Whose Crib is This?

Here’s one way residents of Cebu’s exclusive villages created their own fun during zoom parties — guessing each other’s home! Of course, you need a smart mastermind to curate the photos to make sure the homes of each of the amigas are not easy to guess.

So, here’s a short tour of homes that was paraded during this very fun game. Homes are located in Maria Luisa, Northtown Homes, Beverly Hills and a beach house too.  Oh, and one came all the way from Scotland.

We hope your zoom parties are just as fun!

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The Homes of Zee

Seashore Seclusion: A Beachside Abode in San Remigio

A cozy family getaway in San Remigio epitomizes the charm and simplicity of living by the sea.

by Shari Quimbo
photography Ezekiel Sullano


Admittedly, there are some challenges that come with living in Cebu; but having pockets of paradise being only a few hours’ away is an upside that’s hard to beat. One such paradise is San Remigio, a town that sits on the northwest side of the island, which means its serene shores are kissed daily by an amazing view of the sunset. Sure, you’ll run into some traffic while driving out of the city, but what awaits you makes the drive up north an easy challenge to live with.

A walkway leads into the house’s main living area, which enjoys an open floor plan for a relaxed and communal atmosphere.

When a chance to visit one family’s beachside getaway landed on our laps, we couldn’t pass it up. After a brief struggle with Mandaue City traffic, we were soon cruising through the towns of the north while the crystalline blue waters of the ocean peeked through every few kilometers.

It wasn’t long after when we found ourselves going up a pebbled driveway where a bamboo gate opened up to a footpath that led to the house. “We wanted to keep it simple,” the owner explains, sharing that he came up with the design while going through photos of houses online. With a thatched roof, rounded columns and a grooved concrete fence, the space is cozy and informal—a place that definitely exuded a laid-back beachside feel.

The living areas integrate into each other, with casual dining set-ups arranged around the open space, while oversized couches surround a solid wood coffee table. There’s a communal vibe that’s slightly deliberate. “We have a lot of friends and family that come in during the weekends, so we created a space that’s ready for that,” says the owner. “We didn’t want anything too formal. Some beach houses make you feel embarrassed to come in with your wet, sandy feet. We want a place where everyone would be comfortable moving around.”

Natural tones are complemented by richly colored fabrics

That said, the concrete floors, made for walking around barefoot, lead to the manicured grass where the infinity pool looks like its about to spill out into the beach below. The blues of the sea and sky complement the more natural tones of the house’s wooden furniture pieces and painted white walls. Pops of color come in with the throw pillows, hammock and matching bright orange lounge chairs that are around the pool.

As if keeping with the house’s casual vibe, the owner’s trio of dogs roams freely around the property, curiously coming up to us for attention. “They just showed up one day,” he laughs when I ask where he’d gotten the dogs, named Beer, Tequila and Scotch—perhaps giving proof of how fun weekends here can be. A bar sits by one of the dining tables and further cements this theory, as does the homemade lamp made from a bottle of Patron.

Off to the side of the house are the bedrooms, which are simple but spacious. “It’s so there’s space on the floor to bring in cushions for when we have a lot of people over.”

The house’s infinity pool seemingly spills out into the ocean, and is one of the best locations on the property to watch the sunset.

The beach house took just two months to construct about two years ago. “Weirdly enough, we built this house while I was still living in Malaysia,” shares the owner. “My sister manages a construction company, and I would just email them instructions and photos of what I wanted. Surprisingly, it was pretty easy.”

The bar is stocked with a wide array of liquors, and is proof of the residence’s festive spirit.

Of course, when typhoon Yolanda hit northern Cebu, the house saw considerable damage. A quick browse through his photo gallery showed the roof completely ripped off the structure. “I came back the weekend after Yolanda. It took me almost a whole day to get here because we had to clear the road as we went,” he recalled.

Repairs to the house took a backseat as the family helped residents around the area before they moved to reconstruct their own house. “It took a month or so to fix the roof and everything else that was broken,” he says.

When lit up with candles in the late afternoon, the walkway takes on a cozily intimate vibe;

Long benches flank the dining table to accommodate plenty of diners.

