Mito Fabie & Leila Alcasid
Words by Katrina Swee | Photography by Gio Panlilio
It’s a fresh start for the musically-talented couple, Mito Fabie and Leila Alcasid. The bare, white walls and pile of boxes strewn across the entrance of the apartment set the tone of their current day-to-day activities.
The space is in its early stages of design with a middle-sized fortune plant in one corner, Nooke side tables in another with books and a few chairs here and there. What livens up the minimal area is Lou, the poodle—happy to see a new face for a split second but soon enough, is back to following around her human dad.
Mito and Leila, clothed in a mixture of beige and white linen, look like they strolled out of a MUJI store, and funnily enough, that ended up being partially true. It’s easy to see their comfort in the week-old home through their carefree movements, and despite not having much physically at the moment, it seems like each other is enough.
Like us all, the two have taken many unexpected turns this year, individually and together. With the music industry coming to a standstill and Leila’s time off from university, the two have managed to go above and beyond in searching within themselves, facing obstacles together, and ending this year positive and stronger than ever.
How long have you two been dating?
Mito: Two years? A little bit over two years. Two years and two months.
And I know you have both been very supportive of each other since the beginning. I read about how you were in a bad place prior to your relationship with Mito.
Mito: Who told you that!?
Leila: Good research!
I’m just wondering how it’s progressed even more since the pandemic started.
Mito: It has been back and forth during the pandemic. Usually when either of us was in a bad place, the other would have to step up and be the rock or anchor of sorts. So when there was a strict lockdown and Leila wasn’t in a good place, I did what I could to help her get through her emotions. Whereas, I think my erratic personality comes out more in shorter bursts at times so there would be, for instance, two days where I’m super irritable and then Leila would be the one who’d calm me down during those periods.
Leila: During the beginning, I just didn’t handle it all very well. We hadn’t spent that long of a time apart before and I also didn’t expect it. The way I am when it comes to my mental health is I try to keep busy so I don’t notice what I’m feeling. Prior to quarantine, I was in school and was busy every day. I had no time to focus on myself. Then, suddenly, school stopped. I tried my best to give myself tasks—I tried painting and playing Animal Crossing to distract myself, but everything I was pushing down came out. I completely relied on Mito to help me and it was hard because I couldn’t see him. He was in a place where he was with his friends so he seemed fine for the most part. I was with my family and I did get to spend a lot of time with them and am grateful for that, but because Mito became my source of support, it felt like that went away a little bit. He was really good and adjusted to the circumstances that we were in. Even with moving in now, when he gets stressed, he just can’t multitask. He’s impulsive. So the night he decided to move was the same night we started packing. It was all in one day and I had to adjust, figure out what we needed and try to...
Leila: Yes. This was a big development in literally the past week because I saw a side of him I’ve never seen. We hadn’t experienced moving in together and all of those not-so-fun things, so it made me see how we handle stress together, and surprisingly, we bounce off each other well.
So with this whole moving in situation, did you think it all happened organically despite the circumstances? Were you expecting this at all?
Leila: No way! I’m not 100% living with him. Because of the circumstances with Covid and the way my parents would prefer it, they would rather not have me going in and out.
Leila: Yeah, so I would stay with Mito for a month and then stay at home for a month. I am spending a lot of time here but it was super unexpected.
And how were you able to support Leila?
Mito: I think I was just trying to be understanding of her situation because I wasn’t in that position. It was a lot of conversation as to what I could do to help ease her situation.
How did that change once you started living together?
Mito: It became a lot easier because we both made moves to help our headspace. I picked up biking, the guitar, and continued with writing. Leila, started her interior design course at a school in Australia so she got what she was looking for during the time MECQ happened. She fully dedicated herself to her work and the progress has been really impressive.
Amazing. What have been your best moments together this year?
Mito: I think being able to spend extended periods of time together. Before this, we would travel together or spend a week together but to spend a month with her was a completely new experience itself. The first month was working out what we expected of each other and being able to compromise.
Leila: It was a lot of conversation about what we needed from each other. The first month was, smoothing out the kinks and me being really open about what I needed in this relationship. We’ve had a lot of healthy conversations and I think that was how we established our dynamic when it comes to conflict and how to handle it. What was really nice to see was the next time I stayed with him, it was a completely different experience. We had fun and were happy all the time. I was also studying already so there was that time of the day where I’d be working and he’d read or do other things. We found our flow.
