For Pie Alvarez, the Road to a Well-Made Table Setting Begins With What You Love | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

An impeccable table setting may seem trivial or an afterthought to some, but for once-mayor and now mother and homemaker, Pie Alvarez believes that this is key in elevating one of life’s simplest joys, a meal, into a moment worth looking forward to. But in a world where trends and standardized perceptions of beauty reign supreme, Alvarez is adamant that only your interests and what you love matter—it’s your table, your rules after all.

Portrait of Pie Alvarez
Former San Vicente, Palawan Mayor Pie Alvarez, Photographed by JT Fernandez

Reminiscing about the sleepless nights, the endless wailing, and the constant labor of love necessary to raise a growing child, she considers motherhood to have virtually taken over her life. But with her two-year-old daughter Nara and her newfound devotion to homemaking by her side, she has become well-versed in the ever-elusive art of setting tables (and pretty much every other aspect necessary to make a house into a home). Eyes brimming with passion, she is keen on sharing tips and advice to get you started on your journey to a well-dressed table.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Pie Alvarez (@piealvarez)

A Lover of Beauty at Heart

Alvarez locates her inclination toward anything beautiful on her experiences with her mother, Chona. As a kid, she would join her on her trips to Paris where she was exposed to various luxury brands. She eventually interned at Chanel during her time in Boston for two years, ​​pointing out the fashion house as her favorite. Looking back at the experience as her so-called ‘Devil Wears Prada’ moment, she recalls getting coffee for the brand’s boutique director and packing boxes of designer goods straight from the runway shows.

But as she’s spent nine years of her life as the mayor of San Vicente Palawan, this was something that she had to put aside for the time being. Now, Alvarez looks at her time post-public service as an opportunity to explore this side of her that she had previously neglected. “Being a mayor, when you serve the public you have to give more than a 100%. That’s where most of my time went. I didn’t really have time to be a mom and didn’t have time to be at home. I was traveling, representing my town, building roads, hospitals, and schools—I didn’t have time to set the table. Now I have precious time. I cherish this,” she shares.

An array of decorations adorn a table setting prepared by Pie Alvarez
Pie Alvarez goes all-out whenever she sets the table (Easter edition)

Alvarez has certainly made the most out of this new-found “freedom”. And through discovery and trial and error, she found that she had a taste for having zero reservations when it came to putting on layers upon layers of color. A maximalist of her own design, anything she would put together is a mix she says of various items that she would find from her trips to Dapitan,  Divisoria, Lazada, antique shops, and other local markets. While it may seem overwhelming and over the top for others, she simply doesn’t care, she explains, “It’s definitely true to me. It’s reflective of who I am as a person. I don’t follow trends. I follow what I like and what I’m comfortable with.”

An easter-themed setting for her outdoor table
An easter-themed setting for her outdoor table

Your Table, Your Rules

A self-made designer of sorts that pays no attention to what others say, Alvarez shares some tips and advice for aspiring table setters.

For those on a budget:

  • Don’t try to please others. Do so with whatever means you have.
  • If you have gumamela plants or any others that you can use for your table from your garden, use those and place them in a vase.
  • Be innovative. Think out of the box and don’t put yourself under the assumption that everything has to be expensive. I find things that cost around a hundred Pesos, and I just put them together.
  • Venture out of your comfort zone.

Essentials to keep in mind:

  • Tablecloths transform the table. Mine is full of nicks and bruises so I use one to cover it. You can also utilize it to transform any table concerning any theme or mood that you’re going for.
  • Candlesticks and placemats also do the trick.
  • If you’re building up your collection, don’t be overwhelmed. It starts with something as simple as window shopping to look around and find what catches your eye. There are so many fairs, bazaars, and local markets like Artefino that are available to help you get started.
  • Consider who’s visiting. Is it just my family? My friends? Is it a mix? I also ponder on their interests, because if you think about your guests, who you’re entertaining, then you are able to come up with a nice setting. Your table is your stage and you are the maestro or the choreographer of that stage.

And if you yourself are not certain of what it is you exactly like, taking inspiration and asking for help from others is completely normal. Recalling a similar situation, Alvarez once saw an interior designer that had a piece that resembled chickens on her table. Captivated by the sight, she sought a local seller who had a similar product and now she uses it for every occasion.

Her prized chicken-piece never fails to make an appearance on the table
Her prized chicken piece never fails to make an appearance on the table

But the bottom line will always be authenticity. Your home and even your table are extensions of yourself; a stranger has no place in that. “I’ve tried to do tables that are less decorative and it’s just not me. And again, you have to be true to who you are. Regardless of what the setting is, or regardless of what you’re trying to do, if you’re true to who you are, it’s just going to be reflective of what you’re doing. And I think that’s what always shows,” she shares.

What a Table Is For

Anyone's day would be made seeing such an adorable formation of rabbits and chickens
Anyone’s day would be made seeing such an adorable formation of rabbits and chickens

But for all the design choices, colors, and components for decoration, what is a table without anyone using it—it’s but an empty facade. Sharing the same sentiment, whenever the opportunity arises, Alvarez is constantly inviting over her friends and family members to dine with them. With all her plates, tablecloths, and candlesticks, what is the point of all of these without having anyone to share the table with after all?

Beyond filling seats, however, she also hopes for her table to somewhat act as a temporary respite for her guests. “There are so many things happening in the world right now. Everybody’s going through so much – their own turmoil, hardships, and whatever challenges they’re facing. I hope that when they sit at my table, I hope that they get to be a little bit more optimistic. At the end of the day, don’t you want that? Wouldn’t you want to just have a nice bowl of spaghetti and feel warm and cozy? So if I get to bring that about by having a cute table setting, then my job’s done.”