So many love stories have been recorded by jewelry. Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor’s tempestuous romance was marked by some very fabulous jewels, including the 33.19-carat Asscher-cut Krupp diamond, which she wore every day. Princesses Diana and Kate share a Ceylon sapphire ring that bears the love of Prince William as son and husband. (It was actually Prince Harry who inherited this particular engagement ring after Diana’s death, but later decided that it belonged to the future Queen of England.)
And so it was with Ting and Mila Dayrit and their jewelry company Miladay. In 1966, after returning from a business trip in Japan, Ting presented a packet of loose pearls to his wife. So thrilled was Mila with the gesture that it sparked a fuse of creativity within her, moving her to create a collection of rings, earrings, and pendants. She worked with a goldsmith to bring her imaginings to life, and what happened next was something she may not have expected. Friends were so enamored by her sea gems that they wanted Mila to design pieces of their own. Even the parents of her music students (she taught piano lessons at home) began ordering jewelry from her.
Miladay founder, Mila Dayrit
That other people thought so highly of something that she had made encouraged the piano teacher to try her hand at jewelry, a new passion. Of course, Ting supported Mila, and together they established the jewelry company, Miladay, in their garage. “They discovered that their passions could also give birth to another passion that would somehow support their growing family,” says daughter Yvonne Romualdez.
Ting and Mila saw a poignant close to their story. Both husband and wife were diagnosed with terminal cancer. Ting made a promise to Mila. “I will marry you again in heaven,” he said on his deathbed—and 20 days after he passed away, she followed.
Mila and Ting
To their five children, Jacqui, Michelle, Mark, Christine, and Yvonne, with whom they left a legacy of love and trust, their last words were: “Take care of each other. Take care of our people.” Yvonne recounts, “All five of us sat down and reflected on their words. We wrote down all their messages and tried to follow all their wishes and uphold all the values they taught us.”
The Dayrit children decided to continue the company that their parents built on love. Now on its 50th year, they’ve expanded Miladay to nine locations, including a glossy new boutique at City of Dreams Manila, as well as developed more fine jewelry with 21 collections in total “that would take Miladay to a level that our parents would be proud of.”
Two generations of Dayrits; and the Dayrit family’s second generation (from left): Christine Dayrit, Yvonne Romualdez, Mark Dayrit, Jacqui Boncan, and Michelle Soliven.
Yvonne points out that the guiding principle of Miladay is to create timeless gifts of love. “It’s a maxim that we take to heart. Any piece, whether big or small, is special because it is given and made with love,” she says. Whether it is a pair of earrings with a garden’s worth of rose-cut diamonds from the Diamante Collection or a seductive string of champagne and white South Sea pearls from the Pearlfection Collection, the Dayrits make sure that their pieces are not only beautiful to behold, but also something that can grow in value over time as they are passed on from one generation to the next. “Mom and dad believed that jewelry is the most beautiful investment you can wear,” she adds.
Miladay remains very much influenced by the values of Ting and Mila. “Mom had a vision when Miladay was starting to become a byword for fine jewels. She said, ‘I dream for every Filipino to wear a Miladay no matter how small,’” shares Yvonne.
On its golden anniversary, the children have reinterpreted that vision by supporting five missions, or what they call their five loves. These include the Healing Servants Foundation, which provides education to 365 underprivileged students of the Divine Healer Academy of Sorsogon; the Assumption Mission, a community of sisters and lay partners that also gives transformation education; Carewell, the cancer support foundation; and Verbum Dei, a missionary order dedicated to spreading the word of God through prayer and testimony.
Miladay’s Diamante Collection earrings feature rose-cut diamonds adorned with round-cut diamonds set in white gold.
Their fifth love is the Miladay Foundation, founded by Ting and Mila in the 1970s as a way to award scholarships to music students and young men who intend to become priests. Its current project concentrates on building homes for the survivors of Typhoon Yolanda in Tacloban. Looking back on the five decades of Miladay, Yvonne says the best compliment that they’ve received is when “generations and generations of clients come back, and continue to enjoy wearing our jewels, receiving and giving them as timeless gifts of love.” Many of their clients have become true friends. Just as they string together gems and pearls to create necklaces, rings, or earrings, they’ve also created beautiful relationships with the many people who have come through the doors of Miladay. “At the end of the day, more than the jewels, it is the friendships that we celebrate,” reflects Yvonne. And that just may be how Ting and Mila would have wanted it.