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Marikina shoemakers and retailers talk about their city and their SM

Elpidio Josef Valentino, Nelson Valentino’s father, was a shoemaker before he engaged in shoe manufacturing. One of his aunts, who owned a small shoe shop, transferred her business to him in 1932. In 1973, Valentino Shoes, Inc. was registered as a 100-percent Filipino family-owned corporation, and Nelson Valentino took over the management in 2010 after the death of his brother Danilo. Valentino shoes have been known for years for their craftsmanship and durability, and today, 35 percent of its production is for military shoes, 25 percent for safety shoes, and 35 percent for dress and casual shoes.

MANILA, Philippines - It is said that Marikina’s first pair of shoes was produced 1887 in the home of Don Laureano Guevara. Known as Kapitan Moy and the Father of the Shoe Industry, he bought himself a pair of imported shoes during one of his trips to Manila, and asked his workers to duplicate this. Don Laureano saw to it that other Marikineños were immediately taught this new skill, which he envisioned to be a form of livelihood for the town he loved.

By 1935, Marikina had 139 shops producing 260,078 pairs of ladies’ shoes and 86,692 pairs of men’s shoes worth P762,896. During this time, about 2,450 Marikineños were working in the shoe industry either as shoemakers or upper makers.

In 1956, Marikina was named the Shoe Capital of the Philippines. Glory years followed in the 1970s and 1980s, when Marikina was the biggest manufacturer of quality shoes in the country, and made inroads abroad when its shoes and handbags made of snakeskin were the rave on Fifth Avenue in New York.

Although recent years and the onset of globalization have been challenging for Marikina’s shoe industry, it continues to be a source of pride for Filipinos, as the city’s shoemakers and retailers cope with the changing times. Here, Nelson Valentino of Valentino Shoes, Gilda Salonga of Le Donne, Erlinda Salonga Pastoral of Ohrelle, and Anita Salonga of Milani bring us on a shoebiz tour of their Marikina and their SM, which significantly started its business as a shoe store.

Erlinda Salonga-Pastoral of Ohrelle, Gilda Salonga of Le Donne and Anita Salonga of Milani share the beginnings of their business. They are shown at Marikina’s Shoe Museum, which was conceptualized in 1998 under then Mayor Bayani Fernando, and opened in February 16, 2001. The museum, which has exhibits of shoes of famous people and footwear from other nations, also has dioramas of shoemaking and other insightful materials about Marikina’s shoe industry. The Shoe Museum is a tribute to Marikina’s footwear industry and the Marikineño’s hard work, innovation, passion, and entrepreneurial spirit.

“Our shoes are competitive with global brands in terms of craftsmanship and durability. We give our best to each pair we manufacture.”

“Our family has been in the shoe business since 1932. My father, Elpidio Josef Valentino, was a shoemaker, and my mother, a patternmaker. When we were young, I would remember helping our parents with the finishing touches like applying paste to the heel sole and putting on the shoestrings. I then took my high school in FEU in Manila, and would come home during weekends, and deliver shoes to Shoemart and other stores on Saturday.”

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Anita: “During the textile ban in 1967, my father-in-law Benjamin Salonga Sr. suggested that the family diversify into another business. We visited Marikina with our late uncle, David Salonga, and he introduced us to the best suppliers in the shoe capital of the Philippines.”

Erlinda: We started the business in 1968 because imported goods were limited at that time and I had a hard time looking for a good pair of shoes. Instead of buying expensive brands from abroad, we thought of designing our own shoes, collaborating with the shoemakers of Marikina to manufacture innovative pairs. That’s how Ohrelle started.”

Gilda: “When we entered the business in 1970, Marikina shoes were gaining international recognition for their craftsmanship. The most popular were the snakeskin and lizard skin designs. Filipino women were becoming more fashion-conscious at that time, and that inspired us to start a shoe retail business.”

“Marikina shoemakers are expert craftsmen and artisans and have passed on their knowledge of shoemaking for generations.”

“Milani remains one of the advocates of the Buy Filipino campaign. From the time we opened our first store in 1968, we have always had strong faith in the handcrafted skill and expertise of the Marikina shoemakers. It is an artful craft to assemble a simple pair with the care and patience invested in it. No one can question the quality and durability of handmade shoes.”

“Marikina has benefited from the success of SM, which started its business over 50 years ago with shoes. Over the years, SM has offered quality shoes manufactured by Marikina shoemakers, and this business relationship has increased the employment rate of the city and has given entrepreneurs a new good start.”

SM City Marikina has brought SM’s shopping, leisure, and entertainment excitement closer to the city.

“The only constant in this world is change, and we’ve kept up with the changing times by being competitive and innovative. We’ve also ventured into other brands like Heelz.Hobo, which is the first and only one in the Philippines that focuses on the shoe heel as the focal point. We focus not only on style, but also on handcrafted details. Since most of our shoes come from Marikina, we decided to put our warehouse and distribution center in the city to be closer to our suppliers.”

“We like going to SM because it is a one-stop shop. We like shopping at Surplus, eating noodles and dumplings at Hai, and watching movies at the cinema, especially if there is a Pacquiao boxing match.”

Erlinda: “SM gave us the challenge to innovate all the time and improve our products. They taught us to be professional about our business and how to keep the store updated. When it comes to shopping, SM has it all. You don’t need to go anywhere else.”

Anita: “I am proud to say that I have had the privilege of having dealt with Henry Sy Sr. when SM was not the giant it is today. Back then, we saw all the hard work he put into the business that has since flourished. When SM adopted the “We’ve got it all for you” slogan, the consumer has been able to enjoy the luxury of a wide range of choices, convenience, and most of all, affordability.”

Gilda: “With the presence of SM in different areas in the Philippines, many of us got to know more about fashion, trends, hobbies, and investments. Every time I go malling in SM, I enjoy the ambience, the changes it continuously implements from time to time. It is at par with malls in other countries.”

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