Tech brethren worth their unravelling like to use the phrase “ o p e n - s o u r c e ” ,
which just means publicly accessible code - the building block of all software, or, well, the mediated world. The idea is that you never have to build a new app or software from scratch. You just piece together bits corresponding to different things: 1 a mobile operating system, 2 a web publishing toolkit, 3 a map of city streets, to come up with your own concept.
Which sounded a lot like what happened to us when we tried to come up with our performance slipper, the bayong slipper.
[INT. SIR RENE'S SHOE WORKSHOP. MARIKINA. DAYTIME.]
Karen (creative director): I want a pair that can drag through the mud. A toothy tractor sole.
Sir Rene (gets up, walks over to the sandal store renting space from him next door): Like this?
Prior to this, the team had been trying to get homegrown hiking brand Sandugo’s attention after a particularly inspired field trip to their Masinag branch on Sumulong Highway. There, Karen and Anna got matching Hawser sandals (which Karen still wishes she designed) that they tagged @sandugo_official in their Stories.
But alas, a watched inbox never sings.
A completely legal workaround, thank god, manifested itself. Back at the workshop, Sir Rene clutched the slipper that was not bootleg, exactly, but had the recognizable Sandugo logo stamped all over the bottom of the sole.
Sandugo makes some of their parts available for anyone to assemble, explained the man with a way of making a Banlon-esque shirt look like the real thing, with blue jeans, leather slides and a cigarette. This only encouraged Karen’s conceit of the city as a host and vehicle for her ideas, which were plenty. Once, after reading a lot, she released her burden: I have too much information in my body. Marikina is thus the perfect psychic home for her; a place where she, where anyone, could be released of the stored ideas that haunt them, metabolized as shoe-craft.
Ethnographic artist Nathalie Dagmang, has absorbed quite a bit of this, having grown up in Marikina all her life: visiting the December tiangge by the riverbank, buying school shoes from Otto, crossing the bridge in Tumana.
Photo by Nathalie Dagmang
One time, after a typhoon, she and an uncle came across a dredging operation on a walk along its riverbanks, and among the piles of trash were old personal items. They ended up gathering some of these for her documentation project, Objects from the River, which studied the relationship between the body of water and the community.
Another time, while working on her thesis, Dito sa may Ilog ng Tumana, Nathalie went on yet another walk by the banks, noticed multiple pairs of muddy slippers and piled them up for her exhibition. “When I brought them to the exhibition space, they also made the space smell like the riverside.”
Tumana Bridge is a ten-minute drive from our partner Sir Rene’s workshop just a few barangays over, in Sto. Niño - the same barangay where his father based his practice and started his own small factory. Rene, now 60, a talented pattern maker who translates footwear designs into flat guides so they can be made over and over, came of age collecting bent nails all over the floor and straightening every one of them. “I think my dad was teaching me how to be industrious, and how to save,” he said.
Trained in several places, Rene once applied for a scholarship in Italy—and got in.
After taking his formal education in the Philippines at the National Manpower and Youth Council, a teenage Rene moved to Ancona, a port city on the Adriatic coast that is known for a now-unsettlingly relevant quarantine island. There he learned to craft all things leather: shoes, bags, wallets, even leather jackets.
After finishing the course in 6 months, he was offered an apprenticeship at luxury shoe brand Bruno Magli, but turned it down. “I was super homesick.” It was 1990. He didn’t have a cellphone.
To this day he wonders what it would have been like if he accepted the job. “The best part of my life was when I was in Italy,” he said, “I got to go around Europe. Had a London swing. Had a Switzerland Swing. Every Saturday and Sunday, the school would tour us.”
Longing is what makes us relate to Sir Rene. And it was longing that started the whole shoe biz in Marikina. Story has it that one Kapitan Moy, a community leader with means, bought a pair of imported shoes, pulled it apart with his workers at home and vowed to make his own with the audacity of a startup.
Designers with different values can take the source code - in our case, Marikina’s shoemaking intel, and meanings - and set it to plural intentions:
– For Sandugo’s design team (we hope this finds you well): toughness and adventure.
– For Karen: beauty and movement. She likes to think about how and where the Marikina river flows...
That’s the magic of open source.
Words: Dani Ramos and Anna Canlas | Artwork: Jana Codera | Layout: Zoe Sabandal