"I think this year was one of personal growth and seeing how that personal growth could happen together."
Did you guys explore new interests together as well?
Leila: Together? I don’t know. I think this year was about figuring out our personal interests.
Mito: And supporting them.
Leila: He got into playing the guitar and biking. He really threw himself into those things. We did have that phase where we’d make those little artworks together.
I do remember coming over once and seeing your artwork on the floor upstairs so I was wondering if you both always tried new activities together.
Leila: So we got into doing, similar to the one you saw, little artworks together and it was just a fun thing we’d do, but I think this year was one of personal growth and seeing how that personal growth could happen together. I’m the type of person who just has that one thing I focus and obsess with and Mito was supportive the whole time. Anytime I’d show him something I’d work on, he’d give me advice and tell me his opinions. It was the same with him. I would listen to him practicing the guitar for hours and in the beginning, all I could hear was a *TINGGGG*. Then maybe around two weeks ago, I was zoned out and thought there was a song playing but it was him! It’s cool seeing that progress. This year was definitely about individual growth together.
I was interested in your new hobbies because I was wondering if anything has changed in your daily routines since you’re together for longer periods of time.
Leila: We actually started cooking together a lot. We started doing it last year but it was more of a fun thing we’d do once every two weeks whereas now, we have to cook.
Mito: We love making chicken all the time.
Leila: I think we’ve mastered chicken. We want to branch out and learn how to make healthier food. I have this plan when I leave to create a list of recipes and I’d assign them to him every day so he’d cook it and send over a photo.
Wow, cooking every day! Who are you!?
Mito: I know right? And I’ll be alone. I won’t even have a dog!
That’s another thing I wanted to bring up. Lou! She just seems to complete this, and I want to know how she’s been a big help to the both of you.
Mito: She’s amazing. She’s the anchor and neutralizer so even when we’re fighting, we see her...
Leila: And we’re like, “awwwww” and no longer angry anymore. I think what’s so nice is that I’ve had her since I moved here. My dad got her for me because I didn’t know anyone and he didn’t want me to be lonely. As soon as Mito and Lou met, she loved him straight away. They developed this bond and it became, like you said—she literally completes us. She is definitely a positive force in our relationship.
Mito: A ray of sunshine.
Have your experiences and growth during the pandemic translated to your work? Your music?
Mito: Yes, I also got a job! I am now a creative associate for a production studio. It’s helping me learn a lot because I’ve had to think differently and consider others when conceptualizing projects for the group. In terms of music, living with friends was a big inspiration because the environment was new. It was my first time living away from family and with friends so dealing with that dynamic was different. Then, living with Leila happened and that was new. All throughout my life, I was more of a nomad, hopping around.
I remember those times.
Mito: That person is still there but this whole year has made me grow up. Leila and I have had these conversations where she’d say, “I’m never going to stop you from doing anything but remember that you now are responsible for other people,” whereas before, I only had to worry about myself.
Leila: Not that he needs to be responsible for me but when he makes a decision, he has to consider everyone that it affects. He’s used to being on his own and in the future, he won’t be. I’m going to be here, and we have a dog. There are little things he has done his whole life that he’s used to, and I think it’s always a positive thing to learn how to be a team player. It’ll help in different areas in his life, including work.
For me, I think I’ve had to be comfortable being by myself and face my feelings. This year has really forced me to grow up a lot and figure out how to be a proper adult and make decisions for myself. While he’s responsible for me, I’m also responsible for him.
In terms of my music, I really struggled to find any inspiration. I wrote one song that came out during quarantine about how I felt during that time. I think it really made me stop and think about what fulfills me and makes me happy. My whole journey into design has really developed during this time, so I threw myself into that while these past couple months have slowed me down with my music. I started thinking if I’m still going to make music, it would need to be purposeful, meaningful, and something I enjoy. It needs to be what I love. That yearning to make music has now come back but it’s from a different perspective.
