As I mentioned in several previous posts, my family transferred to Marikina City in 1991 for my parents to have a permanent home. During those days, Marikina wasn’t so developed, so we had to travel to nearby Quezon City to do our groceries and shopping.
We moved to the area of Barangay Industrial Valley, which was named after the many production plants at the nearby Marikina River side. The main business in the area was the Universal Textile Mills Factory. However by 1991, all the plants shut down and moved to other cities, leaving the whole industrial area a ghost town.
When Bayani Fernando was elected mayor of Marikina in 1992, he envisioned the industrial area as a commercial and tourist hub for Marikina. So in 1999, the Marikina Riverbanks Center opened, with several business and commercial establishments inside the old factories buildings, and a community park with an amphitheater for social and cultural gatherings.
One of the yearly events held at the amphitheater is the Rehiyon-Rehiyon Regional Dance Competition, where cultural dance groups from all over the Philippines compete for a cash prize. In 2003, I participated in the event as the stage manager for the intermission performance of the Alun-Alun Dance Troupe, under Ligaya Amilbangsa.
Part of the commercial center were some restaurants that utilized the old giant broilers from the old factories and the train engine that once traversed the area as their motif.
Around the Riverbanks Center are sculptures by local artists, which feature children at play or a mermaid frolicking with some fish.
The inside of the Marikina Riverbanks Center is a bustling commercial mall, with the Marikina Shoe Gallery featuring the latest design by local shoe manufacturers.
At one end of the Marikina Shoe Gallery is the Guinness Book of World Records’ World’s Largest Pair of Shoes, which was completed in 2002. The team of local spateros (shoe makers) who created this monumental footwear was lead by Arch. Ernesto ‘Bong’ Leaño.
Aside from the Riverbanks Center, Mayor Fernando developed the other parts of the riverside into the Marikina Riverbanks Park.
Starting from below the A. Bonifacio Bridge in Barangay Malanday, the park starts with a few entertain establishments and a Chinese Park. Every-now-and-then, youth groups use the Chinese “pagoda” as a shaded place to practice theatrical performances of rehearse for a dance competition.
Across river from the Chinese Park is the Zonta Club Gazebo, which is a popular hangout for the youth to just relax and even study. The Zonta Club is an international service organization with the mission of advancing the status of women, and their installation of gazebo coincided with the election of Marides Fernando as city mayor of Marikina in 1998.
Walking past the Chinese Park, you will see the 40 foot tall (12.192 meters) statue of a twisted woman by the river. This is Marikit-Na, a symbolism of the feminine personage of the city. The statue was designed and built in 2011 by Arch. Ernesto ‘Bong’ Leaño, to commemorate the death and destruction wrought by the floods brought by the 2009 Typhoon Ondoy (international codename Ketsana), which swept through the city with a 40 ft high flood of water and debris. This statue is also meant to remind the people to be ever vigilant against the forces of nature, and to persevere as they had done and rebuilt their city.
The treat of floods from the nearby Sierra Madres has always boded to the residents of the low-lying Marikina Valley, thus all the bridges over the Marikina River have depth markers, to indicate how much the waters are rising during a storm and warn the people to evacuate.
Moving further south along the riverside, one will enter Barangay Sta. Elena where you encounter the Our Lady of Lourdes Grotto, which was constructed in 1997.
Further on is the Palaruan Batang Lambak (Playground for the Children of Lambak), with a monument to different children’s games. The 1995 concrete sculpture is comprised of several figures of children: at the right side is the image of a boy with his pet dog and fighting rooster, at the front base is a boy kneeling and holding something that has long been removed, at the left side is the image of what is supposed to be two children playing leap-frog (but the figure of child on top has been destroyed), at the back are two children telling stories while a third child seems to be holding something that is long gone, while at the top are two children standing as if they are getting ready to play (while the child on the left is wearing a slingshot around his neck, and missing his right arm). I was saddened that such a beautiful monument was damaged, but I am not sure if it was vandalized or if it was damaged by the raging floods.
Past the playground is the Women’s Park, which was built during the early 2000s. In the park is a concrete statue of what looks like Mayor Marides Fernando or President Corazon Aquino speaking to a young girl, and probably giving her inspiration. Unfortunately the statue is also damaged like those at the Palaruan Batang Lambak.
Part of the Women’s Park is a bronze monument that looks like a flame with a woman at its crest. At the side of the flame are noted Filipina leaders, such as Mayor Marides Fernando and President Corazon Aquino. Entitled “The Filipina Leader Soars High”, this monument was created by the local sculptor, Juan Sajid Imao, in 2004.
Juan Sajid de Leon Imao(born 1972) 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 lead to many awards, such as the 2001 Ten Outstanding Young Men (TOYM) award.
Right after the Women’s Park is the Butiki Park, which is named after the common gecko (butiki).
Across the river from the Riverbanks Center is the latest commercial establishment in Marikina. Real estate giant and mall developer, Henry Sy Sr., has installed his monstrous mall called SM City Marikina, in 2008. As of 2015, there are now 55 SM Malls throughout the country.
Along the banks fronting the SM Cit, is Carabao Trail, which features a whole herd of concrete Carabao (water buffalo). Unfortunately, many of these sculptures have been damaged and used as trash bins by vandals. Still, it is a favorite spot for lovers and friends to have a quite shade away from the city hubbub.
At the southern end of Barangay Industrial Valley is the Sitio Olandes (Holland), which is the residential area for some locals of the lower economic brackets. In the early 2000s, a beautification program was launched to make the place more presentable to passersby. So the houses along the FVR Road (named after President Fidel Ramos) exiting towards Libis, Quezon City, were give a cosmetic cover of facades of Dutch houses.
My parents’ home is on the hillside of Barangay Industrial Valley . The main thoroughfare there is Major Dizon Street, where the Nativity of Our Lady Parish is located. This church is very important to me, because this is when I got married and where my daughter was baptized.
Right in front of the Nativity of Our Lady Parish, a new restaurant opened, named the Mosaic By The Creek Cafe. The place offers mosaic classes, aside from fine dining. Inside the restaurant, there are several sculptures by Virginia Ty-Navarro, on the walls.
Virginia Ty-Navarro (1924-1996) is a sculptor and painter, who studied fine arts at the University of Santo Tomas. Ty-Navarro is most known for her monumental “Our Lady Queen of Peace” at the EDSA Shrine. She was married to the 1999 National Artist Jeremias “Jerry” Elizalde Navarro (1924-1999).
Also along Major Dizon Street is the Create Responsive Infants by Sharing (or CRIBS) Foundation’s Receiving Home for abandoned, abused and neglected children. Started in 1973 by American missionary wives, and incorporated in 1979, the CRIBS Foundation found its permanent home here in Marikina by 1988. When I was an officer of the local homeowners’ association in the area, we would conduct some interactions with the children residing at the CRIBS home, and again years later as I would be assisting my wife who was working on child’s rights advocacies.
With the opening of the Riverbanks Center and the Riverbanks Park, the people of Marikina were once again able to reconnect with the Marikina River, which was once the heart of commerce for the whole region. Despite the efforts of the city government to clean the river and maintain the local ecological balance, some unscrupulous people have released the evasive species of Janitor Fish, which is slowly killing the local aquatic life as they march on to invade other local bodies of water.