Marikina is known as the original shoe capital of the Philippines. Nick Joaquin reported that it was in Marikina where “under each house, in the silong, you could be sure to finding a busy table where father, mother and elder children handcrafted the shoes… Whether farmer, employee or professional, every Marikenense was also a shoemaker; and his children had most probably been put through school on shoes.”
But how did the shoe culture in Marikina start?
The story began when Don Laureano Guevara, a wealthy landowner, whom a grateful town of Marikina calls Capital Moy had traveled in Europe and on one occasion brought back a pair of English shoes.
Around 1884 the shoes he bought from Europe wore out. The wealthy of his time usually had their shoes repaired by Chinese cobblers at Escolta. However, Capitan Moy was struck by the idea of fixing the worn out shoes himself.
With the desire to repair the shoe, he first studied the structure of the shoe and later identified the secret of its construction by “unstitching the different sections and studying every welt, seam and cut.” He then went to Escolta and observed how the Chinese worked the leather. He bought tools from blacksmiths, and set about making his first pair of shoes.
What followed were incidents of trial and error. Capitan Moy was to waste a lot of good leather before his experiments yielded something that fitted like shoes.
In 1885, Capitan Moy has set up a shop in his basement. He made shoes and as his product improved, he hired and trained workers. Through this batch of workers propagated the techniques of shoemaking.
Shoemaking then filled up the idle time between rice seasons in the town of Marikina. Capitan Moy’s basement became the first training school for Philippine shoemakers. And as inspired by Capitan Moy, every silong in Marikina was transformed into a shoemaker’s shop.
According to Nick Joaquin, Filipinos became so shoe conscious during the American era that they got the feeling they were naked in public if unshod. Postwar informality may have made Filipinos more different about footwear, but the position of Marikina as the shoe capital of the Philippines is secure, thanks to the efforts capital del pueblo who brought the shoe culture in Marikina and thereby transforming Filipinos into shoe wearers.
Information source: Almanac for Manileños by Nick Joaquin