By Alexander Villafania
DAPITAN CITY, ZAMBOANGA DEL NORTE – Romblon has a renowned marble industry and is in fact the biggest producer of this beautiful mineral.
Romblon’s reputation as a major exporter of marble furniture is matched only by a few countries, such as Italy and Greece.
The exceptional variety of types of marble in Romblon, from the whitish Carrara, the fine grained Pentelic, the Berdelic, and its very own Golden Romblon and Green Onyx, make Romblon a favored source for raw marble to be made into beautiful items.
Marble furniture and display items sold in home depots and galleries in metro cities would most often be those from Romblon. Depending on the size, design and marble type these items could be priced from as low as P1,000 (table displays such as jars) to as high as P100,000 (long dining tables). In most cases, these items are considered as investment items.
In some rare occasions, marble furniture merchants would ply their trade in different places in the Philippines outside the bustling metropolis. Usually they follow major activities such as festivals where there is high traffic for local and foreign tourists.
These traders are a loose group of Romblon residents who go around the Philippines with several tons worth of marble furniture and lay them out in any open space. Never mind the effects of strong winds and rain; marble has the constitution of a rock that makes it last for years and still retaining its beauty.
One such event that they followed recently is the 2011 Palarong Pambansa, held in Dapitan City, Zamboanga del Norte. Several marble merchants from Romblon had brought their wares and laid them out in a wide space along the beach where Jose Rizal’s monument stands.
The group was just a few blocks from the gymnasium where most of the games were being held. This gave them an opportunity to be seen by both residents and visitors of the Palaro.
One of the sellers, a man named Rey Pit (yes, that’s his name) said there were at least a dozen marble merchants that went together for the Palaro. They had brought with them a variety of marble products, from small necklaces and trinkets, table displays, urns and vases, statuettes and statues, to home furniture.
There were so many items that they had taken over half the stretch of the beach along Dapitan Road.
Pit said that their marble products are brought in by land on 18-wheeler trucks. From where they started, it took the trucks at least two days to travel to Dapitan City, more than 600 kilometers away.
He said despite the long-haul travel the items remain safe as these are wrapped in cardboard, styrofoam and even dried hay. “Kahit matigas ang marmol, pwede pa ring mabasag yan kapag tinamaan nang malakas.” (Even if marbles are tough, they can still be broken with enough force).
While the transportation of such items is in itself a feat, it is also the way these items are being sold that also seems to be such a surprise. In a world where people use the Internet to buy items, these marble sellers still use the power of word of mouth especially among the places they visit.
“Yung mga residente na rin ang nagsasabi sa ibang tao kung saan kami mahahanap (It’s the residents themselves who tell others were to find us).”
The items they sell are also priced much lower than what they would normally be in regular depots and home improvement shops.
A small marble display would cost P200. A dolphin or elephant book end set would be around P900. A four-foot Chinese jar will be around P3,000. A six-seater all-marble table would be around P20,000. A favorite design, a chess table, complete with all the pieces, would cost around P15,000.
“May mga bumibili pa sa amin na galing pa ng ibang probinsya. Basta marami silang kunin sa amin, kahit kami na ang bahal sa shipping (There are even buyers from other provinces to go to us. As long as they buy in bulk, we’d shoulder the shipping cost),” Pit said.
Pit said that their trade would continue as long as there are people who desire to have such beautiful and well-designed furniture for their homes.