At this point, we are going to end for now our little series on old Cubao. I think it is but appropriate that we close this series with a feature on a landmark that has best represented the evolution of this particular area over the years.
It was known before as the Marikina Shoe Expo, a complex of shoe stores (all of which housed in the same type of 2-story structures) located along Gen. Romulo Ave., right across the old Rustan’s store in Cubao. Opened in 1972, it was meant to showcase the best of the Marikina shoe industry. It won’t be long before the complex and the stores in it gained a wide and loyal following, among them, the (in)famous, shoe-loving First Lady Imelda Marcos.
But changing trends and hard times hit the once-vibrant Marikina shoe industry which would affect the shoe stores at the Marikina Shoe Expo as well. By the end of the 1990’s the MSE complex became a virtually dead space, save for some shoe stores which have managed to hang on to this day, as was many other places in Cubao as urban decay posed a threat in the horizon.
But the old shoe expo was to given a new lease of life as the new century/decade dawned as it was relaunched as “Cubao Expo,” While its old shoe legacy still remain with some shoe stores like Rusty Lopez and the Solliman, (which makes custom-made boots) it now bears a different, alternative flavor that represents an alternative lifestyle and culture it now sports. Cubao Expo has become an alternative shopping venue of sorts with a host of antique shops, gift shops, thrift stores, shops that cater to anime stuff and natural products.
One landmark you cannot miss in Cubao Expo is also one of its longtime staples: Bellini’s. Don’t let the faded facade of Italy-themed artwork fool you, it is considered one of the best Italian restaurants out there.
If you are looking for some other entertainment options, there’s restobar named Mogwai which boasts of a screening room at its second floor for showing mostly films by independent filmmakers. No wonder it sports a marquee-type of signage that you can’t miss.
There are also some art galleries located here as Cubao Expo has been known as a haven for artists. Art galleries like Manila Collective and Art 19B are some of the venues one can check out if you are into the visual arts.
If you’re into reading, there’s the Libreria Bookstore, which is considered one of the newer landmarks of Cubao Expo. With a range of rare and hard-to-find books in bargain prices, it is something of a bibliophile’s heaven.
Just a few steps away is a curious looking store all covered in something like goo. But it is actually a comic book store called, of all things, Sputnik. Like many comic book stores, you won’t be hard-pressed to find comic-book related items like collectible figures and busts to name a few.
Then there’s a shop called The Reading Room which does not refer to literary reading. This gift and clothing store actually offers what is called “soulcard reading” which from what I gather is a a way of looking at one’s soul and try to decipher what’s inside. Pretty new age stuff here. But the store itself has quite a loyal and popular following.
Being the alternativeness that is Cubao Expo, a significant number of establishments there open in the afternoon up to late evening, thus becoming an after-school/after-work quick getaway of sorts. But that doesn’t mean it’s not worthwhile to visit this place in the morning like before lunch, especially if there are special Expo-wide sale events.
Cubao Expo has gone through some changes of its own over the years as shops came and went in this U-shaped complex, not to mention the change of the atmosphere over the years. But somehow, it still manages to somehow reinvent itself as it has always been, a resiliency that is the trademark of the Filipino culture itself. I guess it is apt for this place to have that particular Pinoy trait as it stands today as a monument of sorts to the Cubao of the old that has managed to survive and will hopefully continue to do so as the district that its part of is trying to reinvent itself with the changing times.
for more information and to keep updated on the latest happenings at Cubao Expo, you can check out their site at http://cubaoexpo.multiply.com.
© The Urban Roamer