People wonder why we have a lot of stuff in our house that my father did not want to dispose, especially the shoes.
Papa justified this by saying that while he was growing up, he never had the luxury of owning new ones since both he and my mother came from a family with very modest means.
Long before ukay-ukay became famous, we were already wearing second-hand shoes and clothes, sleeping on beds, sitting on chairs and sofas that Papa bought from the shops in Bangkal, Makati.
He tried to instill in us the value of small blessings.
I again felt my father’s wisdom when I saw artworks made of discarded wooden shoe molds at the Project Hulmahan exhibit in Estancia Mall in Pasig City.
“Project Hulmahan” is an “art-driven, mutual aid fundraising initiative in support of community-based food sovereignty, livelihood, and art programs.”
Zena Bernardo, a colleague from Sandigan Para sa Mag-aaral at Sambayanan of the University of the Philippines (UP SAMASA), narrated that in one of their visit in a small informal settlers community called Isla de Lata, she noticed that some shoe molds were already thrown or were being used as firewood for the community kitchen.
As Bernardo felt sad that the shoemaking tools are going to waste, their group Bayaning Marikenyo at Marikenya (BM+M) then met with shoe manufacturers who were closing shop in Marikina and selling family businesses that have been passed on to them by their grandparents.
They bought more than 500 pairs of shoe molds and developed the idea of turning it into artworks to raise fund for community-based programs. Ladies Who Launch, The Community Kitchen Project (TCKP), and the UP Artists’ Circle Fraternity (AC) were also involved in the endeavor.
“We thought that if we can just find a way to bring back the glory days of the shoe industry in our hometown, one community at a time, while simultaneously doing our community kitchens, we will be serving the name of our organization well,” Bernardo said.
With at least 700 artists nationwide participating, the exhibit proceeds will go to community kitchen, disaster relief, livelihood projects and art workshops.
Visual artist Toym Imao, also from UP SAMASA, said that Project Hulmahan is a community of artists that answers the call to use their art for the benefit of the marginalized and disadvantaged in society.
Imao noted that displaying the artworks, whether by a veteran or neophyte artist, side by side is like a flea market where one scavenges for hidden treasures.
“Those who participated with varying skills in the arts from the novice to the more professional have their works displayed side by side, each as important as the other. Collectively they represent the best of what we can do as creatives if we put our talents and hearts together for a noble pursuit,” Imao said.
Marikina, to many Filipinos, is synonymous with shoes. It was in 1887 when shoemaking started to flourish in Marikina through the efforts of Don Laureano “Kapitan Moy” Guevara, also known as the “Father of the Shoe Industry.”
Kapitan Moy had bought himself a pair of imported shoes during one of his trips to Manila. He used this pair of shoes as an example for his workers to study and duplicate. They dissected its various parts and by trial and error, they learned how to put them back together.
Marikeños were later taught the skills of shoemaking as a source of livelihood in the town aside from the main activities of fishing and farming. The economic growth of Marikina became dynamic due to shoemaking.
It is also the home of the world’s largest pair of shoes certified by the Guinness Book of World Records.
However, trade liberalization has allowed greater entry of imports in the country. The shoe industry has been adversely affected as it suffered losses due mainly to the competition posed by products coming from China, Malaysia, and Vietnam, among others.
At one point the industry was contributing 70 percent to the city’s economy, but this had dwindled to a mere 15 percent in December 2019.
Marikina 2nd district Rep. Stella Quimbo, who is also my classmate from the UP School of Economics, proposed to source additional funding for the local footwear, leather goods, and tannery industry from a portion of the taxes collected from importing footwear products.
Hulmahan artworks also reminded me of “Sandosenang Sapatos”, a 2013 children’s musical at the Cultural Center of the Philippines based on a book by Palanca Awardee Dr. Luis Gatmaitan.
It is about a shoemaker’s love for his physically disabled daughter and his family. He vows to make the best ballerina shoes for her. But his dream gets shattered when they find out that the baby’s feet are not and will not be developed as normal limbs.
Bernardo stressed that each artwork is “a piece of the story of how people rise against all the challenges brought by the pandemic.”
Peyups is the moniker of University of the Philippines. Atty. Dennis R. Gorecho heads the seafarers’ division of the Sapalo Velez Bundang Bulilan law offices. For comments, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 0917-5025808 or 0908-8665786.