Readers react
- Rey Gamboa (The Philippine Star) - December 8, 2017 - 4:00pm

If you have been following this column, we came out with a two-part series on the shoe industry of Marikina, particularly the Black Wing Shoes of Mr. Buddy Tan. I was impressed with the business model of the gentleman and how this can become a model for other Marikina shoe makers as well.

However, the two-part series received quite a response from our readers and I found my inbox full of messages. I am reprinting some of them here:

From Ms. Carmen Sy:

“Good day, I happened to read the column written by Mr. Ray Butch Gamboa under Business & Leisure in Philippine STAR dated Nov. 12, 2017. I agree with story about the decline of Marikina shoe industry in 80’s and 90’s and about the China shoe mass production. I would like to share something. There was one time I happened to talk with a shoemaker. He said his son doesn’t want to continue with his shoe business as he hates the smell of rugby. I think probably the new generation nowadays wants to venture into other businesses. Also, I think our government should give more support and emphasis on this shoe industry. It is a very important livelihood for our people.”

I agree with Ms. Sy that the national government, not just the local government of Marikina should look into the local shoe industry as a potential big export sector. 

This next one is from a lady who requested that her name be withheld for whatever reasons she may have. Her initials are LF and from her long message, she works with Mangyans “not just to encourage entrepreneurship but for the young to continue their traditions, especially writing in their script and composing their poetry.” She is referring to the Hanunuo Mangyan poetry which she considers a “cultural gen that has been kept hidden and thus conserved by the indigenous Mangyan people because of their yen for isolation from the colonized, and later, the modern world. To methaporically express their everyday thoughts and feelings, the Mangyans inscribed their “ambahan” with a knife on living bamboo plants, on bamboo or slats written in their pre-Spanish syllabic script.”

I took the liberty of including the above even if it has nothing to do with the subject at hand because I found it very unique and interesting, to say the least. The lady writer added that these “ambahans” are “chanted at gatherings, with over 20,000 preserved in the Mangyan Heritage Center (MHC) archives in digital audio format with transcription. A complete audio copy is available at the Library of Congress in Washington, DC.” What is doubly interesting is that these “ambahans” have communal authorship, meaning no individual lays claim to them.

Sorry if we have strayed too far from our subject. Here now is the lady writer’s e-mail:

“Thanks so much for your column today! Love your title too.

I avoid buying Chinese products as much as possible and always tell the sales persons it’s my personal protest against the Chinese government, but do add that it’s not the Chinese people I’m angry at, that most Fil. Have Chinese blood like I do.

I buy local as much as possible so am thrilled to read about Black Wing Shoes. Please include Buddy’s contact info next time so many of us can support him soonest.

Pls don’t mention my name should you write about the many positive responses to your column.”

Thank you too for your letter, and may I add, for your extraordinary concern for the Mangyans who have been neglected over so many generations. As promised to you, I am sharing some of your inputs on this indigenous people in this column and hope that it can help link others to your advocacy.

This one is from Kiko Peralta whose family has lived in Marikina all their life:

“Salamat naman at mayroon nagmamalasakit sa pag-sasapatos ng mga taga-Marikina. Sa wakas, siguro may pagbabago naman magyayari dito sa business namin. Kami ang Shoe Capital of the Philippines pero ano ang nangyari? Marami sa amin ang lumikas na sa Manila, ang iba pinagtrabaho na lang ang mga anak sa call center o sales lady sa SM. Ito ang kinatandaan kong trabaho. Sana may kinabukasan pa kami sa gobyernong ito.”

For Mr. Peralta, you may have noticed that there is an extraordinary push for entrepreneurship and export in our country now and the present government is very supportive of this move. The shoe business is one sector that, hopefully, gets the attention it urgently needs.

For E. Mojica-Sison, Norma Patag, EJay M., Irene Enfanta, Marcos Pineda and BRamos who are all asking for the contact details of Black Wing Shoes, here it is: 09279162015, ask for Bryan. They also have a Facebook and Twitter account under Black Wing Shoes.

Shoe-making is an artisanal skill that can be proudly passed on to future generations and this should be the case with our Marikina shoe industry. Black Wing Shoes has a good business model to emulate because clearly, we cannot compete with China’s cheap labor. We also do not have the economy of scale for manufacturing, so we cannot compete price-wise. What we need is to find our own niche in this global industry and this we can have only if we focus on our strengths. The Filipino is known for his artistry. Our furniture makers have proven this in recent years as more discerning clients have come to realize the extraordinary skills and design of our furniture makers and this has injected new life into this dying industry. Artisans command their own price and this can be true for made-to-order shoes as well. Because they are handcrafted, they do not come cheap but there are people willing to pay the price of quality workmanship and this is the niche that we should develop in Marikina. It is very heartening to hear that many foreign buyers are now looking at Black Wing Shoes to produce shoes for them, and this could happen to many other shoemakers in Marikina as well.

Mabuhay!!! Be proud to be a Filipino. For comments & inquiries (email)

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