Starting out, I was not really interested in shoes but as our second semester in UST came to a close, my batchmates and I had to rush into finding a company to start our internship in. While plenty of my peers sought out a program in events management, commercial design and furniture manufacturing, eight of us found ourselves in a virtual interview with a unique shoe shop in Marikina City.
As usual, friends tend to pull each other together to ride the same boat, I was not an exemption. A good friend convinced me to apply for Zapateria, a quaint studio that seemed a little different from the rest. I had my fair share of exploring the shoe industry during our school project wherein we had to produce our own shoe and bag design with a local manufacturer. This was when I first heard about Zapateria. I must admit that I was reluctant at first as I was not confident enough to express my utmost willingness to be part of a shoe business and all the more to make shoes. When push comes to shove though, time was running out and we had over 200 hours to fill in.
Honestly, my passion and motivation is drawn from my love for cars. Aspiring that someday I can become a car designer and eventually contribute to reviving the local automotive industry; which is somehow similar to the growth of the Marikina shoe industry today. This little piece of purpose drove me to fulfill my application to Zapateria; that perhaps, with this experience, I can apply my passion for cars to shoes and somehow find a spark.
Things did not start out as smoothly as I had hoped. With eight of us mostly being unacquainted aside from being coursemates, I was still a self-doubting introvert who felt as though he had to tick boxes. I was not very fond of the welcoming tasks which were designed to gauge our current capabilities as I found myself comparing my work against my peers. But there were so many innovative and creative things moving all at the same time that it was overwhelming in the most positive sense, bringing us closer than we expected. Slow and steady was the name of the game until we were given a challenge that piqued my interest: 3D modeling. Being assigned with friends helped me embrace the task at hand. With the guidance of the team it was proved that, well, I can do the work. I can deliver the tasks efficiently and effectively. Pretty much exceeding my own expectations and drawing admiration from my now closer friends.
Beyond the sense of accomplishment though, what I found most remarkable about the experience was how working with this team felt like. Everyone, from the admin team to the artisans, even to the bosses, treated the hub as though it was their home. Well, literally the office did start off as a house, but now it is like a homely playground for people like us.
A sense of collaboration is definitely present within the workplace, and the fun part lies on how the collaborative nature has always been there. The communication, the chemistry between the artisans and the management team, and how they treat each other became the motivating stone for the team to immediately feel in love or feel at home with working in the company. Somehow, despite being from different backgrounds and not being related to one another, everyone who works there connects so well with each other.
When it comes to crafting, the working synergy they have was spectacular. Witnessing how a pair of shoes can be brought to life from one step to another, from one person to another; it shows how shoemaking is not a one-man job but an artful process made by a family, giving the shoes more soul and making it all the more special. Undeniably, errors do occur as it would, high energies will mute itself and a shift of mood can be felt by most; but resolution is always a team effort. With a sigh, we rely on each other’s strengths and learn to move forward together.
There are no barriers nor any bounds that exist within. Even on our end as interns, we were never treated as though we were outsiders or temporary fixtures at the hub that were there to help out and leave once the hours ran out. This resulted in having a work environment that many in the corporate world would wish for; stepping into the office with a smile on your face, sometimes felt as though I did not want to go home and finding overtime work rewarding (although the admin did not find it necessary for us to go overtime Haha!).
As I personally grew more attached to Zapateria, I began to share the same feeling with the rest of my colleagues: the feeling of strong belongingness. It can be said the company’s objective to be a creative hub is more than just achieved, but elevated. The ambience and the synergy proves it as it encourages you to imagine, to see yourself, to feel comfortable, and to be as creative as you can be; not just in shoes, but in life. It even came to a point where it inspired us to dream, and to dream beyond what we thought we could before.
I was not expecting such to happen, which for me as an introvert was heartwarming. There was a time that I worked really hard on a deliverable and once I presented it, the boss herself paid me a joyous compliment; and in that moment I knew that the spark was ignited and that I have truly embraced the things I do here. From small assignments that I committed to in utmost comfort, to grueling tasks that got my hands dirty, I found each and every one of them vital to my learning. Seeing them all at the peak of this experience reveals a bigger picture; the distance of which I have grown from and the skills I never knew I can bring out of my own toolkit. Overall, this strengthened my thought that “I can apply my passion in cars to everything” because when you are passionate about something, you can do anything.
As we close the final chapter of our internship, we bid adieu to the family that adopted eight energetic kids (who started out as strangers to now a self proclaimed “ZapaKicks” club), and made them feel so much at home, even for just a while. To sum up the equation of me plus Zapateria, it resulted in a bigger number for me. Discovering more of who I am and what I can do; I leave this place with my head held high, assured, and confident to imagine the kind of person I can continue to become.