Marikina City: The Legacy of Kapitan Moy

The shoe industry that made Marikina famous is a story of a man’s pioneering spirit that started with a very mundane problem: fixing his imported shoes that broke.

The shoe industry in Marikina, famously known as the shoe capital of the Philippines, was started in 1887 by Don Laureano Guevarra, better known as “Kapitan Moy”.

Kapitan Moy tried to personally fix his imported shoes because he did not want to go all the way to Manila, where Chinese artisans were the only ones who were doing shoe repair and shoe manufacturing. There was nobody in Marikina who could fix shoes as the Marikenos were involved only in the production of slippers and wooden clogs.

To get an idea of how to fix his broken shoes, Kapitan Moy disassemble the shoes to see how they fit together.

A bakya maker, Tiburcio “Busyong” Eustaquio provided Kapitan Moy with shoe lasts to help him discover how shoes were made. Since Kapitan Moy had no background in shoemaking, it followed that he had no tools, forcing him to borrow some from blacksmiths in the area.

With sheer determination and a lot of patience, Kapitan Moy finally produced the first pair of shoes that would inspire the whole town to embark on the new industry of shoemaking.

Kapitan Moy was not alone in his attempt to start the shoemaking industry in Marikina. He was assisted by some local residents such as Gervacio Carlos, Venancia Santiago, Ambrosio Sta. Ines, and Sixto Isidro.

They collaborated in turning the first pair of shoes assembled by Kapitan Moy into an industry that supported the livelihood of an entire town for decades to come. Sixto Andres, using Spanish shoe catalogues, became the first Marikeno shoe designer.

Kapitan Moy’s enthusiasm towards shoemaking can be explained by the fact that he was already involved in the manufacture of footwear in the form of slippers and wooden clogs on the ground floor of his house. Production soon shifted to shoes.

Kapitan Moy employed the local population between harvests. Being an agricultural town, the people of Marikina worked in the farm during planting and harvest seasons. Shoemaking, therefore, was just an off-season occupation.

Kapitan Moy was determined to make shoemaking a big industry in the town. He imported shoe lasts from Barcelona. Those shoe lasts turned out to be too pointed because that was the style in Spain at that time. Kapitan Moy asked his workers to remodel those lasts to conform to the shoe style prevailing in the Philippines during the period.

By the time Kapitan Moy died, shoemaking was already a steady source of income for people in Marikina. Shoe making was adopted by almost every resident to the point that the ground floor of almost every house in Marikina had a shoemaking factory.

The old house of Kapitan Moy is now the Sentrong Pangkultura ng Marikina (Cultural Center of Marikina. It is located at J.P. Rizal Street, Barangay San Roque, in Marikina City.

The History of Marikina

The name Marikina, used after the Americans colonized the country, came from Mariquina which was derived from Felix Berenguer de Marquina, the Spanish governor-general of the Philippines in 1787, the year the area was officially declared a pueblo.

But before the creation of the pueblo of Marquina, the valley saw the first group of Spaniards when the Augustinians arrived in 1570 in what is now known as Chorillo in Barangka. The Augustinians were later followed by the Jesuits who established a mission and a chapel in 1630 in an area now called Jesus Dela Peña. Fray Pedro de Arce of the Manila Archdiocese gave the Jesuits ecclesiastical control of the town that year.

The name Marquina was officially adopted upon the conversion of the town into a pueblo in 1787.

In the 19th century, Mariquina was a hacienda, one of the biggest in the country, and it belonged to the Tuazon family.

It was made a mayorazgo by the Spanish colonial government in 1822, with Don Juan Gregorio as the first Alcalde Capitan. During the Philippine Revolution, Mariquina became the capital of the Province of Manila. After President Emilio Aguinaldo declared independence, Don Vicente Gomez became the first alcalde presidente in 1900.

After the United States took the Philippines from Spain, the name Mariquina was officially changed to Marikina. At the same time, the province of Rizal was officially created by virtue of Act No. 137 of the Philippine Commission. In 1938, Juan Chanyungco became Marikina’s first mayor.

