Travelers often have a unique experience of the city they live in. Immigrants see a new country with fresh eyes—scenes that locals take for granted become a feast for the senses, mundane objects garner an air of whimsy, and art becomes omnipresent in the everyday.
Investing in real estate in the Philippines can offer you a wonderful opportunity to discover homegrown flavor and infuse it with your own design tastes and sensibilities to create the home you’ve always wanted—one that’s steeped in local culture and one that embodies your own personality.
Explore Your Neighborhood
If you’ve landed yourself in a perfectly situated condo unit, chances are you can get around town by foot, shuttle, or for the adventurous, by jeepney and tricycle. You may live in a hyper-amenitized development, but that doesn’t excuse you from braving the outside world for exploration’s sake.
Experiencing the city on street level, even for few hours a week, can clue you in on its vibe, which can steer your décor toward the right direction. Whether it’s a trip to the art museums of UP Diliman and Ateneo de Manila University, a marathon run through the premiere malls of Mandaluyong City, a trek through Poblacion’s hole-in-the-wall haunts in Makati from your Century City condo, or a jaunt around historic landmarks of San Fernando, getting yourself acquainted with your new neighborhood can offer immense visual stimulation to stir your creative juices.
Collect, Then Curate
As you move through your city’s secret gems and its popular offerings, make sure to pick up a piece or two that speaks to you. Grab what you’re attracted to without filtering through color schemes, wall space, or even what you perceive as your personal style. Pieces that steal your attention right away—a cheeky souvenir, some rich, textured fabric, an artisanal linen spray—speak more about your personality and preferences than a meticulously put-together mood board on Pinterest or an Instagram search for #condogoals.
Take your tchotchkes home and then inspect your collection. Mix, match, and don’t be afraid to break the rules—let all your design influences, souvenirs, and collectibles (not just from the Philippines but from all your travels) mingle to tell your unique story.
Work Your Finds Into the Home
Consider creating a gallery wall filled with postcards, photographs, and posters you’ve picked up on your travels. Decorate your shelves not just with functional items but with pieces that add color, that make for an interesting conversation starter, or that you just like the look of. Accessorize your tablescapes with everything from collected business cards from neighborhood restaurants, local candy from the sari-sari store or actual sculptural items you picked up at the summer art market.
Leave Room for Local
Remember that decorating a home and infusing it with your own experience of local culture takes time. It will take more than just one shopping trip to get things done the right way. Run through the decorating process slowly and surely, as you begin to understand the Filipinos’ way of life, their language, and their loves, and you will see this new culture you’re experiencing work its magic in the way you dress up your home.
Learn the Language
Filipinos are fluent in English and are always pleasantly surprised when foreigners make an effort to learn the local language. Take some tips from your coworkers and newfound friends about colloquialisms and pepper your conversations with them. Adding a sincere “salamat” (thank you) to a request you’re making, or a “kain?” (“let’s eat” is a substitute for “hello” for Filipinos!) when meeting new people while dining out is sure to win others over. Putting in some Filipino phrases while buying local decor can also help you haggle and get your goods for a steal!
“Our homes do not have to offer us permanent occupancy or store our clothes to merit the name. To speak of home in relation to a building is simply to recognise its harmony with our own prized internal song.” —Alain de Botton, The Architecture of Happiness
Rooting yourself in an unfamiliar place is a daunting experience. It isn’t easy to find your footing in a strange, new locale, amidst people with strikingly different cultural practices. But the meditative, contemplative practice of dressing up your home to reflect your own life changes as well as the new environment you find yourself in can ultimately be an adventure that helps you ground and grow.