Tuesday, June 06, 2006


First settled by Agustinian friars in 1630, this quaint little suburb located around 21 kilometers northeast of Manila has been the center of Philippine footwear for the last century and a fetish of mine as of late. Once an veritable environmental catastrophe teeming with crime and garbage dumps, Marikina has seen itself rise up into a towering testament that paradigm shifts can happen in the third world underneath enlightened leadership. In this case, the dynasty of former mayor Bayani Fernando and his wife, current Mayor Marides Fernando (center photo below).
In the past few weeks, I have visited the area over three times and each time has been a wonderful experience. And I find the place enthralling NOT because of the city's splashy tourist sites (lord knows there are bigger brassier tourist sites elsewhere in the country), but because of it's sheer functionality and civility. It's amazing how something as simple as a well swept street, healthy looking citizens, and a clean river can be such a draw for tourism. It's proof that God is in the details and that our government should really first work on the basics (i.e. proper waste disposal, crime prevention, proper family planning and family health care, traffic management, etc.) before even beginning to think about tourism development.

Upon arrival at the Marikina church plaza (top photo), the differences between Marikina and her uphill Metro Manila counterparts are more than apparent. The plaza is clean, the jeepneys are organized, and there are no vagrants anywhere (not that I don't like vagrants, I just don't like them in tourist spots). The children do not run around without pants and there are no men poking their pork bloated bellies in your face in street corners either (apparently, it's against the law for men to go shirtless). The place doesn't feel dense and decrepit and most plantings by the roadside are alive (Gotta give it to Bayani, he does keep a mean garden). And although pink isn't exactly my favorite color, the ubiquitous rose colored traffic signage is effective in keeping law and order on the streets of the city.
Now, granted that the place is still wanting in terms of tourist attractions per se; Marikina only boasts of two museums: the fabulous Imelda Marcos shoe museum (above) and a doll collection done by my mother's sister, Patis (really, they are lovely dolls but I've seen them more times than I would have cared to when they were in her house). But nevertheless, the city is not without it's charms and they are trying to create an environment conducive to tourism. And I have to say, the town does not have to try to hard at all. Marikina still boasts of well-preserved traditional Filipino bahay-na-bato architecture (second and third photo from the top), a lovely riverside promenade/park (perfect for strolling), and a newly inaugurated covered Market center. It truly bodes well for any tourist looking for an alternative activity to do on a weekend afternoon.

I mean really, I love the place. Where else can you buy shoes, walk by a river, visit Cinderella's castle, and photograph Snow white in a cage all in one afternoon?

I plan to do an experimental tour of Marikina in early July. I plan to use the MRT and jeepney to get around. Anybody out there have any ideas where else I could visit aside from the usual listed on their website?