Now, the house is as inviting as ever. We spent the minutes leading up to sunset drinking beer by the pool. A few fishing boats float off the shore, with many locals walking through the beach. “I like the idea of having no fences and having people passing through,” the owner shares. “I like that it’s open. It makes the house feel more alive.”

Sunsets by the beach are priceless.

That, in a nutshell, describes the beach house. With its cheerful, casual corners, it surely feels lived in—as if remnants of the happy moments people have spent there still hang in the air and even add to its personality. It’s not hard to understand why the owners look forward to the two-hour drive up on the weekends—if we had a space like this, we’d be heading north more often too.


(This article had already been published in Zee Lifestyle’s April 2016 Travel Issue, “Beach, Please” on pages 98-101.)

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The Homes of Zee

Idyllic Isolation: The La Mer Veille

French architectural duo Humbert & Poyet create La Mer Veille in the Italian Riviera, a seaside cabin that has its fair share of charm.

by Shari Quimbo
photos courtesy of Alexandra Public Relations


With the azure sea on one side, the verdant mountains on the other and picturesque towns in between, the Italian Riviera is certainly a dream destination. More than its natural beauty, the region seems frozen in another time—a simpler one, when the days seemed long and the people keen to enjoy the moments.

It is here that La Mer Veille sits, a beachfront cabin that epitomizes the simple summer escape. Nestled between Bordighera and San Remo, its stunning views of the Mediterranean Sea are complemented by its predominantly white palette, down-to-earth décor and delicate materials.

The house is the creation of French architects Emil Humbert and Christophe Poyet, the personalities behind the firm Humbert & Poyet. Since they decided to collaborate in 2007, the firm has worked on various projects around the world—the Wine Palace at the Monaco Yacht Club, the curated fashion store 55 Croisette in Cannes, and fashion designer Alexis Mabille’s first shop in Paris are just some of the projects the two have worked on together.

“We communicate constantly throughout a project,” Christophe explains. “Our symbiosis forms the foundations of our projects and ensures the space that we’ve imagined works.”

The result is elegant and timeless spaces that meticulously bring together various design elements—the choice of materials and lighting, for example, are carefully thought out to make the most of a space and to ensure the client’s needs and personality is reflected in the final design.

It’s understandable then why La Mer Veille sits at a perfect vantage point where it surroundings can be admired. The seaside cabin is simple and relatively small, but is put together to exude an unassuming luxury that dares not to compete with the views outside.

The living area, shared with the dining room and kitchen, is done in shades of white with earthy tone accents. The Carrara marble counters are complemented with brass fixtures, including a brass sink that was custom-made by Humbert & Poyet. The firm also specially constructed the sofa that sits opposite the wooden table, a find from a market in England. Straw-wrapped lighting, an old-fashioned fireplace and a brass backsplash for the stove just add to the overall rustic appeal.

The bedrooms also have that effortless charm, with various nautical details to remind its occupants they are by the sea—just in case they forget the views beyond the picture windows. The master bedroom features a mattress sitting on an elevated wooden platform, topped with an Ancient African throw purchased from an antique shop.

“We communicate constantly throughout a project,” Christophe explains. “Our symbiosis forms the foundations of our projects and ensures the space that we’ve imagined works.”

La Mer Veille is a space that celebrates its location, and its location is best enjoyed from the terrace. The creamy white palette is carried over to this outdoor space where distressed wooden floorboards and a cushioned seating area invite you to put up your feet and settle in. The mood is set even further with a hammock chair from Etsy hanging easily from the ceiling and some relaxing music from the piano.

Emil Humbert and Christophe Poyet

Beyond its architectural details, it is the finishing touches that give this dreamy cabin its character—bunches of baby’s breath and other flowers tucked into pitchers and vases in various niches around the house, wooden stools with rounded seats, antique-inspired knickknacks like an old fan sitting on a shelf and a swinging love seat. These details make the house come to life in an interesting way; and with a view such as this, what a life it is.

(This article had already been published in Zee Lifestyle’s May 2016 Home Issue, “By the Sea” on pages 72-77.)

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