TEXT & PHOTO: Kaycie Gayle
Marikina is a calm rural town on the outskirts of Manila. It is better known in the Philippines as the nation’s shoe capital, being shoe-making was the main industry that dates back hundreds of years ago. It was famous for producing locally-made footwear with world-class quality at a very affordable price. However, those days are now only a memory as there is much abundance of imported brands available in the country hence overruling the shoe market.
In Marikina Valley found a well-preserved house that is constructed in 1780 thus originating during the Philippines’ Spanish colonial period. It is the birthplace and house of Don Laureano Guevarra who is better known as Kapitan Moy for serving as a capitan municipal in the former municipality. He is popularly recognized as the Pioneer of the Shoe-making Industry in Marikina.
Long before the Spaniards came, some Marikenos were already engaged in the limited production of slippers and “bakya” or wooden clogs. During that time, only the Chinese cobblers located in Manila were engaged in shoe manufacture and repair. Kapitan Moy back then was also already involved in the manufacture of this kind of footwear on the ground floor of his house, however, his production soon shifted to shoes after having a mundane problem. His imported shoes had broke and tried to fix it for not wanting to go to Manila. He studied the shoes construction and components. and allegedly went to Escolta to observed how the Chinese cobblers worked the leather. Kapitan Moy disassemble the shoes to see how the intricacies fit together and studied its structure. His materials like the shoe lasts were provided by Tiburcio “Busyong” Eustaquio, a wooden clog maker to help him discover how shoes were made, meanwhile, the tools he used were borrowed from blacksmiths in the area. Together with some local residents, he discovered the proper method of making footwear. After various attempts at experimenting, he finally produced his first pair of shoes in 1887 in what is known now as the Kapitan Moy Building. He was determined to make shoemaking as a source of livelihood in the town hence he taught it among locals. Ergo, the basement of his house became the first training school for Philippine shoemakers. Eventually, Kapitan Moy employed the locals during the non-harvest season which has inspired the residents of the town to embark on the new industry. Soon enough almost every house in Marikina had a shoemaker’s workshop in its backyard or basement where you will find a table occupied by a member of a family busy handcrafting shoes. This legacy becomes the industry that supported the livelihood of the town for a couple of decades.
Kapitan Moy’s ancestral house served as a first shoe factory of Marikina in 1887. Later was used for a variety of purposes over the years. From a shoe house, Doña Teresa dela Paz bought the house and used it as a shelter home for the town’s homeless. When the Americans occupied the Philippines, it has served as an American tribunal. In 1907-1955 it was transformed into a school. During the Japanese occupation from 1942 to 1945, it became the Japanese Imperial Army’s headquarters. However, in 1968, it was declared as a national shrine. Eventually, the local government of Marikina bought the property and converted the house into a mixed-use development. In 1993 Kapitan Moy ancestral house becomes the central culture of Marikina City.
Tracing back history
This preserved Filipino-Spanish house and architecture is normally called Bahay na Bato. The structure has a hip roof and a post and lintel construction. Its base is made up of adobe stone bricks which keep the lower part very cool. It has thick and heavy walls on the first floor of the house and its upper story is wooden and has many big windows made of capiz for proper ventilation. It also has several sturdy staircases with balustrades and high big doors. The original features of this house like the bricks, trusses, big wooden doors on the ground floor, planks that make up the upper floor, and wooden steps of the staircase were maintained.
The upper floor which used to be the dwelling area has been cleared completely to serve as an events venue. It has a wide space and its natural lighting during daytime and airy ambiance comes from its large windows in almost every corner. The ground floor which used to be a storage area became a makeshift shoe factory. Presently it is occupied by a restaurant named Café Kapitan where the old well of the house is located and now serving as a décor. The other side is as well a space reserved for special dining events.
An open urban public space in front of Kapitan Moy house called Plaza Kapitan has also become an essential part of the area where locals stay for bondings and playground for children. However, it may also be rented for different occasions.
Today, this heritage house stands as a venerated landmark. It is an edifice that links us to the past that guides us to trace back a part of history that shaped the culture and industry of its city.
Kapitan Moy Building is located at 323 J. P. Rizal St. Sta.Elena, Marikina City, Philippines.
Acknowledgments to Wikipedia.