Hidden in the different barangays of Marikina City (the smallest Philippine political/community unit) one can spy many establishments that showcase the diverse cultural expressions of the people. Driving down A. Bonifacio Avenue across the Marikina River, and turning a sharp right at J.P. Rizal Avenue, one enters the Poblacion areas of Barangay Santa Elena and San Roque. Barangay Sta. Elena is most noted for Kapitan Moy ancestral home, the Marikina Shoe Museum, and the Parish of Our Lady of the Abandoned.
Aside from those places, there are other notable sites to visit in the area. Such as the Rustic Mornings restaurant, which is a stone’s throw away for the Marikina Shoe Museum. What was once a 1970s architectural designed home, in now converted to a restaurant that serves a mouthwatering fusion of intercontinental and Filipino cuisine, while various creations of local artists and craftsmen are on display throughout the whole compound.
Nearby is also the Marikina Red Cross office, with its emergency equipment always ready to deploy at any hint of danger. And in front of the office is a statue of Mayor Wenceslao C. Dela Paz (1929-37), who was responsible of developing the educational system of Marikina from expanding from basic elementary schooling to collegiate education with the formation of the Marikina Academy in 1933. That school has now become the Roosevelt College.
Hidden beside the Marikina Public Market is the Señor Sto. Niño Hesus de Marikina Parish (The Parish of the Holy Child Jesus, Patron of Marikina) of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (Philippine Independent Church). The Iglesia Filipina Independiente is the first Philippine Christian sect to break away from the Roman Catholic Church in 1902, which is also called the Aglipayan Church as named after its first Supreme Bishop Gregorio Aglipay, and former Catholic priest.
At the opposite end of the barangay is the Teatro Marikina, which was constructed in 2002. It was a project of Mayor Marides Fernando to create a home for the performing arts of Marikina. At the front of the building is a statue of a Banduria Player, create by the local sculptor Juan Sajid Imao in 2001.
Juan Sajid de Leon Imao(born 1971) is the second to the youngest son of Abdulmari Asia Imao (1936-2014), the first Moslem National Artist of the Philippines. Sajid, would go on to take up sculpture at the University of the Philippines (U.P.) College of Fine Arts (CFA), just like his father. Early on in his career, Imao was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa (RP), which would slowly diminish his eyesight. Although this would mean the death of any artist, Sajid took this as a challenge to continue making sculptures. This led to many awards, such as the 2001 Ten Outstanding Young Men (TOYM) award.
Travelling further into J.P. Rizal Avenue one enters Barngay San Roque. The area is still under the diocese of the Parish of Our Lady of the Abandoned, but has a chapel to serve the locals built in the 1960s.
Barangay San Roque is also known for being the hub for the making local delicacies such as puto, kutsinta, and a special meatloaf called “everlasting”.
Moving further down the road, J.P. Rizal Street enters into the town proper of Cainta. Before reaching that border is an Art Deco inspired building which houses the Handog Center for cultural development. The building was once a home that was created in 1953 by the National Artist for Architecture, Leandro Locsin. The Handog Center was established in 2014 by Ligaya Amilbangsa as part of her outreach programs to teach art.
Arch. Leandro Valencia Locsin (1928-1994) is a man of many talents and interests, as evident in his entry to pre-law, then transferring to music and then architecture at the University of Santo Tomas. Early in his career, Locsin was creating theater sets for ballet and musical performances. Throughout his career, Locsin has designed 71 residences, 81 buildings, and 1 state palace; among these are 9 churches and chapels, and 17 government buildings. Best known for his massive, yet very breezy architectural style, Locsin’s most famous works are the Cultural Center of the Philippines, the Folk Arts Theatre, the Philippine International Convention Center, 1976; and the Philippine Plaza Hotel, the National Arts Center at Makiling, Los Baños, Laguna, the terminal of the Manila International Airport, and the Istana Nurul Iman (Palace of Religious Light), the palace of the Sultan of Brunei, which has a total floor area of 200,000 square meters. Locsin has garnered much recognition throughout his career, including the Ten Outstanding Young Men (TOYM) Award for Architecture in 1959, the American Institute of Architects Hawaii Chapter’s Pan-Pacific Citation for consistent excellence in design in 1961, the Rizal Centennial Award for Architecture in 1962, the Republic Cultural Heritage Award in 1970, the Patnubay ng Sining at Kalinangan Award in 1972, and the Gold Medal Award from the Philippine Institute of Architects in 1978, an Honorary Fellow of the American Institute of Architects in 1980, the United Architects of the Philippines’ Likha Award and Gold Medal, and National Artist in Architecture in 1990.
Driving along J.P. Rizal Avenue is a surreal experience, with the past and the present existing side by side. So each time I find myself in Marikina, such as going to the local LTO (Land Transportation Office), I often take a side trip to pass through these barangay and experience that rich heritage.