Drs. Z and Aivee Teo, Bound by A Love of Travel and Adventure That Enriches Their Family Life, Medical Practice, and Very Souls
First they traveled because they were on opposite ends of the earth. Now they travel to advance their medical practice and bring the very latest in skin care and anti-aging back to the country, and to create lasting family memories. Partners in love and in their profession, Drs. Z and Aivee Teo navigate life by traversing the world.
When dashing and debonair Dr. Z Teo first saw the pretty and personable Dr. Aivee Aguilar, it was curiosity at first sight. Or maybe it was already love? But soon, love at first sight developed into, “Love, I won’t let you out of my sight.”
“It was already in my last week of a sabbatical in Singapore, supposedly to see my family, while I was on break from my training in Glasglow,” Dr. Z recalls. “And it was her first day. As soon as I saw her, I approached one of the nurses to ask about her and convinced her to give me Aivee’s schedule. I would show up at her classes, chat with her, and offer to take her home. But the funny thing was, since I wasn’t living in Singapore anymore, I wasn’t that familiar anymore with how the transportation routes went. And her neighborhood wasn’t one that I knew. So she said, ‘Why will you drive me to my bus stop when it’s just two minutes away by walking?’” They both laugh.
Aivee adds, “At first I thought that he was really in all my classes. And I just thought that he was being friendly. I didn’t live in a nice part of town because my mom (one-time Las Piñas mayor Imelda Aguilar), being a typical Filipina mom who is so overprotective, didn’t want me to live alone, even if there was a nice dorm. She said that there was an employee in the city hall who had a daughter who was living in Singapore and she was willing to take me in as a roommate. But those were fun days, I enjoyed myself!” Aivee’s natural charm and ebullience meant that she did have lots of friends and so every time Z would ask her out, she had other plans.
“I didn’t know what to do! It was soon going to be time to be back in Scotland. So I called my professor and told him that I had to stay an extra month for a ‘family emergency’ and he agreed! Meantime, here’s my dad bugging me why I never see them when I was supposed to be on a break to see my family!” Z confesses.
Aivee also has a confession. “On our first date, I actually did have other plans to meet my friends! But I felt bad that he kept on asking me out and I had to keep saying no! So I told my friends that I would just catch up with them after dinner.”
And for that whole month, they saw each other every day. When Z had to go back to Scotland, they promised each other that no matter what happened, they would speak to each other every day. And they also promised that they would see each other every two to three months.
If the path to true love never did run smooth, for the Teos, the path was never in just one continent. “Either we would meet halfway, back here in Asia, or if my parents would plan to go to Europe, I would tell Z, and he would meet us,” Aivee explains how they kept the flame alive. Z still vividly remembers their daily phone conversations. “We really learned to communicate because we would talk on the phone for at least two hours every day. It got to the point that just how she would say, ‘hello,’ I could already tell what kind of day she had.” When Aivee remembers those early days, she also remembers something amusing about Z. “C’mon Dear, let them hear your Glaswegian accent! You can do it!” Z laughs but he indulges his wife and they both laugh some more. Even after just a few minutes into the interview, it is so easy to sense how madly in love they are.
“Travel is the most important part of our relationship. It really does feed the soul. First, when we were dating, we would plan our trips and it would be so exciting for us. I would drive around Scotland, and we would find small B&B’s. The best meals in Scotland are those cooked by the Scottish grannies. That’s also where you’ll find the best haggis, not the commercial kinds even in nice restaurants. They have to be made by the grannies. And the beauty of Scotland is really something else. We drove to the Isle of Skye and you can literally touch the clouds! And then when we got married and started to work, we traveled for both business and holiday, and that’s the only time we can really spend the days together, since clinic takes so many hours. And now, we get to take our kids with us! Actually every Christmas, we all travel, my family and Aivee’s family, all together. We are just four, there are 20 of them!”
This family harmony was not something that Z could have foreseen but it was surprisingly easily won. When Z first told his traditional Chinese family that he was dating a Filipina, they were not that pleased. And when Z finally invited his parents to meet Aivee, his mother revealed to him that his father had planned to be cold and non-committal. “My mom told me that my dad had told her not to be so friendly to Aivee. But as soon as we all sat down, he spent the whole night talking to Aivee, and my mom turned to me, with a face that seemed to be asking, ‘What is he doing?’” Aivee and Z also named their firstborn son Ken Z after Z’s dad, in traditional Chinese fashion.
Z recounts that even as a young family, they often took exotic vacations. “I remember one trip to India. I got sick and stayed mostly in the hotel. But that’s not what made it memorable. My dad wanted to take home a goat, and my mom had to insist that there was no way he could take home a goat!”
