The Alunan sisters like to kid that they are the Addams family. They demonstrate love and affection without an ounce of saccharine, reveals Barni. Hugs and kisses aren’t really part of their dynamic, in the sense that what makes other people go 'aaawww' makes them go 'eeewww' and send them into a fit of giggles. Straight-shooting comments, non-euphemistic confrontations, and tongue-in-cheek humor are normally the tenor of their gatherings. But it’s all good, assures Barni. It has always been such since they were kids, even refusing to hold hands in church as everyone does when singing the Our Father. The most they could take was interlocking their pinky fingers, relates the youngest sister Alexi, laughing. They aren’t demonstrative with affection, yes, but that doesn’t make them any less supportive and caring about each other.
The Alunan sisters were campus head-turners in school, partly because of their looks and partly because of how they carried themselves—gracefully, always ladylike, and charming which of course carried on to this day. Katrina and Barni, who were born a year apart, lived up to the “older sister” roles, looking after Christina and Alexi, who are younger by almost a decade. Barni was especially protective of them in school, casually showing up in their classrooms and making her presence felt to make sure no one would mess with them.
From left: The Alunan sisters on a trip to Baguio with extended family members; and with their mother Bao, father Raffy, and brother Rafa, taken in the '80s.
Cheesy as it sounds, Barni served as her confidante for of her growing up years, reveals Christina. She taught her what to do when she got her first period and freaked out. She dressed her up when she would go to parties in high school. She gave her advice on love and life without the usual mush. Alexi, on the other hand, was Christina’s BFF, almost like her twin, with whom she did everything. In grade school, at one her retreats, Alexi handed Christina a letter saying that she was her best friend. In an attempt to just be “cool” about it, she only said “thanks!” And that was before she went to the bathroom to cry. She was so touched but didn’t want to show it, she recalls. They are best pals to this day.
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Christina and Alexi actually got along famously, says Barni, while she and Katrina got along “infamously.” In fact, Alexi used to call them Drizella and Anastasia after Cinderella’s bickering stepsisters, with which their parents also dubbed them because of how they would fight when they were younger. They had a love-hate relationship, laughs Katrina in recollection. On the other hand, and well, on better days, they would do the silliest, most fun things together. It was a cycle, they agree. They’d be allies, partners in crime, rivals. Katrina’s relationship with her other younger siblings, of course, was less explosive. She took care of Alexi when she was a toddler, being in high school already at that time.
Katrina in a Massimo Dutti long dress and Kate Spade necklace
Alexi in a Massimo Dutti dress
Today, there are more obvious ways the siblings demonstrate their “love, eeewww,” as Barni relates, in both small and big things. They huddle with each other at parties and events, show up at each other’s houses unannounced, and make sure to get together every weekend with the extended families. If anyone maligns her siblings, she defends them as fiercely as she does when she collars them into brutally frank conversations, says Barni with pride. The others laugh in agreement.
What they lack in cariño, they make up for support, reiterates Alexi. She particularly recalls the time when each of her sisters went to Cebu at different times to visit and help when her first child was born. When Barni miscarried, Alexi and her husband stayed with her the entire time the rest of the family were abroad. When Katrina was a new mom to Enrique in 1995, Barni showered the newborn with immeasurable time, love, and affection. When Christina was to go to Malaysia for a photo shoot by herself, Katrina, without hesitation, flew over to accompany her for three days. When Barni got pregnant with her first-born, Katrina singlehandedly threw a huge baby shower for her. These are just some of the many stories they won’t ever forget.
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Christina in a Massimo Dutti dress and Kate Spade bangle
Barni in a Massimo Dutti top and shorts, and a Kate Spade Eiffel Tower necklace
As all of them are now married with children, the Alunan siblings, including their only brother Rafa, say they will make sure they pass on the same sense of support and closeness to their kids. While their personalities may all differ (Katrina is known as the most responsible, pragmatic, and generous; Barni is the most eloquent and helpful; Christina is the people person, an optimist who gets along with almost anyone; and Alexi is very industrious and admired for her great capacity to understand and not be judgmental), a common trait they all share is their ability to prioritize family above anything else and be happy with the simple things that matter.
Christina, Katrina, and Barni as children
To them, it is in the family that they experience beauty at its best—in positivity, kindness, and strength, says Katrina. It is knowing how to deal with the other aspects of life without losing that perspective.
Nicole’s career in publishing began in 2006. Before becoming Town&Country online’s managing editor, she moved from features editor to beauty editor of the title’s print edition. “The lessons in publishing are countless,” she says. “The most crucial ones for me? That to write best about life, you need to live your life. And another I still struggle to live by: ‘Brevity is a virtue; verbosity is a vice.’”