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‘Tsinelas’: Liliw, Laguna’s pride
Source: Manila Bulletin
Author: Jhi D. Gopez
Date: 2004-06-24
LILIW, Laguna – Slippers can never go out of fashion, whatever season it is. One can find the some of the nicest collection of trendy slippers and shoes, not in the malls but in a small, warm town in Laguna called Liliw, a three-hour drive from Manila.

Surprisingly, although Liliw has been quietly into the footwear industry for almost 50 years now, it was only three years ago when the Liliw Tourism Council made it formal to mark an annual "Liliw Gat Tayaw Tsinelas Festival" for the town. Through the festival, the council hopes to boost local tourism; have a vibrant industry which in return, will help the town improve economically.

The footwear industry in this part of the province is a sought-after attraction especially by local tourists. Liliw is now known as the "Footwear Capital of Laguna" and people all over Metro Manila are going all the way down South to check out the latest designs in slip-ons, sandals and slippers. Thanks to the first festival and all the attention it had then, businessmen and plain customers are mostly returnees going ga-ga over the thriving town of Liliw, especially during summer and Christmas seasons.

At the third "Liliw Gat Tayaw Tsinelas Festival" held recently, store owners admitted that the sales escalated due to the festival. With the help of print media and television, curious travelers troop to Liliw just to see what the town had to offer.

One Filipino-Chinese family who had lunch in the very homey Tayaw Restaurant (there are good restaurants along Gat Tayaw St.) is actually into shoe business themselves. The mother said she read about the "tsinelas" from another broadsheet prior to the event and she was very eager to know how the Liliweńos do it. She wanted to see the factory.

The factories, it turned out, are not as big as people perceived it to be. The footwear stuff is like "home-made" style, as it is just manufactured at the back of each store with only a few people manning the shop.

The Socialite Footwear, one of the pioneers (49 years already), has no more than seven workers, one of them is originally from Bicol. But Vic Camello, president of Liliw Tourism Council, revealed that most of their factory workers came from Marikina, known as the "Shoe Capital of the Philippines".

There’s a slowdown in the footwear business in Marikina, according to Camello. It’s an advantage for them, not because they’re considering of jumping ambitiously into the shoemaking industry, but because they can benefit from the Marikina workers’ expertise.

Technically, they can be on their own without too many complicated instructions. Sometimes, they even suggest designs that appeal to local taste. Store owners and manufacturers don’t have inhouse designers. Most of the latest footwear trends are copied from imported magazines, but this does not mean they can’t create original models.

Camello, who owns Socialite, is dreaming of a patent. "Para sana walang kopyahan sa disenyo (So there will be no copying of designs)," he said. To date, there are around 70 to 80 "tsinelas" stores in Liliw. Most of the buyers are traders and wholesalers all over Metro Manila, who sometimes put their own label to the Liliw products.

What happens to the old stocks, if any? "Meron din kaming hindi nabebenta agad pero konti lang (There are just a few which are not being sold)," Camello said. "Every May 15, Feast of San Isidro, isinasabit namin and mga pares sa mga bahay-bahay na parang dekorasyon, sabay pinamimigay na lang (we use it to decorate our houses then it will be given away)."

Some of the most trendy, modern-looking shops are Entrada, Jeanette, Progressive Footwear, Badong (one of the oldest), Princess Lily Footwear, Jencah’s, and Banhai (low-priced and fast-selling).

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