For the first few years of their marriage, both Z and Aivee commuted between Singapore and Manila, and the eventual goal was for them to raise their family and build their practice in Singapore. Z himself saw the potential for growth in the Manila market. “But I saw how long the queue was for patients to see Aivee. She was a relatively young dermatologist and to have so many people want to see her, it would be such a waste to just let that go.” When Aivee opened The Aivee Institute, a place that felt more like a French salon than a dermatological clinic, Manila’s beautiful people flocked to try her revolutionary skin care and anti-aging and slimming treatments. She told the press that since most of her patients are not sick but do want to look beautiful, she wanted to create a beautiful setting for them. “Interiors are really a passion of mine! For our apartment in Singapore, I did the interiors myself,” she proudly admits. At the recent opening of the newest branch of The Aivee clinic at the latest Mega Fashion Hall at the newly expanded SM Megamall, showbiz heavyweights Coco Martin, Judy Ann Santos, and Ryan Agoncillo graced the opening, but young stars such as Kathryn Bernardo and Joseph Marco are also Aivee advocates. But it is not all glitz and glamour for Aivee. For three days of the week, she goes to her clinic at Las Piñas Hospital where she treats, gratis, pathological dermatological cases of indigent patients. “I cannot give up this part of my practice, it keeps me grounded,” she explains.
What Aivee has never lacked is the personal touch. In an interview with The Philippine Star’s Lifestyle Editor Millet Mananquil, she admits, “Since most of my patients become my dear friends, aside from teaching them the value of proper skin care and treatments, I also give them personal advice to help them cultivate both facets of beauty.”
Both Z and Aivee have been described, privately by friends and in magazines and newspapers as being “Always well-turned out, always polished, but surprisingly down-to-earth.” It might be easy to surmise that this power couple would take on high and mighty airs. They have an A-list clientele, and Aivee hails from a political and business family from Las Piñas, the Aguilars. Her father and grandfather both became mayor; her cousin, Cynthia married Manny Villar; and her cousin Paolo is the incumbent representative. Their intimate friends know better. Makeup maestro Patrick Rosas says, “They are both so kind-hearted, as is Aivee’s mom, Mommy Mel! I am now an adopted Aguilar, because it’s really easy to get close to them. They are kind and supportive as friends. We love fashion and travel; our last trip was to San Francisco. After brunch at Neiman Marcus, we went to the Palace of Fine Arts, Golden Gate Park, and even made it out to Sausalito. So relaxing, so nice. When we get together, we talk about fashion and our other interests.” Columnist Mons Romulo adds, “They are a real power couple in the true sense of the term! I can always see the love and respect they have for each other.” Publicist Keren Pascual says, “Considering how busy they are, Aivee will always remember to greet you on your birthday and send a nice, nice cake!” Young matinee idol, Joseph Marco, who goes to Aivee’s clinic every week, reflects, “Doctora Aivee makes everyone feel at home in her clinic, she is always warm and welcoming.”
Every year, on their anniversary, Z takes Aivee to Paris. They try out a different hotel every year. It was a stay at the legendary Ritz Paris that inspired the décor of her clinic at the Fort. “Paris will always be her favorite!” Z declares. Aivee then interjects, “No we also really love the south of France! Our favorite is the Hotel de Cap Ferrat. Driving around the south of France is really something else! Since we both have such long and busy days, we don’t have a lot on our agenda when we travel. We like to take it slow and easy, walk around a little, and take long meals, which we can’t do while we’re working.” It’s hard to imagine this eternally slim couple as foodies but they do confess to loving food. And they really have to do everything together. Aivee reveals, “Z cannot shop without me! He always needs my opinion on everything. So if I happen to take long when I shop, he can’t complain!”
For their honeymoon, they took a trip to South Africa. Just saying the words South Africa makes the couple break out into giggles. “We thought it would be so wild, but it’s so urban!” Z says with a laugh. “And even when we did get on the safari, there was no downtime, and we just wanted to be alone!”
Of course, they don’t always want to be alone now. They have three children, Ken Z, Kenzo, and Kelly. “For Christmas, we went to Hokkaido in Japan, and the snow was just so beautiful, like entering a Christmas card,” Aivee enthuses. “We got to go ice fishing and then eat the fish we caught. It was very exciting for the kids. And for me! It was a childhood dream of mine that came true!”
When they do go on their adventures as a couple, Z will sometimes ask Aivee, “Can you believe we now have three kids? We’re just a couple of kids ourselves!”
This quip of Z’s made me think of the song Moon River, the theme song of the seminal movie Breakfast at Tiffany’s:
Off to see the world
There’s such a lot of world to see.
We’re after that same rainbow’s end,
Waiting round the bend,
And yet, what makes this whole story even more wonderful than this romantic but heartbreaking song, is that Z and Aivee are not drifters. They have found the rainbow’s end in each other, and they travel not to lose themselves, but to lose the rest of the world, and to create their own version of a true adventure.
Article originally published in Metro Society's May 2015 issue / Photographs by Paolo Pineda / Styling by Rex Atienza at StyleList, Inc. / Styling associate: Sam Policios and Aldrin Cabalu at StyleList, Inc. / Makeup and grooming by Patrick Alcober of Shu Uemura / Hair by Mike Feliciano using Kiehl’s / Minor edits have been made for Metro.Style