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The Homes of Zee

You’re invited to Amparito Lhuillier’s home

Set on the highest point of one of Cebu’s most exclusive villages is a structure that may look intimidating on the outside, but packs a lot of surprising warmth inside—just like the impressions you may get from its residents, Michel and Amparito Lhuillier.


The Lhuillier Home (Photography by Robo Formacion: Originally published in Zee Lifestyle, October 2015)

“Strike three,” laughs photographer Robo Formacion as we made our third wrong turn while cruising through the maze of hills in Maria Luisa, trying to make our way to the home of Michel and Amparito Lhuillier. From where we were, it wasn’t hard to spot the much-acclaimed abode—an imposing structure jutting out from the lush greenery at the highest point of the subdivision. It was only a matter of finding the right road that would bring us there.

We didn’t go as far as hitting a home run in terms of getting lost: A street sign that read ‘Amparito Drive’ showed that we were finally on the right track. The further we drove, the more we wondered what kind of home the celebrated Lhuilliers lived in. The quiet Michel is, of course, known for building the family business—a chain of eponymous pawnshops and numerous money transfer outlets around the country and the world, as well as other culinary establishments; while the charming Amparito is a schoolteacher-turned-philanthropist, who has sent over 1,500 young people to college through her Amparito Llamas Lhuillier Education Foundation. After graduating from their business-related courses at the University of San Jose-Recolletos, the students duly find placement in Lhuillier-owned establishments. Amparito also supports other charities including the Little Bamboo Foundation that helps disadvantaged children.

A view of the home from the driveway (Photography by Robo Formacion: Originally published in Zee Lifestyle, October 2015

A view of the home from the driveway (Photography by Robo Formacion: Originally published in Zee Lifestyle, October 2015

Ostrich eggs add a cool contrast to the grand piano in the foyer (Photography by Robo Formacion: Originally published in Zee Lifestyle, October 2015)

Ostrich eggs add a cool contrast to the grand piano in the foyer (Photography by Robo Formacion: Originally published in Zee Lifestyle, October 2015)

A magnificent driveway with manicured lawns leads to the main house. As we pull up front, a household member opens one of the massive wooden doors to usher us in. Dominating the foyer is a grand black piano, proudly displayed on it are framed photos taken during the couple’s anniversary last year. The rest of the high-ceilinged receiving area is adorned with Filipino and Asian art.

As we are escorted to meet the lady of the house in her office, we pass a formal dining area where we’re certain the couple has entertained dignitaries and other important guests. The long table comfortably sits 12 people and is decorated with exquisite silverware arranged French-style, as Amparito insists. The dining room opens to a more casual eating space where the family usually has their meals when the entire brood is in town.

We could hear the unmistakable voice of makeup artist Romero Vergara in lively conversation with Amparito while weaving his magic on her. The lady herself, draped in a simple robe, interrupts Romero’s chatter to acknowledge our arrival as she welcomes us to her office. While everything is in place, the artful clutter gives a lived-in feel to the space, indicating that the woman spends a lot of her time here. Framed magazine covers of Amparito and other members of her family dress up the wall, while more family photos sit on the shelves.

Amparito bids us to explore the house while we wait for her makeup to be done. We view a spacious and spotless kitchen which managing editor Shari Quimbo quickly proclaims to be her dream kitchen realized. It was stark in comparison to the rest of the house, but was fully equipped with everything you could possibly need to cook for a number of people—or a restaurant, at that. Later in the day, Amparito displays how she masterfully organizes her things as she opens cupboard after cupboard to show glassware neatly arranged by design, ready for any occasion that might take place in the Lhuillier home.

Facing the foyer are two living rooms, a formal one which flows effortlessly into a more casual one—blending elegance with the relaxed—which allows them to entertain a flexible number of guests. As with the rest of the house, the rooms are decorated with Filipino and Asian artwork that Amparito is fond of.

The formal living room seamlessly flows into the more casual one (Photography by Robo Formacion: Originally published in Zee Lifestyle, October 2015)

The formal living room seamlessly flows into the more casual one (Photography by Robo Formacion: Originally published in Zee Lifestyle, October 2015)

The living and dining areas both open into yet another sprawling lawn with a sweeping view of Cebu and Mactan. The city was wrapped in a blue-gray haze on that particular day with the sun threatening to break through the clouds. Off to one side is the patio—another location to entertain guests—where Dedon furniture offers comfortable seating for outdoor gatherings. Right in front of the patio is the swimming pool.

