28 September 2017

2 DLSL Alumni Doing Well in Top Philippine Ceramic Company

Ma. Lizette Marajas and Ramses Mabilangan, both DLSL graduates working at Mariwasa Siam Ceramics, Inc.
Through the efforts of two DLSL graduates, I was recently able to go on a plant tour of the Mariwasa Siam Ceramics factory in Santo Tomas, Batangas. These were alumna Ma. Lizette Marajas of the high school class of 1991 and alumnus Ramses “Batoy” Mabilangan of the high school class of 1995.

Both are Santo Tomas born and raised and also graduates of the University of Santo Tomas. Marajas was a 1995 Fine Arts graduate of the university while Mabilangan graduated with a degree in Electrical Engineering in the year 2000, also obtaining his licensure that same year.

Crucially, both are already well-placed in the company and doing well in their respective careers. Marajas is currently Design Specialist 1 and working under the Design Department of the company’s Sales and Marketing Division. She is one of three designers at the Santo Tomas plant, so suffice it to say that a good percentage of Mariwasa tiles you will find on shop shelves around the country are her creations.

Mabilangan, meanwhile, is Manager of the Form and Decorating Department of the Manufacturing Division. This department has the plant’s hi-tech computer controlled and fully automated design printing equipment, all imported from Italy. Mabilangan and the personnel under him are in charge of the equipment’s configuration, operation and maintenance.

Mariwasa itself is one of the Philippine’s pioneers in the ceramic tile industry, having started as a solely Filipino company owned by the Cosetengs. Obtaining technical assistance from Italian firms, it first set up a plant along Ortigas Avenue. Later, it would open a 32-hectare manufacturing facility in Santo Tomas at the northern edge of Batangas.

The company holds the distinction of being the first to produce both wall and floor tiles with a staggering range of designs, colors and sizes. Presently, the company is partly Thai owned after it went into partnership with a large Thai conglomerate called Siam Cement Group.

Meanwhile, the plant tour that was I privileged to have joined was not only fascinating but totally enriching. One or two of my companions likened it to a live version of “How Do They Do It” – the Wag TV-produced education series that runs on the Discovery Channel – but in reverse.

Our first stop was a briefing by two of the plant’s Safety and Security personnel, who would incidentally also act as our tour guides along with Marajas. They would supply us with dust masks which would serve as our protection against the dust and also gave us a litany of dos and don’ts.

During our plant tour, we were shown how tiles like these were produced.  Image credit:  Mariwasa Siam Ceramics Facebook Page.
The tour started with the end product – the printed and baked ceramic tiles coming off the conveyor belts for quality control inspection and cooling – and backwards to where the clay was being prepared for pressing into the desired shapes and sizes.

In between was the hi-tech computer controlled printing of the designs on the ceramic tiles, arguably the most fascinating stage of the tour. The equipment’s technician even gamely gave our tour party an impromptu lecture with a sample print to boot. This was typical of the hospitality extended to our party by the personnel whom we met inside the plant.

We ended at the office of the creative group where Marajas gave our party a lecture on the design process, including how she and the other designers would seek inspiration to create products that would suit the needs of specific market niches. We were also shown the display room filled with a remarkable array of ceramic tiles, with designs ranging from the minimalist to the intricate.

The Mariwasa plant in Sto. Tomas, Batangas.  
The Mariwasa logo at the gate, proudly announcing its fiftieth year of existence.
Although our Mariwasa plant tour was the culminating leg of a visit to Tanauan City and Santo Tomas, it was the sort that ought to be a perfect fit for students majoring in a wide variety of fields from engineering to manufacturing to design, to name but a few. Of course, even high school students still undecided about their future careers can also benefit and take inspiration from such a tour.

Just like both Marajas and Mabilangan were themselves high school kids roughly two decades ago still trying to figure out what futures the crystal balls held in surprise for them. Both are now reasonably well advanced in their careers, had travelled locally and abroad on company duty and in their quiet way are making a mark in the ceramic industry with a company that is considered one of the leading players.

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