The green crusaders of San Juan, Batangas

The green crusaders of San Juan, Batangas

Clockwise from upper left: Cafeño MNL Café’stamales; The White House’s Malagkit Ube Roll; Cafeño MNL Café’s El Fili Cheesy Bistek Sandwich using Batangas beef; The Llana Family’s Maja Blanca

FOOD TRIP Clockwise from upper left: Cafeño MNL Café’s tamales; The White House’s Malagkit Ube Roll; Cafeño MNL Café’s El Fili Cheesy Bistek Sandwich using Batangas beef; The Llana Family’s Maja Blanca —CONTRIBUTED PHOTOS

Batangas is known for its coffee, bulalo and iconic Taal Volcano. But Ciara Marasigan-Serumgard, whose father Zaldy Marasigan hails from the land of barako, is on a mission to show the world more about her paternal hometown.

She has just published a book—launching tomorrow, in honor of Earth Day—entitled “Barako 77: The Story of Environmental Activism in San Juan, Batangas.” It’s a story dedicated to the environmental activism of her grandfather, Horacio Marasigan Sr., and fellow Batangueños and Batangueñas of his era, who had led the grassroots movement, Concerned Citizens of San Juan, that fought against what would have been the first copper smelter in Southeast Asia.


The mother of two is honoring her grandfather’s legacy by creating platforms to tell this heroic story, emphasizing the need for everyone to recognize that our God-given biodiversity is something we should stand up for.


READ: Retelling success story of PH’s first peaceful eco-activism

In the process of writing the book, she has become a lover of all things San Juan: from the beaches to the heritage homes, to arts and crafts, to food!

The book launch will give guests not just a copy of the book but a full San Juan, Batangas, experience. Guests will see Acuatico Beach Resort along the white sands of Laiya; enjoy a sumptuous lunch at Oceano Restaurant; have a heritage tour of four ancestral houses; and dine at El Jardin de Zaida in Barangay Abung.

It’s practically a food trip as much as it is a book launch! Ciara shares that at Apolonio Marasigan House where Cafeño MNL Café is located, you can enjoy their El Fili Cheesy Bistek sandwich that uses Batangas beef, tulingan with an aglio olio twist, classic tamales, a kaffir lime drink with buko and of course the quintessential barako coffee.

There is also The White House which was formerly owned by the Mercado Family. Today, the owners prepare a kakanin merienda of suman, bilo-bilo and maja blanca to go with Batangas kapeng barako.

Growing movement

Ciara loves all these ancestral homes, sharing, “The heritage houses of San Juan, Batangas, such as Casa Leon and Casa Soledad are testaments to the resilience, creativity and vision of the proud Batangueño people.” She is equally amazed at how younger generations take on the great honor of preserving the legacy of their ancestors.


But I am sure the older generations whom they honor are the ones exceedingly proud of them. Certainly, Ciara’s grandfather would be—as are her parents, Horacio “Zaldy” Marasigan Jr. and Carina Marasigan, who are in full awe of how their daughter has turned a simple story into a movement.

“We successfully initiated the passage of an ordinance in honor of the legacy,” Ciara proudly shares. “Every Oct. 22 is now Araw ng Pagkakaisa para sa Kalikasan ng Bayan ng San Juan. (Day of Unity for Nature in San Juan town).” This commemorates the date when nine out of 10 residents voted against the copper smelter in a Diocesan poll run by the Archdiocese of Lipa.

It has become a family project as well, with her brother Felipe Horacio “Zig” Marasigan III joining as a co-author; her youngest brother, Juan Miguel “Ian” Marasigan, taking the lead in photography; and Ian’s wife, Farrah, taking on the role of executive director of the publishing company.

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Soon, Ciara is going to have everyone talking with a Batangueño accent and saying ‘ala eh’! Barako cheers to keeping the spirit of Horacio Marasigan Sr, the environment defenders and the beauty of Batangas alive not just for the Batangueños of today but for all generations to come!

TAGS: first class, San Juan Batangas

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