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LA ROCA: THE HANDS THAT CARVE MAAARI'S MARBLE

La Roca is committed to bringing economic opportunities back to the Romblon province of the Philippines through the revitalization of its marble manufacturing sector. Though once a booming industry, the marble market suffered a sharp decline when the world trade market saw an influx of cheap, synthetic marble products from Europe and China in the early 1990's.

Several years ago, La Roca founder, Regina Escolin, discovered dozens of de-commissioned marble factories on the island, and has since worked with her partner Giovanni to re-open small hand-carving factories in the area. Marble is a natural, non-toxic stone, is 100% recyclable, and can stand the test of weathering and time. La Roca uses responsibly mined and regulated marble, implements zero-waste policies, and provides fair wages to all its artisans.

La Roca uses responsibly mined and regulated marble, implements zero-waste policies, and provides fair wages to all its artisans.

MAAARI fortuitously met Regie on our last trip to the Philippines and instantly clicked. We were inspired by her mission and captivated by the story of how fate brought her, her company, and her partner Giovanni together. Since then, we worked together over the last year to create sleek, simple, functional designs that bring out the natural beauty of marble and celebrate the artisanry behind each piece.

In light of this Thanksgiving holiday, we express our deep gratitude for Regie and the marble makers of Romblon. It’s an honor and a privilege to share your work with our audience.

Thank your makers this month.

MAAARI sure ‘preciates them.  

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TELL US ABOUT HOW LA ROCA STARTED.

La Roca started as a reason for my boyfriend and I to meet every month. I live in the nation’s capital, Manila, and he lives in the marble capital of the Philippines, Romblon. I have been a makeup artist for about 8 years and was content with my job. Then I met him and it was crazy. He’s the type of guy I hated but I wanted (lol).

So, in desperation, as we were running out of reasons for me to visit him, we visited the famous cathedral in Romblon and asked that Santo Nino give us a good enough reason to make this long distance relationship work. After a month, out of the blue, my niece told me she played with the idea of selling something very Filipino online. Then I handed her an egg shaped keychain made of marble. Then that is how it started.

WHAT'S THE BEST THING ABOUT YOUR JOB?

For me, the best thing about La Roca is having the opportunity to touch lives and make it better for them. When I prayed for this, I specifically asked that we be able to something not just for ourselves, but for others too. It was vague then, but now it’s so clear. The mission and the vision landed in our laps.

To see the workers bring their kids to school and even finish college is a great achievement. To see them having a better life is so fulfilling.

To see the workers bring their kids to school and even finish college is a great achievement. To see them having a better life is so fulfilling. They once had a thriving business, but because of imports, these were all diminished. Old factories were by the side of the road and it looked sad. Now, they have grown and with the consciousness of using the marble wisely and not over harvesting them.

WHAT'S THE MOST CHALLENGING?

You cannot rush anything because Mother Nature decides when you arrive and leave the islands.

The most challenging for me is the travel from each island since the province is composed of 3 main islands. With the geography, sever weather (got stuck in the island countless of times), shipping is a headache but workable.

You cannot rush anything because Mother Nature decides when you arrive and leave the islands. Oh but the islands are so enchanting. It has a rural feel and virtually no pollution.

Another challenging part for me is the communication. Sometimes, with all the precise drawings, pictures and samples, I still get so frustrated when the designs and standards are not met. That to me is the hardest.

SOME FUNNY STORIES ABOUT YOUR MAKERS?

I work with three factories. One is for the machine made and two for the handmade orders. In a province as small as this, everyone is practically related to everyone. Whenever my partner and I meet new workers, it seems that my partner is related to all of them; it’s hilarious. 

WHERE DO THEY LEARN THEIR CARVING TECHNIQUES?

In terms of how they learn the skills, the business is within the family and is passed down from generations to generations. The skills are passed down and they teach one another.

WHAT'S YOUR RELATIONSHIP LIKE WITH YOUR MAKERS?

Every month, we catch up with them and they tell us about their interesting lives. They cook wonderful native dishes which they share with us, including the recipes.

In terms of how they learn the skills, the business is within the family and is passed down from generations to generations.

WHAT IS YOUR VISION FOR LA ROCA? WHAT'S NEXT?

My vision is to grow this business beyond just marbles. I wanna explore the tiger grass growers and their brooms and other handicrafts. I want to be the go-to retailer of Rombon products both in dry goods and food. I hope to do more exports and also concentrate on bulk orders from businesses like hotels and restaurants.

WHY MARBLE?

Marble is a luxury item with the rawness of nature. 

Marble is a luxury item with the rawness of nature. It’s like having tarzan all built and handsome but the wildness of his masculinity…. wait… did I say that out loud? well, haha…. I just feel that marble has a wide range of spectrum when it comes to its uses and design.

WHAT DOES LA ROCA MEAN TO YOU?

La Roca means hope and a helping hand for each one of us. From the miners to the clients, I consider them as a community who help each other out in their own way.

La Roca means hope and a helping hand for each one of us. 

WHAT DOES MAAARI MEAN TO YOU?

MAAARI is like a big sister to us. Someone who lifts us up and is proud of us. Someone who is always there to support and help us grow. It serves as an inspiration just like an “Ate” (big sister) to her “bunso” (younger sibling).

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