To discover the heady charms of the sultry Philippine capital, you'll need to navigate the chaos of mototaxi rides and a relentless nightlife scene—and eat a lot of garlic rice
Author Jacqueline Detwiler Photography Francisco Guerrero
Even those who know relatively little about the manufacturing history of the Philippines find it difficult to extricate shoes from the story of Manila. While helping her husband, then President Ferdinand Marcos, bankrupt the poverty-stricken country from 1966 to 1986, Imelda Marcos notoriously amassed a collection of 3,000 pairs, many of which she left behind when she and her husband were ousted from the capital by popular revolution.
The nearby city of Marikina, however, has been famous for footwear since at least the 1880s, when Don Laureano “Kapitan Moy” Guevara began the city’s first shoemaking business in his home. In 1998, the history of Filipino shoemaking, along with nearly 800 pairs of Imelda Marcos’ ill-gotten gains, was incorporated into the Marikina Shoe Museum, housed in a former Spanish arsenal on J.P. Rizal Street. In 2009, a number of Marcos’ shoes were destroyed in a flood, which brought the total down to 765.
Fittingly, when another flood recently damaged boxes of Marcos’ footwear that were stored at the National Museum in Manila, it was Marikina that came to the rescue—offering to restore the shoes and even display them at the shoe museum, which now uses airtight display cases that protect the fabled footwear from water and sunlight, so that they may be enjoyed by all.
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Population (metro area): 11.5 million
Years since Manila was founded: 442
Number of cities in the metro area: 16 (plus one municipality)
Number of islands in the Philippines: 7,107
Average number of passengers a jeepney can hold: 20
Number of bags of cement used to build SM Mall of Asia, the third largest mall in the world: ≈2 million
Pairs of shoes left behind by Imelda Marcos when she fled the country in 1986: 1,220
Rounds in the historic “Thrilla In Manila” boxing match between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier: 14
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PRODUCTION MANAGER/TALENT COORDINATOR, ZALORA.COM
“We have a great indie art and DJ scene in Manila. My friends and I often go to Cubao Expo, a former shoe shopping center that’s now full of galleries and clothing shops, and a cool live music venue called B-Side.”
CO-OWNER, NONI’S RESORT
“In Tagaytay, an hour south of Manila, we have the smallest volcano in the world. It’s a great trip for youngsters because it’s a resort area; there are a lot of hotels and restaurants. You can also go horseback riding or take a zipline tour.”
CHOCOLATIER, SOFITEL PHILIPPINE PLAZA MANILA
“I take inspiration for my work from the beautiful sunset over Manila Bay in front of the Metropolitan Museum—a place I visit regularly to view the latest works of art, and which is right by the hotel.”
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