Mito: I also had to use my dividends this year from my business, Sabong, to pay the salaries of our employees. My partners needed money to live, and I was the only one with extra income that could give back. I think Covid-19 intensified the yearning and wanting to help. In terms of volunteering and being involved in the businesses I’m in, I’ve been more hands-on. Prior to this, I would delegate work to my partners, but now, I think about...how do we make these systems that already exist better?
You both seem to have learned a lot this year.
Mito: So much.
So the last place you moved into wasn’t that long ago and now, you’ve moved again. I still remember when you were settling into your first space and Leila was helping out with the interiors. From spending a lot of time together to creating a home together, how are you both planning to fill this one?
Mito: Well, she’s the head. She’s the boss and I just give my insights. There are certain aesthetics that she is more into than I am and the way that I describe our tastes is like a Venn diagram. We have a similarity here but then we’re also very different.
Leila: That’s actually how it is. I wouldn’t say I’m the head though. I would obviously check with him before I get anything to know he’s happy with it. When it comes to the actual style of the space, I think we are pretty aligned.
It’s also down to compromising. This is primarily his place and I want to make it feel like home to him. It’s his first space. It’s exciting to see him finally have a space that’s his own.
Mito: Bouncing off of that, I’m her first client as an interior designer.
Leila: I don’t know that much yet. The other thing that’s really important is our personal taste in furniture isn’t necessarily cheap. It’s been hard to work around but an interesting and strengthening challenge to find ways to make it look the way we want without spending too much. We’ve been able to accumulate some furniture over time but we’ve had to be smart about items that would make the space feel more like a home.
Mito: It’s also leading us towards our relationship goal of eventually making furniture together.
Since we just covered your wishlists, how will you both be spending Christmas this year?
Leila: It’s kind of sad for me because I usually go back to Australia for Christmas or my family over there would visit the Philippines. We alternate each year but I can’t go back so it will be my first Christmas without my mum, my step-dad, and my sister. I’ll be spending it at my dad’s house, and I think Mito is planning on...
Mito: Spending it with relatives and then following to Leila’s.
Leila: I think that we’ll be coming back here after to have our own Christmas together.
And despite everything that’s happened this year, what will make this Christmas special?
Mito: I think it all comes down to the relationships we choose and the people we want to spend it with. It’s basically taking away all the frills and looking at the core of, who is it in my life that I am very grateful to have? And personally, to me, aside from Leila and her family, that’s my grandparents, my ninang, and my mother’s side.
Leila: I agree. I wish I could be with my Aussie family and I’ll definitely be FaceTiming them. I think it’s really about prioritizing who you want to see. I haven’t been able to see the Alcasid family, apart from when my lolo passed away. That was the first time we all saw each other for his fortieth day. It was really nice. I think the most exciting thing would hopefully all be together so there’ll be some semblance and normalcy. Christmas has always been one of my favorite times of the year since I was a kid. Growing up in Australia, it was really just the four of us, and I would love the holidays because everyone would come visit or we would go here, and suddenly, my family would grow by four times. It’s sad that Covid has taken a part of that away, but I’m really looking forward to that feeling again and being around those I love.
Wow, I didn’t know that!
Leila: I randomly thought of it at the beginning of quarantine. I told him I wanted a furniture brand and he was supportive straight away. As a person, I like to take it slow and think about things but he was saying, “No! I’m going to find a carpenter!” I was telling him, “Dude, I don’t even have a design.” It’s cool because as a team, he is very proactive and I’m the one who stops and thinks. In terms of the style here, we just want it to be comfortable.
Mito: Would we call it mid-century?
I can see a Noguchi, an Eames...
Leila: And the stool you’re sitting on is an Artek. I guess mid-century is the word I was looking for.
What’s next on your wishlist for the apartment?
Mito: A couch!
Leila: We just bought a shelving unit but the couch is the most immediate thing. I really want to get Mito an Akari lamp for Christmas.
Mito: Yes, sick.
Leila: I think lighting does so much for a space. It really transforms the mood. The Noguchi lamp has a nice, diffused light which I think would work well. That’s on my wishlist. I don’t know about yours.
Mito: Nothing really. I’ve been focused on reading more because I’m working on my album. I’m having a friend produce it and he told me yesterday to keep reading, which thankfully, I have been doing to figure out a motif.