By this time, Marikina was already known as a shoemaking town with most of the population engaged in the industry.

During the liberation of the Philippines from the Japanese, Marikina was bombarded by artillery from nearby Quezon City, resulting in the destruction of most big buildings in the area.

Post-War Marikina

After World War II, Marikina again became a shoemaking town. Industrialization brought about by the post-war years made Marikina the center of shoe manufacturing in the country, earning it the title “Shoe Capital of the Philippines.”

Backyard workshops turned into industrial plants that produced shoes  by the hundreds. The industrialized shoe manufacturing invited workers from out of town who, later, found it convenient to settle in Marikina, resulting in a rapid population growth.

Unfortunately, the heavy industrialization of Marikina resulted in the pollution of the formerly pristine Marikina River. The pollution of the river was aggravated by huge numbers of informal squatters on the banks of the Marikina River.

The effects of the pollution and silting of the Marikina River and the proliferation of squatters on its banks were felt when Typhoon Unsang in October dumped heavy rains in the town in 1988. That resulted in widespread flood that Marikina had never seen before. 

But credit the people of Marikina for love of their town and determination to transform Marikina, made ugly by pollution and squatters, into an industrialized but beautiful town that has been a model of urban development in the country.

The polluted river was transformed into a beautiful and clean waterway and the squatter colonies in its banks were converted into beautiful parks. The city is one of the few cities in the Philippines that is bike-friendly. The municipality of Marikina was converted by virtue of Republic Act No. 8223 on Dec. 8, 1996 into a first class city.

Places to see in Marikina

Each year Marikina City attracts a large number of tourists, both local and foreign. Tourists enjoy the modern features of an industrial city as well as the ancient heritage of the shoe manufacturing city. The most common places visited by tourists in Marikina City are the following:

Philippine Science Centrum

Dubbed as the first interactive science center – museum in the Philippines, the Philippine Science Centrum proves to the whole world that science can be fun. It is a center for alternative learning in the field of science that promotes literacy in science and technology through its interactive and integrative exhibits. It has various galleries that showcase how scientific principles can benefit everyday life. It is located at the Riverbanks Center of Marikina City.

Jesus dela Peña Chapel

It is the first Catholic church in Marikina that was constructed in April 1630 as a result of the transfer of the ecclesiastical control of the area to the Jesuits. The first Catholic mass in Marikina was held on this chapel. The Jesus dela Peña Chapel is on P. Zamora Street in Marikina City.

Shoe Museum

A brainchild of then Marikina City Mayor Bayani Fernando, the Shoe Museum was opened to the public on February 16, 2001. The museum is housed in an old building that was used by the Spanish colonizers as an arsenal, then a detention center during the Philippine-American War.

The Shoe Museum has on display the world-renowned Imelda Marcos shoe collection, and shoes worn by former Philippine government officials. It also includes footwear from different countries as well as a collection of shoes that were entries to the Marikina’s shoe design competitions. The museum also showcases the steps and materials needed in the manufacture of shoes.

Marikina River Park

The Marikina River Park is very popular for its picnic grounds, recreational parks, camping grounds, jogging and biking lanes, and skating rinks. After dark, the Marikina River Park is transformed into a nightlife center with a number of restaurants, cafes, bars, and night clubs along the Marikina Riverbanks.

Sentrong Pangkultura (Cultural Center)

The Sentrong Pangkultura is housed in the ancestral home of Kapitan Moy who started the shoe industry in Marikina. The center is a showcase of the architectural design of the 19th century Philippines.

Marikina Sports Park

Originally built as a sports center for the provincial government of Rizal in 1969 in an area owned by the then Municipality of Marikina, the sports center was turned over to the Government of Marikina in 1995 and was refurbished and became fully operational in 2991. The Marikina Sports Center boasts of an Olympic-sized swimming pool, an oval, covered gymnasium and basketball court, and a 15,000 capacity grandstand.

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