Things to do in Marikina City – The Shoe Capital of the Philippines

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Located on the far fringes of Metro Manila, the city of Marikina seems more quaint town than busy district, with its clean, orderly roads, neat shops and a markedly reduced presence of diesel-belching jeepneys. The place is also known as the shoe capital of the Philippines, manufacturing about 70% of the country’s shoes. For those looking for a relaxing day trip away from the hustle and bustle (without burning a hole in your pocket), Marikina makes for an interesting visit. Here are just some of the things you can do in this charming city: 

Shop for Fresh Produce and Goods at The Marikina Public Market 

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Colourful sights and sounds await at the Marikina Public Market/Market Mall, one of the biggest and most well-maintained markets in Metro Manila. Divided into wet and dry areas, expect everything from fresh produce to bargain wares. Over at the wet area, slabs of meat hang from hooks and vividly green vegetables are laid out in neat rows. The dry area sells everything from home decorations, pots and pans, cheap clothing and imitation underwear (‘Triumph’ bras for PHP100, anyone?) 

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Since it was close to Christmas, there were stalls selling lights and decorations.

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Learn History at the Kapitan Moy Museum 

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Close to the market is the Kapitan Moy Museum. Despite dating back to the 1800s, this adobe (mud brick) building is well-preserved, and it is an excellent example of Philippine-Spanish colonial architecture. The structure follows traditional Filipino bahay kubo homes, but integrates Spanish style in elements such as the windows and balustrades. Once home to a wealthy local businessman called Don Laureano Guevarra (aka the founder of the Marikina shoe industry), the building has cultural and historical significance, as the first shoe in the city was made here in 1887. The story goes that Don Laureano taught himself how to repair shoes and borrowed tools from local shoemakers, as he did not want to travel all the way to Manila to have his shoes repaired. Together with a few other locals, he experimented with further ways to make and repair shoes, kickstarting the shoe industry in Marikina which endures until today. 

That aside, this building has seen a lot of history. After Guevarra’s passing, it was a home for the needy, a primary school, an American tribunal, and the headquarters of the Japanese Imperial Army during their occupation of Manila. Today, it serves as a cultural centre and venue for events. 

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Clean and orderly streets! Sorry, the last time I was in Manila I was in some pretty bad areas so this was quite different for me. It’s good though that I got to see this other side.

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Jeepneys refueling

Visit Our Lady of the Abandoned Parish Church 

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Across the road from the museum is Our Lady of the Abandoned Parish church, home to an image of the Virgin Mary which has received Papal recognition. The church itself dates back to 1572, but the building was only built at its present site in the 1600s. It is made from adobe, gravel, cement, mortar and steel. Like many historical sites in Manila, this was ravaged during the Philippine-American war, but restored in the 1950s.

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Figures of saints line the exterior of the church.

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Bell tower next to the main entrance.

Marikina Shoe Museum 

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If you’re still keen to find out more about the city’s biggest industry, just down the road is the Marikina Shoe Museum. Formerly the only rice mill in town, the small building also served s a jail for captured Filipino fighters and soldiers. It was made into a shoe museum in 2001 and today houses part of former first lady Imelda Marcos‘ impressive shoe collection. The surrounding sidewalks have embedded slabs of shoes captioned with names of famous local celebrities and figures ala Hollywood Walk of Fame.

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Mannequins depicting the shoe making process using old sewing machines and tools.

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Shoes from recent design competitions. Some were flashy and eye catching to say the least; others looked like they belonged in science fiction movies! Points for creativity, though, I could never imagine walking out of my house in those heels. 😀

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Showcase of the different types of shoes, such as cavalier boots and roman strap sandals. There was also a section dedicated to shoes worn by famous local celebrities and politicians.

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Perhaps the most interesting part of the museum is Imelda Marcos’ shoe collection. There were hundreds of pairs (and this is only a small fraction of her entire thousand-pair wardrobe!) I wonder if she has ever worn some of these shoes more than once.

While she has made contributions to the nation, especially in terms of promoting art and culture, Marcos was infamous for her extravagant lifestyle and penchant for expensive things, while her dictatorial husband robbed the country of billions. Her bouffant hair and love for luxury is reminiscent of a certain politician’s wife in Malaysia as well lol.

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Black and white pictures of the ‘First Lady’. Despite her reputation, she was reelected as congresswoman four times after returning from exile. The Marcos family are still influential in politics today.

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Traditional attire, the Filipiniana and the Barong Tagalog, often worn by the First Couple during their official functions. The Marikina Shoe Museum has an entrance fee of PHP50, which I think is worth paying just to see Imelda’s massive collection. The museum is open from 8AM – 5PM, so plan your visit accordingly. 

Savour Delicious Food at Rustic Mornings by Isabelo

Just behind the Marikina Shoe Museum, turn down a quiet alleyway with walls covered in creeping ivy to find Rustic Mornings by Isabelo, a charming spot that serves fusion and Filipino fare. There is an outdoor dining area with gazebos where you can dine surrounded by lush greenery and various art pieces and knick knacks, as well as air-conditioned indoor seating with vintage decor reminiscent of an English tearoom (think wooden furniture painted white, sheer curtains and gingham patterns).

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I recommend the Bacon, Eggs and Herbed Hash Browns (PHP180), which feature a mountain of fluffy scrambled eggs with diced tomatoes, crispy bacon and deep fried hash brown patties. Also good is the pork tocino, which goes great with rice. With good food and a charming setting, it’s no wonder the place is so popular with families. Great lunch spot for after you’re done exploring the rest of the attractions that Marikina City has to offer.

Rustic Mornings is located at 11 I Mendoza St, Marikina, 1800 Metro Manila, Philippines (Phone:  +63 2 425 8610).

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