With her makeup done, Amparito beckons us to help choose her first outfit, entailing a tour of the family’s private quarters. Fashion editor Oj Hofer wonders about the small ramp beside the steps leading to it, which prompts Amparito to explain, “That’s for when Michel and I are old,” she says with a laugh. “At least we won’t have to climb the stairs anymore, we can just be wheeled in.” For the moment, the ramp comes into practical use for moving their luggage around.

The 12-seater dining room where the Lhuilliers host formal events (Photography by Robo Formacion: Originally published in Zee Lifestyle, October 2015)

The 12-seater dining room where the Lhuilliers host formal events (Photography by Robo Formacion: Originally published in Zee Lifestyle, October 2015)

A staircase from the family room leads up to the children’s private suites (of course, Amparito’s forward thinking had a private elevator installed from the garage), while the master bedroom is straight ahead on ground level. Amparito shows us the recreation area with a flatscreen TV; and adding to its visual interest is an entire wall lined with books. A kitchenette is tucked off in one corner. At the other end is the bedroom, outside it is a much smaller but equally beautiful garden where the couple unwinds with a stunning view of the next mountain.

Of course, with Amparito known as one of the city’s iconic fashion figures, everyone is curious about her closet—a walk-in one, expectedly. “But I have to expand!” she exclaims. “You have to walk in a single-file now just to get to my clothes.” Everything here is arranged with precision, with one cabinet just for her belts and sunglasses. Hanging on a rack are the clothes she anticipated wearing for the shoot, with matching shoes and the planned accessories laid out nearby.

The lady of the house lounges on one of the Dedon lounges beside the pool (Photography by Robo Formacion: Originally published in Zee Lifestyle, October 2015)

The lady of the house lounges on one of the Dedon lounges beside the pool (Photography by Robo Formacion: Originally published in Zee Lifestyle, October 2015)

Amparito’s haven is a labor of love. It took eight years of close collaboration with architect Filoteo Jacinto and interior designer Conrad Onglao to put together, with Amparito herself keeping track of the process from beginning to end. She refused to show the house to Michel until it was finally completed a few years ago. Since then, a number of parties have been hosted in this house, notably the Lhuillier’s golden wedding anniversary in 2014. The place truly befits a renowned hostess, but to Amparito, it’s simply home.

by Patty Taboada sittings editor Oj Hofer photography Robo Formacion makeup Romero Vergara hair Jessie Egos
Originally published in Zee Lifestyle, October 2015. For back issues, subscribe via Magzter.

The Homes of Zee

THROWBACK THURSDAY. Discover Why This Airy, Modern Structure in Busay is Called the Sky House

The Sky House is a truly modern structure, with straight lines and boxy shapes.

Defying Gravity

YKC Premier’s first venture in Busay floats over a cliff and introduces a new brand of living in Cebu.

by Shari Quimbo photography Ezekiel Sullano


YKC Premier’s first venture couldn’t be more aptly named—Sky House was spot on—the airy, modern structure that juts out of a ridge in the Busay Highlands couldn’t be called anything else. The drive up the hill levels to a short plateau right before the entrance of the village, allowing ample time for everyone to look up and admire a house that seems to be in defiance of gravity.

“When I saw the property, it was everything you could ask for, and it’s in limited quantities so we wanted to maximize all its assets,” says Victor Consunji, one-third of the group behind the project. “The problem was the land is narrow. Since we have the experience and capability, we thought, why waste all the good things about this property by just building on the ridge? Why not build over the ridge?”

The house, as viewed from the street.

A textured carpet sets the living area apart from the dining, but the palette of grays and light-washed wood carries on even into the kitchen. The room is framed by two art pieces: a rattan sculpture called “Love Locks” by Selina Romualdez, and a painting from young artist Tzaddi Esguerra.

Slater Young and Stephen Ku complete YKC Premier, a group of men who have come together to redefine the art of living with a view in Cebu. “Slater and I have been friends for a while, and I bumped into him at a wedding here in Cebu,” Stephen recalls. “And then we were talking about businesses that we could do together, and he mentioned that he had a nice piece of land that he wanted to fix up. He showed me the place, and I thought it was beautiful. On the way back to Manila, I thought about Vic because I’m also working with him on his project in Manila called Mahogany Tree.”

