It used to be that Marikina evoked images of bright pink MMDA road signs and your tita’s favorite step-ins. But with “Discipline, Good Taste, and Excellence” as its motto, it’s no surprise that this industrial city is becoming known for more than producing great soles—it’s also becoming a hub for some pretty good grub.
Marikina has and continues to innovate in both the food and shoe business, whether it be in designer footwear or dinner in a jail cell. In a bid to get to know our neighbors a little better, B/Blog visits a few places and faces in the prosperous city and discovers why a visit to Marikina is indeed a way to #lovelocal.
MYRON SAN PEDRO
Owner, Mad Mustard
Hey, Myron! What’s the story behind the name Mad Mustard?
What we want to do is offer different kinds of mustards to complement the sausages. We have wasabi mustard, we have dijon, honey mustard, regular mustard. We’re thinking of other mustards to put in pa.
My aunt has a farm and produces sausages for hotels. So our sausages are hotel-grade, but we wanted to make them more affordable. Our menu is huge and right now we have at least 20 sausages to choose from. We’ve also customized our sausages to suit different tastes. Like for example, you want something more cheesy, you can get the cheese sausage. If you like garlic, we have a garlic sausage. We also have beer sausage…and most importantly, our sausages don’t have preservatives.
Why set up shop in Marikina?
We want to establish the area. It’s a booming food area. It was also good that it was on our own property.
What can you say about your neighborhood now?
The good thing about Marikina is that we keep on improving. It took awhile. Good thing, Lilac street is becoming like Maginhawa na. And the side streets are also growing from that. This area is called Upper Marikina, and now this isn’t the only place that’s booming. Now Marikina is a food destination. People really come here for food trips.
Owner & Kitchen Manager, Cafe Piansa
This is a unique theme for a restaurant. What’s the story behind it?
We noticed kasi mga two or three years ago that this part of Marikina that was purely residential. Then one restaurant opened up, and it showed us the potential of the place as a foodie spot. So we took the risk to open one. But we wanted something unique, and to serve quality food that’s affordable. My dad kasi is a lawyer and now he’s a Regional Trial Court judge in Marikina. That’s why there’s a “jail” and there’s a judge’s bench…and we looked for jail restaurants in the country, parang wala. We wanted to make sure yung concept, original.
You even have an electric chair.
Yeah, it’s by the guy na gumawa ng furniture ng restaurant. Sabi niya accomplishment daw to make an electric chair. So he decided to give it to us as a gift.
What’s the food community like here?
Napansin ko sa Marikina, it’s not about the location. Even if tago ka, as long as you serve good food and you market properly, pupuntahan ka ng tao. The important thing is the theme and the concept, as well as your price. I noticed that here in Marikina, people really look at the price.
EMONG DE LA PAZ
Veteran Shoe Manufacturer
How did your shoe business start?
My parents are old shoe manufacturers. The Marikina government, headed by Mayor De Guzman, sponsored a scholarship program [and] I was the number one candidate. I studied shoe technology for two years in England. And then from there, I started to manage the Philippine Shoe Trade Fair. I picked up all the best shoes from Marikina. At that time, we were already exporting 15,000 pesos worth of shoes weekly by Philippine Airlines. It really is my passion. I know that we’re the best suppliers. If you have problems with the shoes, no need for anymore arguments, balik mo, papalitan namin. We [also] treat our workers as family.
Seems like that was the golden age of Marikina’s Shoe industry. What can you say about the industry now?
Would you believe it if I told you that we were almost 2,200 shoe makers before? Now we’re only 150. My dream is to revive the shoe industry. So I’m forming a group of young second-generation shoe manufacturers to put up small shops. What I want is for that group to never provide bad shoes, to the point that we will guarantee its quality by putting up a warranty. Oh, and I don’t want to involve any government entity.
What’s your take on local versus imported products?
Believe me when I say I don’t mind imported shoes. Provided you place the country of origin. Gusto ko sana they patronize Filipino-made shoes. I live by policy of “It doesn’t matter how high the plane flies, it always starts at the runway.” Dahan dahan tayo, kahit 10 lang, guaranteed that it’s good, people for sure will buy it. The beauty of Marikina shoe products is that it is handmade, therefore the materials are specialized to suit our weather.
What led you to shoe design?
It’s my 10th year in shoes this year. I used to have a background in graphic design. I’ve lived in Marikina for a while, and I thought I’ve never found a pair of shoes here that I really liked. I saw pairs of shoes that were well-made but not well-designed, or well-designed but not well-made. I thought, maybe we can have well-made and well-designed shoes in Marikina, why can’t we have both in the same shoe?
What is it about living in Marikina that inspired your craft?
I think there’s so much joy to work in the place you grew up in. In the Philippines and in Marikina, design is about development. Beyond just making people happy, you want design to bring in more food, more jobs… that is the brand of Philippine design.
What can you say about the shoe industry in Marikina now and when you first started?
The main challenge of Marikina is that it has to innovate in order for it to reach the market that it wants. You can do that in several ways, like improving technology and improving your skilled labor force. But one way to improve it is design also. We have that inherently as Filipinos. They say that creativity is about doing more with less, and we have an abundance of less in this country. What is it about Pinoy creativity? Magaling tayo gumawa ng paraan. We may not have the technology of Japan or the heritage of Italy, but we do have Pinoys who are very much into gumagawa ng paraan. And if we have that spirit, there’s no reason not to create a shoe industry via design.
DEL DE GUZMAN
What can you say about the Marikina shoe industry right now?
Well, right now we are trying to be part of the niche of what tourists are trying to find. We are trying to develop the shoe industry, and side by side with our restaurants and food products. We also have quite a number of historical monuments. We have a 200 year-old Spanish house, and it was where the shoe industry started more than a hundred years ago. We have one of the oldest churches, about 385 years old, and we are trying to highlight that in Marikina.
Tourism Officer, Marikina City Tourism Culture & the Arts Office
How has Marikina grown in tourism and industry?
Aside from our shoes, Marikina is also becoming known for our food. Aside from the usual food we have, several restaurant concepts are cropping up and I think that they’re succeeding. A lot of people are seeing the potential in the market, and they’re trying to set up small businesses here.
Any exciting new tourist draws?
We’re proud of this hat manufacturer called Lukban Hats. They export their hats in Europe and several parts of the world. Ones that the royal family uses, like the fascinators! They make those. A lot of wives of ambassadors actually like coming here to purchase our shoes and hats.
Is the government doing anything in terms of policy to support the growth of local business here?
Our business permit and licensing offices have a streamlined process in order for it to be easier to get licenses. I think now it’s just a five-step process, and they can get their permits in three days or less. More businessmen would be encouraged to do business here. I think shoe businesses also have tax incentives and tax breaks for the first year. For other industries that supply raw materials, we do work to help make it easier for them to do business here. We’ve also set up a shoe caravan, where we bring Marikina shoe owners to other provinces where they can sell their shoes at a reasonable price.