Ocean Guardian: Marion Branellec-De Guzman Preaches Sustainability and Ethical Pearl-Farming in Lifestyle Asia Volume II - LA Lives

In a painting-inspired spread, Jewelmer’s marketing manager shares the conscientious, all-important work of preserving our national gem.

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“As a child, I had the opportunity to experience the beauty of our islands and oceans, specifically Palawan,” says Marion Branellec-De Guzman.

Marion says that she and her siblings Jacques Christophe and Gaelle occupied themselves with simple pleasures like playing among the trees and swimming in the sea. “We didn’t need gadgets or the television for entertainment,” she shares.

The daughter of Jacques Branellec, the French perliculture specialist who co-founded the international luxury brand Jewelmer with Manuel Cojuangco, Marion is on the cover of Volume II of Lifestyle Asia 2021. The issue is filled with personalities that have a mind for sustainability like her.

Beauty also rules Marion’s 14-page spread, which is shot by Gee Plamenco. The layouts are inspired by lovely portraits painted by artistic greats Johannes Vermeer (“Girl with a Pearl Earring”), Gustav Klimt (“Portrait of Adele Block-Bauer I”), John William Waterhouse (“Boreas”), and Xaver Winterhalter (“Leonilla Bariantinskaya”).

The Jewelmer marketing manager clearly remembers the breathtaking sights in and around the pearl farm her father worked at. The site is where the brand pioneered the production of the lustrous South Sea golden pearls.

Family matters

Today, Marion works with her siblings (Jacques Christophe is deputy CEO and executive vice president while Gaelle is senior vice president and creative director) to oversee the goings on of their jewelry label and its painstaking and labor-intensive pearl production process.

It requires the participation of at least 1,000 creative and hardworking individuals to help bring every pearl to life. Jewelmer’s approach is uniquely sustainable, too, which is why the gem’s journey from being cultured in an oyster in the ocean to the pearl farmer finally harvesting it takes quite a while.

“It takes 377 steps and up to five years to produce a golden South Sea pearl. Every step must be done with loving care or it can have irreversible effects on the pearl,” Marion explains.

She says that they are “non-extractive, meaning we are not taking from the ocean. Instead we are nurturing oysters and the entire ecosystem they thrive in.”

The catch is that even after such a long and elaborate pursuit, there’s a chance that the final result may not be the perfect golden pearl.

Marion likens the process to the birth of a child where “the final result is still a miracle” and that “Mother Nature has the final say on whether we will be rewarded [or not].”

It is this first-hand experience of living in harmony with nature, whether on the daily or in business, that ultimately taught Marion the importance of sustainability and continuing to practice it.

Protecting the waters

The pearl has also become the vessel for their team to protect the environment and the livelihood of the communities that depend on Palawan’s natural aquatic resources.

“To culture pearls allows us to be guardians of the ocean, keeping them pollution free and protecting the organisms that live there,” she elaborates. “Our pearl farms act as bio-generators, creating marine sanctuaries that improve biodiversity and biodensity.”

This means that there are more varieties of life found in greater quantities, Marion adds. “Oysters—a vital creature in the marine ecosystem—also filter the water and enable numerous organisms to thrive,” she says. 

This also involves protecting land biodiversity, including 15,000 hectares of virgin forest land, primarily through the Jewelmer-founded Save Palawan Seas Foundation.

Illegal deforestation, as well as slash and burn farming, can cause the topsoil to run off into the sea during the rainy season and cause excessive siltation, suffocating the reefs.

Critically endangered species have also been saved over the last year such as the Philippines Cockatoo, such as the Philippines Cockatoo, Palawan Mousedeer, the endemic Palawan porcupine, and more, thanks to the non-profit foundation’s consistent conservation efforts.

Marion feels the weight of this responsibility even more, now that she’s a mom. Seeing her young daughter running freely on the grass or curious about different plants and creatures reinforces what has become her life’s mission—to do her part in protecting the natural world for the future generation to experience the bliss of living in harmony with it, just like she did as a child.

“To preserve the beauty that nature gives us is essential,” she says. “Mother Earth does not need us to thrive, we are the ones who owe everything to her.”

The full story on Marion Branellec-De Guzman is in the June 2021 issue of Lifestyle Asia

Photography GEE PLAMENCO
Creative Direction MARC YELLOW
Styling ROKO ARCEO assisted by JAN RAROQUE

Marion is wearing jewelry by @jewelmer

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