The trio of Twist lamps over the dining table add an organic, but dramatic flair.

A sunroom off the deck is converted into a cozy breakfast nook, where another of Vito’s lamps adds a touch of whimsy.

Once the three sat down to discuss the venture, Victor was immediately interested and, in fact, already had a vision for the house’s design in his mind. The partnership played up each one’s individual strengths and backgrounds—Victor comes from the family behind DMCI Holdings Incorporated, which have constructed Philippine landmarks such as the Manila Hotel and Shangri-La’s Mactan Island Resort; Slater has a background in engineering and his family is also in construction; while Stephen is at the helm of Eventscape Manila and is behind some of the hottest restaurants and nightspots in the Philippines. “Victor would be the CEO, the visionary. His expertise is what we brought in here,” explains Slater. “And since I’m also in construction, I was sort of his eyes here in Cebu. I’d be the CTO, Chief Technical Officer, and Stephen would be the CMO, marketing.”

The Constella lights hang over the spiral staircase.

A pair of Vito Selma Paisley chairs are arranged in one corner of the master’s bedroom.

Although YKC Premier already has three strong personalities behind it, the guys decided to bring in another design visionary to help them complete the look of the Sky House. “The Sky House is unlike any other home in Cebu, and it was a designer’s dream to be part of it,” says Vito Selma, who brought in his iconic pieces, along with some custom-made furniture to complete the look of the Sky House. “Given its location and the abundance of windows, I wanted the home to feel just as light and airy—to simulate the feeling of flight. And to stay true to my brand, we just wanted to bring nature into the home, which can be seen in the materials, textures and colors in the space.”

The Arata chair serves as a sculptural accent in one of the bedrooms.

The look is relaxed but sophisticated, with many art pieces that Vito had commissioned especially for this project. “The installation in the entry is by me,” he says of the large textured slab with pieces of wood in different finishes scattered on it. “I made it in a way that when someone walks in the house, they see a reflection of that piece and its materials in other areas of the home.” Other notable pieces are in the living room: a large rattan sculpture of interlocking loops by Vito’s sister Selina Romualdez, and a long painting with strokes in various shades of gray by Tzaddi Esguerra. “I love working with her for all our projects,” Vito admits. “We tell her what colours to work with, and she makes the magic happen.”

With the house finished in just over a year, the guys are looking forward to constructing seven more houses to complete the project, offering a lifestyle that is incredibly appealing. “Young, hip urbanites. Young families. If they’re young, they at least feel young,” says Stephen of who they see living in the space. “People who want to balance work and play, because this place is like a residence and a resort at the same time.”

Victor’s family background and experience in construction came in handy when building the house over the ridge.

“Nowadays, with the way things are going in the Philippines, there is a focus on taking vacations, but not everybody has that chance. Not everybody can just take off whenever they want,” Victor adds. “I really don’t believe that a home is just your home, your vacation spot is just your vacation spot and your work place is just for work. I think you can have the best of all three, and this design incorporates that.”

“It’ll feel like you’re going home to a vacation every day,” Slater adds.

A pair of lounges by the pool makes for a perfect spot to enjoy the fresh mountain breeze and the unobstructed views.

Although these gents are focused on the Sky Houses for now, they look forward to bringing more of this brand of living to other locations. “We’re just looking for the right project, but I think the boys are in agreement that we really want to explore Cebu, particularly because this is the emerging market we want to be in. We just need to look for the right spot, and the right design,” Stephen says.

More than just creating modern and luxurious properties, YKC Premier hopes to change the perception of what living in Cebu can be. “That’s what we want to bring to Cebu,” Stephen shares. “I haven’t seen a development like this in Cebu, and a lot of the times I’d ask Slater, and he goes, oh no, the Cebuanos wouldn’t want to spend for something like this. I kept telling him that if we build it, they will come. Cebuanos are ready for something edgy and daring, and I think this project will be a testament to that.” With the first house already sold, that’s certainly been proven true. After all, with just one visit to the Sky House, it’s hard to imagine a better place to live.


(This article has already been published in Zee Lifestyle’s February 2016 Real Estate Issue, “Defying Gravity” on pages 68-73.)

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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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