Making a Living Out of Luna Stones

Why are families in Luna, La Union relocating to beaches? It’s neither the water nor the sand, but the stones.

Posted by Bulatlat
Vol. VIII, No. 2, February 10-16, 2008

Can families make a living out of stones? The answer is yes if one lives in certain parts of La Union and if he or she were picking Luna stones.

For the families living in coastal communities of that area, Luna stones are their major source of income.

Every bucket of stones is essential in sustaining their daily needs. In Barangay Barrientos, La Union, mountains of segregated and packed stones will lead to vast endless shore of stones. These colorful and unique stones made Luna well known in many countries. Luna stones are widely used in many industries, resulting in increasing demand for them.

Together with an increasing demand is the increasing number of stone pickers relocating their homes closer to the beach to make their work easier. The whole beach becomes their workplace in the morning and their sanctuary in the afternoon. During weekends, stone picking also serves as family bonding where parents and their children pick stones together. Most of the stone pickers collect stones during the day and go fishing at night, especially if they did not earn enough from stone picking.

The Stone System

In Barangay Barrientos, stone pickers rest and find refuge beside the watchtower ruin, Baluarte, after working all morning. No one can tell the hard work they put into picking stones.They all look so happy playing cards and charades. The blissful laughter of children while running around the Baluarte could amaze and fill one with contentment of the simple life they are living.

Amid the sound of laughter that fill the shores of this community, Northern Dispatch met Mang Mario Islao, 52, single, who has been a stone picker for 10 years. He lives with his brother’s family.

Northern Dispatch curiously followed Mang Mario as he meticulously looked at every stone around him. Obviously, he was looking for a particular kind, the faded colored stones.

The faded colored stones and egg stones are the most expensive Luna stones because they are difficult to find or collect. The cheapest, on the other hand, are the common gray rough stones which resemble the panghilod (scrubbing stone), only rougher, as well as the grayish black stones and the usual round stones. The latter’s price ranges from P20 to P45 per pail ($0.49 to $1.11, based on an exchange rate of P40.65 per US dollar), depending on the size of the pail and the kind of stone. Most customers order the not-so-colorful stones for landscaping.

They are paid weekly even if every day they would pick stones of every kind and segregate them. By the end of the week, they would go to town to deliver the segregated or packed stones to the buyers from Manila. Their buyers are the ones who clean, pack and export Luna stones nationwide and to different countries.

In one week, Mang Mario usually earns P1,000 ($24.60) depending on the number of pails of stones he is able to deliver. All stone pickers command the same price to avoid dispute in their neighborhood.

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