#ManilaSeries: Uncovering Marikina

I have been to Marikina a couple of times back when I was in college. A faint memory of Marikina, being a peaceful suburb, is the only thing I could remember. Time flies and memories fleet. And sadly, sometimes, unforgiving for all of us. The only way to reminisce it is through revisiting those memories sitting so quietly in the corners of our minds.

Marikina Valley is smashed in between two cities of polar opposites. Pasig is a highly-industrialised city, while Antipolo is a rugged, mountainous terrain. I guess that has made Marikina their love child. Living in between gives Marikina the best of both worlds.

As a 28-year old man who longs to rekindle his buried memories, I decided to have a photowalk to somehow satisfy my craving. But this time, I want to look at Marikina in a different angle, with a fresh pair of eyes, of course. I was young then, and my appreciation level was not as a deep as to what I have this time.

Today, March 29th, a Saturday, I take a train to Cubao. Then I retraced my then “college days trail” to the LRT 2 station located at Gateway Mall. What a surreal scene it is to be here, again. This time, I have no chatters, no laugh-out-loud moments with my classmates. Today is just me, my drowning thoughts of existential questions and my strong wanting to escape that.

I meet a friend at the second floor, where the platform entrance is. With a couple of hundreds in my pocket, I slide a single hundred peso bill into the machine and it drops the longest, most excruciating, change of all time. A total of  eighty-five pesos is now being dropped one-by-one on the change trough. It’s both embarrassing and comical, at the same.

The platform is still how I remember it. The wide canopy that bridges the rails going to the north and south, the gray concrete and the view of the Metro’s horizon. A yearning feeling struck me as I look left and right. I suddenly wonder about my friends from college. Even the people I vaguely remember bumping into way back when I rode this train daily.

The train comes in after a few minutes. There are almost no people in the coach, maybe because it was a Saturday or maybe because 10 am isn’t really it’s peak hour. I alight at Katipunan station, and from here I will take a jeepney ride to Marikina’s city proper.

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Marikina has always been known for their shoe industry, dating back to the late 1880’s. Lately, it has started to be seen as a local food hub, alongside the uproar of hole-in-the-wall type of restaurants all over the Metro. But what I want to really dig into this time is its people. I want immerse myself in their way of living—even just for a day.
The air’s breeze starts to feel cooler as we get closer to Marikina. It’s still hot, but there is an evident shift, or maybe that’s just my imagination.

As soon as the jeepney reached the street after the bridge, I knew that it’s going to be the start of my photowalk. I step down the vehicle, and ask the people around about directions. We deliberately went here with no research, at all. I want to ask people as much as possible, and try to see if they will be entertaining a stranger like me.

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Two shoe repair men easily caught my attention. Though, I am currently shooting an elderly man reading the paper, I kept on looking at them. They are photo-worthy. I start a conversation, pretending I’m a student that has a project on taking photographs of local people in their natural way of living. They buy it. Yes, finally, people are starting to warm up on me.

We walk towards the Sports Center. But our wandering eyes bring us to the public market. It is the most organized market I have seen, so far. It is divided in categories and is almost squeaky clean. Other cities can learn a thing or two from Marikenos, for sure.

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These three candidly asked for photographs. They’re teasing each other about how they’ll be celebrities now that I’m getting their snaps.

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The sports center’s facade against the raging afternoon sun.

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Uncovering Eden - Marikina Public Market


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Hesitantly, I ask people for photos. Amazingly, they trust us right from the get-go. That’s a first. I have been doing this for a long while now, and usually people are skeptical of us—thinking we will use their photos on something illegal. But the people of Marikina is proving me wrong. It is truly refreshing.

After our very sweaty photo encounters, we decided to take a break and buy lunch. Lilac Street is a famed food haven, that even elder locals know. At the Sports Center, we take a jeepney ride and alight at Durawood (which the locals call because of a hardware supply located in front of the street), then we take two separate tricycle rides to reach Forget Me Not Cafe.

Forget Me Not Cafe’s interior is a mix of industrial and faux al fresco vibes. The lighting is heavily complemented by the natural light coming in through the tall windows. We ordered the best sellers in the menu.

Note: I will update this with the blog link for our Forget Me Not Cafe experience.

The cafe lives up to its name, no pun intended. It is really difficult to forget. If I live nearby or within the city, I will frequent this place. That’s how good the food is here. *Maybe the next time I go back to Marikina, I should do a food crawl.*

Upon searching, I saw that The Book Museum, which houses the Guinness World Record for the smallest book, is just a few streets away from where we are. We dare ourselves to walk under the scorching heat, only to find out that the entrance fee costs 300 pesos. It includes a 100 peso-voucher for the James Dean themed cafe. Still, that didn’t entice me to go in. It’s just too expensive for me.

We take a ride back to the city proper to continue our tour. The Shoe Museum is next on our list. It is located near Kapitan Moy‘s ancestral home. The facade is so unique because of the uprooted tree in front of it. The entrance fee is only fifty pesos—way cheaper than our previous stop. Inside is a variety of shoe collections. It also has a section dedicated to the evolution of shoes. On the second level, the museum showcases 252 of Imelda Marcos’ shoes. 252 shoes. Let that slowly sink in.

It’s already 3pm and we need to reach Marikina Riverbank before sundown. We take another jeepney ride to buy us more time.

Inside the Riverbank Mall is the show gallery where the sculpture of a large shoe can be found. And outside is a pathway for riverside. The serenity in the air, the choir practicing in the middle of the amphitheater, kids bike-racing, all of these make Marikina magical. I have not seen such a city in Manila before. It is truly breathtaking to be in the middle of these things spontaneously happening.

This scene makes my heart flutter with so much wonder. Here I am standing near the river, watching people do what they do, and from afar are those tall buildings making this view dynamically the best for photographers like me. I basked in this scenery for God knows how long. I just love witnessing special moments.

My feet are sore and my camera’s memory is starting to run low, denoting my time to leave this super charming city. I wish I have thought of this a long time ago. Marikina has this certain quietness to it, even amidst the bustling city center. I wish every city is like this, but then, Marikina will no longer be a standout if that happens.

Check out more of the images I took on Facebook: #ManilaSeries: Uncovering Marikina

The warmth of the people helped me through the gruelling process of taking photographs. It is not easy to do street photography, but  their willingness to help, made it much lighter. I remember an officer walking towards us, who I thought would reprimand us. But in the end, told us that if we have only said that we were doing it for a project, then they would gladly guide us around the city. How thoughtful of him. That pulled my heartstrings. And made me completely in love with Marikenos. Even the people from the public market were helpful. Those moments, not captured by my camera, were the most memorable out of everything I have taken. Every city needs to have a bit of Marikina in them. That would make every city so liveable.