Located on the eastern side of the metropolis, right next to the Province of Rizal lies the bustling city of Marikina. Of course, Marikina needs no further introduction as the mere mention of its name brings one to mind the popularity of this city as the center of the country’s shoemaking industry. Hence, its title as “The Shoe Capital of the Philippines.”
For Marikina’s shoemakers, they and their shoemaker forebears owe their livelihood with the pioneering efforts of one man: Don Laureano Guevara, a renowned community leader in Marikina who was also affectionately called “Kapitan Moy.”
It began from an idea that sprang forth sometime in the 1880’s when Kapitan Moy was looking at a a pair of imported shoes he bought in Manila that began to worn out in time. But rather than buying a new pair, he had a different idea as the thought came to his head of possibly making a pair of shoes locally instead. So he had some workers look at that particular pair of shoes that he bought for them study how it was made. After a period of trial and error, one day in 1887, the workers were able to successfully make a prototype pair that matched the quality of Kapitan Moy’s imported pair. With that success, Kapitan Moy would move on to teach shoemaking as an alternate means of livelihood other than agriculture. Soon enough, an industry is born.
Over time, the renown of Marikina shoes would spread throughout the country, as the shoemakers strived to cope with the growing demand and incorporating new trends that were being introducing in the shoemaking industry. As far as quality is concerned. They are considered one of the best-made shoes out there. Perhaps no further testimonial can attest to such quality than the fact that Imelda Marcos’ “infamous” 1000-plus pair shoe collection are all Marikina-made shoes.
In recent years however, the Marikina shoemaking industry has experience quite a slump due in part to the growing competition brought about by the globalized economy, most especially the cheap ones that are being imported here. The flooding that devastated the city in recent storms, especially Ondoy, also contributed to the slump. But while the industry may not be as strong as it was before, it has still remained as a vital industry in Marikina thanks to the shoemakers who have remained steadfast in the midst of these challenges.
At the same time, efforts are being made, spearheaded no less than the Marikina City Government, to help the Marikina shoemakers get back on track, so to speak. One of those efforts is the celebration of the annual Sapatos Festival which runs throughout the last quarter of each year to showcase the products of Marikina’s shoemakers not only around the city but also throughout the country.
Also to help the shoemakers in terms of the tourism aspect, Marikina has stepped up in its city tourism efforts to promote the industry. One of which is showcasing of the world’s largest pair of shoes, made by none other than the Marikina shoemakers in 2002 and certified as such by the Guinness World Records. The pair is currently on display at the Shoe Gallery of Riverbanks Center in Marikina.
Another effort is the opening of the Shoe Museum or the Marikina Museum of Footwear which was opened in 2001 to celebrate the beloved industry of the city. While it may not as big as many museums are, it holds quite an impressive collection of shoes that belonged to former Marikina mayors, even politicians and celebrities. Of course, the pride of this museum is that it serves as home for 765 shoes that belonged to Imelda Marcos herself.
Nearby the museum is the Patio Del Zapateros, a trade hall of sorts that showcases the products of the Marikina shoemakers. One may find a good deal there.
Here’s hoping for a brighter future for the shoemakers of Marikina and may they continue to drive the Philippine shoemaking industry as a whole to greater heights.
© The Urban Roamer