When my family moved from Quezon City to Marikina in 1991, it was an immediate need for my parents to find a permanent home, after decades of living in rented homes. Initially the move gave us some apprehension, because Marikina was not as developed as the other cities that comprise the Greater Metro Manila.
When I would go to the Marikina City Hall, I would get depressed with the state the building and how inefficient the operations of the city administration. However in 1992, Bayani Fernando was elected as the city mayor, and he campaigned to change the face of the whole city, with the city hall as a showcase of good governance.
One of the first actions of Mayor Fernando was to build a new city hall extension, then start the renovations to the old building one all the city administrative offices have moved to the new building. The whole project was completed around 1997 to 2001, and the glory of the old City Hall was revealed to the public, spanning to the term of Mayor Marides Fernando.
Constructed in 1969 under Mayor Osmundo De Guzman and Rizal province Governor Isidro Rodriguez Sr., the façade of the City Hall has bas-reliefs that were created by Eugenio Bunuan, who was also the person who created the reliefs on the Quezon City Hall in 1964. Featured on the bas-reliefs are images that pay homage to the Marikina shoe industry, with a large image of Don Laureano Guevarra (aka Kapitan Moy), the founder of the Marikina shoe industry.
To get to the Marikina City Hall, one has to pass through the Freedom Plaza, where there is the Defenders of Bataan and Corregidor Memorial , which was erected in 1982. This was to commemorate the brave Mariqueños who served in World War II, and we part of the forces in Bataan and Corregidor, in 1941, at the start of the Japanese invasion of the Philippines.
At the front of the city hall are two statues, with the first a bust of Mayor Osmundo De Guzman (1960-86), who was the town mayor when the city hall was erected.This bust was sculpted by Peter de Guzman in the 1980s.
Peter Tiamzon de Guzman (born 1962) is a prolific sculptor, who took his formal studies at the University of the Philippines, College of Fine Arts. De Guzman has represented the Philippines in various exhibitions, grants and symposiums on art abroad; including the 1984 3rd Sculpture Symposium and organizers Meeting (ASEAN) and the Universitas Sebelas Maret (1988) in Jakarta, Indonesia. De Guzman was honored the Thirteen Artists Award by the CCP (1988) and Outstanding Marikenyo in Visual Arts (2011).
At the other side of the building is a statue of Dr. Jose Rizal, the Philippine National Hero. Written on the plaque is a quote from Dr. Rizal’s novel, Noli Me Tangere (1887):
“Mamamatay akong di man nakita ang maningning na pagbubukang-liwayway sa aking inang bayan! Kayong makakikita, batiin ninyo siya—at huwag kakalimutan ang mga nalugmok sa dilim ng gabi!”
“I will die mot seeing the glimmering dawn over my motherland! You will who will witness this, and greet this new day – and never forget those who have fallen in the darkness of the night!”
At the entryway of the Marikina City Hall are the portraits of the mayors and town presidents (as they were called during the Spanish colonial era, 1571-1898), done by Luisito Villanueva (born 1941), between 2002 and 2003.
Aside from the 18 painted portraits, there a two photograph portraits of the last and present mayors.
Luisito “Chito” Katindig Villanueva (born 1938) is a classicisist painter, known for his portraits of noted businessmen and government officials. Born in the coastal town of Navotas, Villanueva started his art career by drawing the seascapes and fish markets of his hometown, after World War II. Villanueva would later enroll at the University of Santo Tomas (UST) College of Architecture and Fine Arts, but had to drop out due to financial constraints. Leaving school, he continued to hone his skills and produce art, and even joined several art organizations, such as the Dimasalang Group of Romulo Galicano and Sining Tambobong of Angel Cacnio. Villanueva even opened a studio at the Grand Central Mall, in Caloocan, where he exhibited his works and gave art workshops to the next generation of artists in the towns of Navotas, Caloocan, Malabon, and Valenzuela. He is currently active in promoting the arts in his hometown, and is an active member of the Navotas Historical Commission. Villanueva career as a portrait artist has had him busy with many public art pieces, including the portraits of many city mayors throughout the country; and being in such demand, he was only able to conduct his first solo exhibition in 2008.
Inside, all the offices have glass walls, to illustrate the transparency of government operations. During my December visit, there was an exhibit of the Evolution of Shoes, as part of the yearly Marikina Shoe Festival. Part of the exhibition was a gigantic pair of ladies shoes by the designer Brian Tenorio, who has been actively promotion the local shoe and coffee industries.
At the rear of the Marikina City Hall is the flagpole grounds, where the city employees gather every morning for the flag ceremony. And behind the flagpole is the Hall of Mayors, with busts of each town mayor since the Spanish colonial era. The city officials portrayed are listed as from left to right, and top to bottom:
1861 Claudio Cruz
1889 Vivencio Cruz
1893-94 Remigio Victorino
1895-96 1and 1904-05 Domingo Victoriano
1900-03 Vicente Gomez
1908-09 Ceferino Legazpi
1910-11 Isabello Mendoza
1912-18 Catalino Cruz
1926-28 Jesus Villalon
1929-37 Wenceslao Dela Paz
1938-45 and 1952-55 Juan Chanyungco
1945 Enrique Dela Paz
1946-51 and 1956-59 Gil E. Fernando
1960-86 Osmundo De Guzman
1986 Teofisto Santos
1986-92 Rodolfo Valentino
1992-2001 Bayani Fernando
2001-10 Ma. Lourdes C. Fernando
These busts were designed by Eli Fungo, of the Marikina Parks Development Office.
The monumental work of uplifting government services in Marikina City has been reflected in the development of its buildings and public spaces, as well as the investment in public art. The present administration of the Mayor Del de Guzman has continued this legacy of a revitalized city.