Warm, welcoming and always full of enthusiasm, Cécile Castilla is the French journalist who has made Brunei her home for the past four years. The décor of her home is a reflection of her friendly, curious and open personality. Asked about her background, Cecilia explained “My mother is from Brittany, France and my father is from Andalusia, Spain, I really feel like a latino! Being a traveling journalist, I have visited many countries. After ten years in Paris where I was working for mainstream magazines, I moved in Kalimantan, Indonesia for four years and Libya for five months, I consider myself to be traveler more so than an expat.”
The living area of this home highlights Cecilia’s interest in different countries and cultures and her love of 70’s style décor. She said that many of the 70’s style items were purchased locally from ICON furniture store. A closer look around revealed many fascinating objects including: antiques from East Kalimantan in Borneo and ornaments from Guatemala, Ecuador, Hong Kong and the Ivory Coast. Of course, there were also a few noticeable pieces representing her native country, France. Her collection of global ornaments together with the 70’s style chairs, tables, lamp and other colourful items gave this home a truly individual character.
Since being in Bandar this wife and mother of two young boys has been involved with many local projects, she ran a fortnight newsletter DUAminggu, and wrote two books “Women in Brunei, Inspiring Life Stories” and “Filipinos in Brunei”, both published in Brunei.
She explained that from as young as seven years old she knew that she wanted to become a journalist. “I wanted to meet people, hear their stories and tell them to the world. But my most important goal was to be able to travel. Perhaps because I grew up in a tiny charming village next to the ocean in France I wanted to escape from the quietness!” After Indonesia, the family settled in Tripoli, Libya. When the war started in February 2011, they had to leave within 24 hours without any of their household possessions. It was tough to have lost things which had great sentimental value, but being a resilient person, once in Brunei she started creating a home again from scratch. That is why the personal pieces that now adorn Cecilia’s home in Kiarong are very meaningful to her and her family.
Not only is she a writer but Cecilia is also an explorer, a nature enthusiast and an avid photographer. She has a collection of stunning photographs in albums but has a beautiful one of childhood happiness and innocence displayed in the living area. With an eye for capturing the essence of her subjects, her photographs highlight the stunning beauty of the people and places which she has visited within the region such as Kinabalu National Park, Mulu National Park, Kuching, Bario, Cebu, Negros, Derawan, Kinabatangan river, Banjarmasin but she admitted, “One of my favourite places in Borneo is Tanjung Putting National Park. We spent five days there cruising on a small boat along a black river surrounded by orangutans. It was just amazing.”
Having lived away from France for so many years we asked Cecilia if she still missed her home country. The answer was a resounding YES! “I deeply miss my friends and family, the magic and lights of Paris, the museums, restaurants and terrasses de cafés etc.. I miss the wide range of choices you get in big cities and more than the food, I miss the art de vivre.” But she went on to add, “My sons, 6 and 9, have the most extraordinary childhood in Brunei. It’s safe and quiet. We are surrounded by jungle and sea. What we like the most is to be able to explore South East Asia from time to time. We have been living in Borneo for the last 8 years and we fit in quite well. As long as I can meet new inspiring people and have professional projects I am happy where ever I am.”