The house of Mar Roxas and Korina Sanchez Roxas has not been this homey before their twins Pepe and Pilar came home.
Pilar's full name is—hold your breath—Judith Celia Esther Korina Sanchez Roxas. Pepe is—hold your breath again—Pepe Ramon Gerardo Manuel Denzel Sanchez Roxas.
Born on February 12, 2019 in the United States, the twins came home to the Philippines in April 1.
Korina tells PEP.ph (Philippine Entertainment Portal) about the big change at home: "Mas busy, mas maingay, mas maaliwalas. Dati kasi, nung kami lang ni Mar, ang tahimik.
"Unless, of course, we have visitors. But ngayon, mas may movement, lalo na sa itaas, saka parang nagliwanag bigla."
Still gushing about her babies, she walks us through their residence for this house shoot a few days before the midterm elections in May.
Located at the famous compound of the Araneta-Roxas family—Mar’s mother is Judy Araneta-Roxas—in the heart of Cubao in Quezon City, the couple’s two-story home used to be the bachelor pad of Mar and his late brother Dinggoy Roxas.
The compound, which straddles several blocks, is often referred to as the Bahay na Puti.
Korina describes the layout of their personal space there: "The upstairs is as big as the downstairs, so everything is upstairs. And now that the kids are there, we spend most of the time upstairs. We hardly ever bring the kids down.
"But me, because I work and I don’t want to go out of the house anymore, I call in for meetings morning till night here, downstairs."
Korina calls the living-and-dining area her office.
She adds, "It's also where we entertain the visitors. Kapag gusto nilang makita yung twins, binababa namin yung bassinets.
"But we don’t do that much change or movement dito. I don't really rearrange. It’s just that nobody can really explain feng shui, and I’m not a fanatic."
Feng Shui, considered "a pseudoscience" that literally translates to wind-water in English, claims "to use energy forces to harmonize individuals with their surrounding environment."
A non-believer of this art of placement originating from ancient China, Korina says, "As far as directions are concerned, I try to change my position where I face, not the furniture."
Looking at the living room, experts in feng shui would have approved anyway.
It is spacious and has a view of the garden, perfect for getting sun and air for the twins.
But Korina says they have not, yet: "Hindi pa namin sila pinapaarawan diyan. It’s so hot, it’s so humid. This summer has been extremely hot.
"Even the pediatricians say that maybe direct sunlight isn’t so advisable yet. Maybe next month or by the time they are four months…
"Morning sun might be good for a little while, but no we're not really out yet… And there's always air conditioning... si Pepe ay pawisin."
The Kapamilya broadcaster recalls the time they were in the United States, "Nung nasa Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, kami, nag-i-snow dun nun kaya malamig, aba, minsan naabutan namin yung unan ni Pepe, basa. Nagulat ako."
The nursery was constructed early this year.
"Ang mahal pala magpa-renovate," she says, matter-of-factly.
The anchor-host continues, "Yung taas, may veranda, e, overlooking the garden. Yun yung pina-convert ko into a nursery. Kaya ang view niya, trees… And it gets natural light from the sun.
"When I left for the U.S. in February, a month and a half before we arrived, the renovation was already in the works.
"Pero nagkaroon ng delay. Medyo stress kasi two weeks before bringing the twins home, hindi pa raw tapos. Ang kumplikado, ha."
The nursery's neutral colors were a deliberate choice by Korina, who has interior-design genes from her mother.
She says, "There’s nothing too bright or colorful, except, of course, yung ilang toys na siyang naging accents ng room.
"But more than the aesthetic side kasi, we wanted it to be comfortable and functional. Parang mini-house na andun na lahat."
Most items in the room have girl-and-boy matching versions, but Pilar has more stuff than Pepe has.
It was neither Korina's nor Mar's doing. She says, "Ewan ko ba, pati yung mga nagreregalo, bakit doble yung dami sa babae kaysa lalaki?
"Siguro, sabi mas nakakaaliw daw kasi madaming styles sa babae e. Kaya ako, I’m consciously always shopping for Pepe.
"Pero hindi talaga sobra dahil ang bilis makalakihan, and parati kami naghahanap ng kakilala namin na may maliit pang bata para mayroon namang nakikinabang pagkatapos."
Korina is a practical mom when it comes to baby items.
"Siyempre, nakakatuwang tumingin, di ba? 'Ang cute nito, bagay kay Pepe. Ay ito, para kay Pilar,' but ang bilis kasi nilang lumaki, e.
"At ang mahal ng mga damit, e. Aakalain mong dahil mas konti ang tela, mas mura, but no!"
One time, she returned to a store to exchange branded baby clothes given by a friend.
Smiling, the 54-year-old mom recalls, “Alam mo, nagpaalam ako sa isa kong kaibigan, niregaluhan niya ng Burberry at Ralph Lauren na his and hers, so nagpaalam ako sa kanila.
"Sabi ko, 'Saan niyo binili iyan?' 'Sa department store' 'Ay, paalam ako sa iyo, puwede ko bang palitan?'
"'Korina, go ahead! Andiyan na yung resibo, palitan mo.' Alam mo, sa isang damit na branded, nakabili ako ng tatlong kumot, maraming lampin, limang outfit.
"Aanuhin mo ang branded, nakakalakihan nila agad? Kaya ngayon pa lang, panic na ko.
"Sabi ko talaga sa caregivers, 'Hanapin ang lahat ng may tatak diyan na Gap, pasuotin niyo na ngayon kasi ang bilis nila lumaki.'
"Nakakasama kasi ng loob yung binili mong kung anu-ano, tapos dalawang beses lang nasusuot."
She adds, "Pero lahat ng Gap ko, ha, sale ng forty percent sa Pittsburgh noong binili ko sila niyan. Otherwise, styled by Target," referring to a popular retailer in the U.S.
But between the two of them, Korina says her husband is more disciplined than she in matters of spending wisely and recycling goods.
"Siya yung nagsasabing, 'Huwag ka nang bumili.' Halimbawa, yung mga onesies, gupitin na lang daw yung part ng booties…
"Nagtitinginan kami ng mga caregivers, 'Ah gano'n?' Okay, pero dapat nakakahinga pa sila, di ba? Dapat nakakahinga.
"Sabi ko, 'Honey, tingnan mo nangangasol na yung anak natin, masikip na yung damit.'"
During the photo shoot, the PEP.ph staff is first ushered to the library before they are led to other parts of the house.
Korina says it's the most photographed part of the house: "Madalas, dito ang shoot or interview."
The main attraction of the library, as expected, is the books. Lots of them.
Korina says, "These are all the old, some of them, first-edition books of the father of Mar, Gerry Roxas.
"I feel this is really a treasure, to have old books like these from the former senator."
Among the photos and paintings adorning the wall, this frame of used tsinelas stood out.
"These slippers are actual slippers that children had used and put up with before we give them new ones.
"I cleaned them up and then I framed them, and I sell them for about PhP25,000 per frame, and I buy more slippers with that. It’s like a fundraiser. We do it like once a year."
Korina is known for setting up gatherings with kids in poorer neighborhoods and giving them slippers to replace their worn-out ones.
What's her favorite part of the house?
"Of course, the baby room! Pag andun ka, you can forget about everything. Totoo pala yun, puwedeng lumipas ang buong araw na tinititigan mo sila.
"And you don't want to miss a thing. Ano nga e, minsan, ayoko nang umalis ng bahay.
"I like to have many wonderful memories with Pepe and Pilar here."