Where the Heart Is
Tatler Philippines|January 2021
Explorer and businesswoman, Paloma Urquijo Zobel, has found an exciting treasure trove of undiscovered heritage that she hopes to bring forth into the mainstream
Ryanne Stephanie Cheng Co.
There is passion in her voice whenever Paloma Urquijo Zobel talks about a recurrent theme in this conversation, home. And today, home is in two places: the urban jungle of Metro Manila and a slice of paradise on the island of Palawan. It’s an interesting life—one that she’s passionate enough to share.

Born into a family of renowned Filipino-Spanish ancestry, she possesses the chestnut brown hair and regal bearing of her forebears. She is the daughter of Bea Zobel Jr, a philanthropist and patroness of the arts. In some ways, she has followed in the footsteps of her mother, with a carefree spirit that can often be discerned in her choice of fashion— bohemian chic is preferred—and in the fervour with which she pursues her many avocations.

Urquijo, who had grown up mostly abroad, has led a life that would impress even the most cultured of bon vivants—studying in London and working in New York. Yet, the call of the Philippines had always been constant. She came home for Christmases, for summers and for one academic year at the British School. “I always say that I have some sort of guardian angel that’s helping me with all these experiences because I’ve really fallen on the right track [in terms of] the things that have moulded me. [All those experiences] have helped me, but it also made me realise how much I wanted to live in the Philippines and move here,” she says.

She finds it difficult to explain why she feels at home in the Philippines having spent more of her life abroad. “I just feel so at home and so in tune when I’m here; and I wish I knew how to describe why or what it is, but I can’t. I remember perfectly well landing at NAIA [when I was younger] and being like: ‘Yes, I’m home, I’m home, I’m home. I’m here.’ I still get that feeling now. I don’t get that when I land in Spain, I get it when I land in the Philippines, and I think that’s something that won’t change,” she says.

Since 2016, when she moved back home on a more permanent basis, Urquijo has created a name for herself in the world of lifestyle retail. She founded Piopio, which has grown into an umbrella brand for fashion lines, an artists’ village, a restaurant and a bar. Interestingly, its growth paralleled that of Kalye Artisano, an artist’ village in Lio, the first tourism estate of her family in idyllic El Nido, in Palawan.

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