This Facebook group helps Filipinos live in their dream homes

Published May 14, 2021, 9:00 AM

by Angel Llamanzares Martinez

In April of this year 2021, I was invited by a friend to join this Facebook group named “Home Buddies.”  I carefully choose the groups I join, whether it be of interest to me or if I know I could not contribute anything by becoming a member.  

I was never into home decorating. I love looking at beautiful architecture and interiors, but I feel that I (being a former fashion stylist) am so much better at styling people with clothes than I am fixing homes. I was not that interested to become a member but my gut feel says otherwise.

The group had an estimated 600,000 member count at that time, this piqued my curiosity. Two hours in, I found myself still scrolling and reading the posts and comments of the members (who call themselves “kapitbahays” or neighbors), all the incredible DIY (Do-It-Yourself) home transformations, and valuable tips from the members themselves. I was hooked not because of the posts per se, but how this group has turned into a real community where people genuinely helped one another turn their houses into homes they can enjoy and love.

The Founder of Home Buddies Facebook group is Frances Lim Cabatuando, 28, fondly called “Mayora.” It’s a name given to her by the members themselves, while the members of the group who refer to themselves as “kapitbahays (neighbors).” Read on for Manila Bulletin Lifestyle’s exclusive interview with the “mayora” herself.

What made you decide to form Home Buddies?
It started with my Instagram account (@nobi.home) that I created back in 2019 pre-pandemic. I moved out of my parents’ house and into a bare condo unit. I thought it would be exciting to document the process as I slowly filled up the place.
Then the pandemic hit, I noticed a surge. I guess more people are into home improvement nowadays and they always ask me home-related questions, with some I didn’t have the answers to. At times I get suggestions that I wanted to share so others can learn as well. 

What was your goal in putting up the community?
I created the community so all home enthusiasts can come together and talk about how we can all improve our homes and our lives at home, especially during the pandemic. And I don’t want it to just be an online group, but a community that feels like a real barangay.

Was there a common theme/struggle that you saw among the members?
Of course, budget is always an issue. Whether it is to renovate a home, redecorate, or to reduce the costs of electricity, people are very interested in “tipid tips,” and are willing to DIY just to save on costs.

What is the biggest win for you in having founded this community?
For me, the biggest win is the collective change in mindset among us Filipinos—hat a nice comfortable home isn’t a luxury, but a need that we should prioritize because it can really do wonderful things to us, our health, our mental health, and our family. I’m happy that Filipinos, despite budget constraints, are taking pride in their homes.

What are your realizations about Filipinos in general since forming the community?
We are the most creative people in the world. The “diskarte” to achieve “expensive” things in the lowest cost possible is just mind blowing. Just imagine if we have the resources we needed, what more can all of us do? I’m so proud of my kapitbahays!

What were your own personal realizations?
Staying home isn’t so hard pala! Haha…

What is it that you want to say to everyone right now spending their days at home?
Gone are the days that we’d rather be someplace else because we’ve successfully turned our houses into homes. I hope as the days go by, we cherish the changes we’ve done at home and use it to bring the family closer together, now more than ever. It’s not just about having a nice dining table, but about having a family dinner filled with laughter and conversations.

Frances did not expect that the group she created to document her own personal home improvement journey would become a phenomena in the world of social media. It turned out to be more than a place for people to get tips and design inspirations from. Strangers turned virtual “kapitbahays” come together, to help themselves and others find ways to make staying home more meaningful despite the current situation. It made people see something good and beautiful, and remain hopeful and inspired for the future.

As of this writing, Home Buddies is now at 1.6 Million members.

*About the author: Angel Llamanzares Martinez is a Brand and Image Consultant, and Self-Confidence Coach.