This Jewelry Collaboration is Inspired by the Verde Island Passage

This Jewelry Collaboration is Inspired by the Verde Island Passage


Ciara Serumgard and Farrah Rodriguez invite MEGA on a two-day excursion for their book launch “Barako 77” with a sustainable jewelry collaboration with Atelier 818 inspired by the Verde Island Passage

Small stories can make the biggest impact. Last Earth Day, Ciara Marasigan Serumgard and Farrah Rodriguez’s Barako Publishing launched their book, “Barako 77: The Story of Environmental Activism in San Juan Batangas”. The family-owned and women-led publishing house hosted a two-day excursion about the ecosystem of Batangas, where several low-laying towns lie in its wake. Additionally, they collaborated with Atelier 818 Jewelry, a collection where these pieces are repurposed by belongings of the Marasigan family, further inspired by the center of marine biology in the world—the Verde Island Passage.

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The “Santuaryo” pays tribute to coral reefs

Batangueño Bond

Intended originally for an academic journal, Serumgard envisioned a wider readership, recognizing the importance of sharing this narrative with a broader community—a connection forged by the intertwining vines of shared heritage and collective aspiration for the betterment of the land. With the invaluable contributions of historians Vincent Bernabe, Maria Karina Garilao, and Katherine G. Lacson, along with a distinguished roster of contributors including Felipe Horacio “Zig” Marasigan III, Juan Miguel F. Marasigan, and Bladimer Usi, the book comes to life.

It recounts the events surrounding the residents of San Juan’s resistance against the construction of a copper smelter facility mandated by the national government, embodying the Barako values of Pagiging Mausisa/Masusing Pagsusuri, Malasakit sa Kapwa, and Lakas ng Loob. Their dedication to self-determination, supported by scientific evidence, empowered them to bravely and peacefully protect their community. In the broader context, the term ‘Barako’ has evolved into more than just a descriptor for Batangueños or traditionally strong individuals—it now encompasses all identities seeking change, progress, and liberation.

The “Santuaryo” tributes to the coral reefs

To talk about the ecosystem is to talk about connection. With each purchase of the book, a donation is directed to advocacy agencies, public schools, and libraries, enriching the educational landscape and fostering tangible change. This symbiotic relationship between commerce and community reinforces a commitment to both conservation and change. 

The Sun Juan Shield

While dangers lie ahead due to climate change, San Juan’s greatest strength lies in its mangrove forests, as it stores more carbon than its terrestrial counterparts. These trees, more fortress than foliage, hoard nature’s spirit within their roots, sheltering life’s balance. Their silent strength anchors vitality, where detritus becomes the heartbeat of existence, sustaining a chorus of diverse life forms—from the smallest zooplankton to the splendid milkfish.

Serumgard wears the “Dalampasigan”

Beyond sustenance, they stand steadfast against nature’s fury. They shield against mitigating waves and storm surges. And from below, they purify the waters, filtering out the sins of man and cradling the sediments of time, ensuring that the soul of San Juan remains up above.

Environmental Consciousness in Design

In this book, we also learn about the sustainable jewelry collaboration with Atelier 818 Jewelry, inspired by the Verde Island Passage—the center of marine life biodiversity. Serumgard says, “The collection was inspired by the history of the seas of San Juan, Batangas.  We would not have this thriving biodiversity had it not been for the Concerned Citizens of San Juan who protected our town. This is a celebration of taking responsibility as environmental custodians.” 

Niña and Miguel Cuenca of Atelier 818 Jewelry, along with Serumgard and Rodgriguez, emphasize their commitment to sustainability, viewing their role as stewards of precious metals and gemstones as integral to their business. They encourage clients to upcycle their old jewelry, repurposing and redesigning pieces to ensure they are enjoyed for generations.

The “Karagatan” necklace is inspired by the Verde Island Passage

The designs are deeply rooted in environmental consciousness. With an abundance of pearls and gemstones reminiscent of the sea, the collection channels the richness of marine life. “Karagatan” captures the essence of the Verde Island Passage, while “Santuaryo” pays homage to the vital role of coral reefs as habitats for marine biodiversity—with earrings fashioned from broken silver pieces resembling coral structures, meant to be mismatched and paired with single pearl studs. “Dalampasigan” is inspired by the shores.

In addition to marine life, the collection features designs inspired by other elements of Batangueño life. “Aras” utilizes loose vintage coins from the Marasigan family, repurposed into layered necklaces, combining old lace chains with contemporary elements for a modern look.

The “Aras” repurposes vintage coins from the Marasigan family

As advocates for sustainability in the jewelry industry, the Cuencas urge designers to adopt upcycling and responsible practices. They highlight the importance of recognizing the environmental impact of gold mining and encourage the recycling and repurposing of precious materials to minimize waste and ensure longevity.

Niña finishes, “Gold is something that can never be wasted. Gemstones can never be wasted. Diamonds last forever. So these are the elements that you can enjoy for generations to come. Give it a new look. You can just be creative with your design and recycle everything.”

Serumgard wears the “Karagatan”

Small stories make the biggest impact. But what if they’re not so small? What if, instead, they serve as the catalysts for monumental change, inspiring movements and shifting the course of history? This is the inspiration behind Ciara Marasigan Serumgard and Farrah Rodriguez’s book that dives into experiences in San Juan, Batangas. Besides, the greatest stories are often found within the pages of our own lives.


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