RANDOM MARIKINA. We go to Marikina to jog on its racetrack oval or buy some fresh produce from its public market. We hear Sunday mass at the Our Lady of the Abandoned Church and have brunch at Rustic Mornings. There were afternoons spent learning local history in the Shoe Museum and from the silong of Capitan Moy ancestral house. And there were those memorable days having coffee and merienda with artists Isagani Fuentes and Lydia Velasco in their home studios.
For someone like me who passes by Marikina City daily going to work, I can share several travel stories about this charming and historic city. Here’s a collage of captions from our random travels to our neighbor city:
MARIKINA RIVER. From Katipunan-C5 road, Marikina is a bowl of land with Antipolo mountains in the east and Quezon City hills in the west. It has a famous river that runs through the heart of the city. It can turn green with waterlilies in the summer and outrageously swell due to torrential monsoon rains during the wet season. In December, there is a festive Christmas bazaar along its riverbanks.
In the olden days, Marikina River is an important waterway used by boat merchants for transporting passengers and goods. The Pasig-Marikina River route linked Manila to the lake towns of Laguna de Bay.
JESUS DE LA PEŃA CHAPEL. Located at Marikina River’s west bank is the ancient chapel of Jesús de la Peña. It is now a shrine dedicated to the first Catholic mass held in Marikina. The chapel was fittingly dedicated in 1630 by the Jesuits to the patron saint of farmers, San Isidro de Labrador for in those days, Marikina is an agricultural valley that eventually became known as Hacienda Marikina.
With the expulsion of the Jesuits from the islands in 1768, the landed Tuason family won ownership of the vast Hacienda Mariquina.
ISAGANI FUENTES. A few walks from the Jesús de la Peña chapel is the home and art studio of Isagani Fuentes. A former high school teacher before becoming a full-time visual artist, Isagani paints his fondness for ancient pottery and bulol rice gods in contemporary style.
Just like his art, Isagani’s modern home is made-up of salvaged parts from his maternal ancestor’s house. He also collects vintage and pre-loved objects that he use as subjects and inspiration for his timeless art.
LYDIA VELASCO. Laid-back, serene, motherly that’s the vibe when entering the home studio of art icon Lydia Velasco in Marikina. Surrounding her unfinished oil on canvas is a lush floral garden with several grottos where the modernist master spends time praying and painting, and entertaining her followers, family, and friends.
Tita Lydia is an important member of Kulay Marikina, an art guild that supports its young artist members by giving them exposure through art exhibits where their works are showcased side-by-side with the the guild’s senior members.
MARIKINA BAYAN. Though structures that we see today in Marikina are modern, there are some that were tastefully built to reminisce Marikina’s timeless cultural past. The Cityhood Park has a facade of a Spanish colonial building with twelve bells that chimes a song at every hour. Behind it is the Marikina Sport Complex that hosted local and international sports competitions and performances. On regular days, we come here to jog on it’s Olympic-standard racetrack.
Across the sports complex is the Marikina Public Market, the post office, and further are other buildings with images depicting Marikina’s shoe-making legacy.
CAPITAN MOY. Marikina’s culture hero is Don Laureano Guevara. He was a wealthy landowner, whom a grateful town of Marikina calls Capital Moy. In the process of unstitching the different sections and studying every welt, seam and cut from a pair of English shoes he brought home from Europe, he learned how to make shoes.
In 1885, Capitan Moy has set up a shop on the basement of his house. He made shoes and as his product improved, he hired and trained workers. Through this batch of workers propagated the techniques of shoe-making in Marikina. Capitan Moy’s shoe-making legacy led Marikina to become the Shoe Capital of the Philippines.
ADAPTIVE REUSE. For the country’s original shoe capital, a shoe museum must be one of it’s famous attractions. The Marikina Shoe Museum is housed in what used to be a rice mill owned by Doña Teresa de la Paz of the affluent Tuason family.
In 2001, the antique bigasang bayan was restored for adaptive reuse as a museum.
SHOE MUSEUM. So what’s in the shoe museum? There is a giant shoe made of pure leather. The central column supporting the roof is bedecked with vintage shoe lasts. There is a diorama showing a busy table where father, mother and elder children handcrafted shoes using traditional tools. In the olden days, shoe-making filled up the idle time between rice seasons in then agricultural Marikina.
The most controversial of the museum’s collection are the 800 pairs of shoes sequestered by the Philippine government from former first lady Imelda Marcos.
RUSTIC MORNINGS BY ISABELO. Along Isabelo Mendoza Street, a narrow alley at the back of the Shoe Museum is Rustic Mornings by Isabelo. Under any weather, food served here is like having sunny and happy breakfast at anytime of the day.
Whether its waffles and pancakes with butter and syrup, French toasts with bacon and sunny-side up or crispy hash brown and fried tawilis dipped in native vinegar, the experience of dining on wrought-iron furniture under a canopy of lush foliage with paintings of red flowers, climbing ceramic geckos and flying glass fishes will inspire anyone to say Good morning! mwah!
TIMELESS ARCHITECTURE. Standing next to the Capitan Moy ancestral house is an elegant bahay-na-bato built some time at turn of the twentieth century. Its original owner was Thomas Chanyungco, a shoe-manufacturer who owned prewar brand Gandara shoes.
The Chanyungco House is just one of the remaining structures in Marikina that recall our timeless architectural heritage.
MARIKINA CHURCH. The grandest of all the old houses in Marikina is the Diocesan Shrine of the Our Lady of the Abandoned. The structure that we see today was built in the years between 1687 to 1690 by the Augustinian on a mission estate originally owned by the Jesuits.
With the expulsion of the Jesuits from the island, the ownership of Hacienda Marikina was won by the wealthy Tuason family and the mission was awarded to the Augustinians.
CHURCH TREASURE. Central to Marikina church is the miraculous image of the Nuestra Señora de los Desamparados. The first image of the Virgin was destroyed during the Philippine-American War of 1898. The image we see today was carved in 1902.
Another interesting object inside the church is the 1921 painting depicting the Baptism of Jesus displayed at the baptistry. The painting is signed by Angono’s Juan Senson. Tandang Juancho was a painter of 19th century icons. Only a few of his works survive today. National Artist Carlos Botong Francisco was said to have first learned to draw and paint by observing Tandang Juancho work in his Angono studio.
NUESTRA SEÑORA DE LOS DESAMPARADOS. Most touching of Mary’s title is the Nuestra Señora de Desamparados which recalls how in the 15th century some good folks from the Spanish city of Valencia grouped together in response to a sermon from a priest by providing shelter and aid to the helpless (desamparados) -the orphans and the mentally ill. The charity work led to the founding of the first psychiatric hospital in the world, El Hospital de Los Locos.
The Santa Ana district in Manila and Marikina City have the oldest traditions of celebrating the feast of the Nuestra Señora de los Desamparados in the country every 12th of May.
EPILOGUE. So there, no travel itinerary is needed when going around this charming and historic city. Once you have set foot in Marikina Bayan or by its riverbanks, or after saying a prayer at the Our Lady of the Abandoned Church or after enjoying an all-day breakfast at Rustic Mornings, let your feet take you to where your heart wants to go and discover your own random Marikina.
-Feast of the Nuestra Señora de los Desamparados 2015