One might call Loren Legarda a true plantita. Before the term was even coined in the beginning of the lockdown in 2020, the Antique representative had been growing her own fruits and vegetables, and planted native trees.
“During the pandemic, my passion for planting has not waned a bit, having transformed my home into a ‘jungle,’” Legarda told Lifestyle in an email interview.
The three-term senator recently remodeled the lanai of her ancestral home in Malabon City into a nature sanctuary of sorts. The space initially had a couple of pieces of vintage furniture, wooden benches, house plants and throw pillows. Trees lined the outside of the home, but the lanai was otherwise bare.
What transformed the lanai into the relaxing space that it is today are the large ornamental plants that surround the area. Bird’s-nest ferns and broad
arrow-like leaves of alocasia encircle the spot. There are also a couple of lobster claw plants with their striking hot pink and yellow flowers that add a splash of color to the verdant background.
“It is actually very simple and natural. We are a family of nature lovers. My papa (Antonio Cabrera Legarda), my late mama (Bessie Gella Bautista), my Ilocana nanay (Fely) and I love to be surrounded by nature, so it was easy for us to have a nature-themed lanai with the goal of transforming it into a space that marries aesthetics and functionality,” Legarda said.
Her home-improvement project started because she wanted to bring her father closer to nature. The elder Legarda spends most of his time in the lanai, relaxing, taking siestas, reading books and listening to his lovebirds.
The lanai, which used to be a garage for recycled and upcycled materials, also serves as a venue for family gatherings. The Malabon house where Legarda was born and raised is within the expansive Bautista estate. The property with a single structure was purchased by Legarda’s grandfather, The Manila Times editor Jose Bautista.
Several structures owned by Bautista’s children have been built on the property since.
“Papa, who is now 88 years old, is also a lover of nature like me and of things that remind him of his childhood in San Pablo, Laguna. The plants that surround the old wooden furniture bring him back to the past,” Legarda added.
Some of the furniture placed in the lanai were owned by Legarda’s mother and have been around for several decades. There are also benches and tables made of recycled wood and roots of trees. These were recently made by the husband of a household staff, she added.
The wooden lounge chairs were given a pop of color with throw pillows in patadyong pillowcases from Legarda’s home province of Antique. Two small rocking chairs with solihiya weaves (which are very much in fashion now) and a wagon wheel bench were also decorated with throw pillows.
A coffee table and two dining tables were lined with colorful table runners made of abel Iloko weave and Yakan textile. Pots of flowering plants like orchids were placed on top of the tables to complete the look.
A wooden daybed with a rattan weave pattern was placed across the lounge chairs, just beside a line of thriving pothos plants. Capiz shell lanterns were also hung on the trees outside the veranda.
Most of the items that were used to liven up the space were reused. Legarda lives by her mantra: “Bawal ang sayang (waste is prohibited).” Plastic containers and food waste find new purpose at the Antique representative’s home. The seeds of the fruits that her household consumes are also saved to be planted and then given away to friends, family members and staff. It also applies when she is decorating her home.
Circular economy advocate
“I have always believed in the concept of recycling, upcycling, adaptive reuse and have been doing this even before I started advocating for a circular economy and sustainable living,” Legarda said.
Home improvement has been a popular pandemic project for people who have been stuck in quarantine, but designing spaces has long been a hobby for Legarda.
“I have always had the passion and intuition for decorating and fixing things, allowing myself to add a personal touch,” she said.
She is fond of incorporating local textiles like hablon and inabel to furnish the space she’s working on. But plants and flowers are definitely the go-to decorative accessories for the lawmaker who is known for her environmental advocacies.
“When I see things beautifully put together surrounded by natural things like plants, trees and flowers that I grow—those things make me happy. It’s not just good for the eyes but good for the soul,” she said.
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