One Generation to Another: How the 135 Year-Old Family Heritage of Zapateria Paved the Way for the Future of Filipino Shoes

Marikina City --- Just before stepping into 2023, the folks at the studio were eager to cap the year off with a meaningful activity, keeping busy on a very important project: the restoration of Zapateria’s archive collection. The collection consists of a variety of different designs by our founders from way back during the 1960’s to the 1990’s. These pairs have been a hub staple since we opened, serving as historical showpieces for guests to admire. Remarkably in shape despite the decades of wear and tear (most are even washed out by Typhoon Ketsana and Vamco), the creations seem to preserve the memories of not only the fashion and lifestyle of so long ago, but also the journey of our founding family that inspired the mission Zapateria is committed to today.

Zapateria Archive Shoes
Zapateria: Founders’ Design Archives

 

Zapateria is founded upon a 135-year legacy of craft, just as the Marikina’s shoe industry began in 1887. With five generations of shoemaking entrepreneurs scaling the tenure of the Philippine Shoe Capital, making a significant mark was inevitable.  Although some may be amazed to learn that our love for shoes was actually sparked by a love story.

A journey to Marikina

Early in the 1880’s, a Chinese mestizo bowl peddler named Anastacio “Tasyo” Litquiatco found his trade route passing through Marikina (then a municipality of Rizal) where he fell in love with a charming college girl, Martha “Matang” Pasco. A match-made becoming the talk of the town, Tasyo swore to provide for his now growing family.

His shoemaking journey began just as the Father of the Philippine Shoe Industry, Don Laureano “Kapitan Moy” Guevara and his friends, started to tinker with learning the craft. Wishing to complete the first pair of handcrafted shoes in Marikina, Kapitan Moy seeked assistance from his peers to find a possible link to the Chinese shoemakers of Manila, his wife kindly referred to Tasyo. With the rest of the Kapitan’s group, they journeyed to Escolta to see how shoes are made. 

Zapateria Marikina History
Zapateria: Tasyo Sta. Ana’s Tax Certificate

Furthermore, once being able to finish the first pair gifted to parishioner and notable historical figure Fr. Jose Zamora, Tasyo started trading goods abroad in exchange for shoe lasts to supply the emerging creative industry. By 1890, Tasyo carried the last name “Sta. Ana” from a Filipino general from Pasig, a good friend and mentor during his stay in the Philippines. Later on, he was granted a certificate from the Marikina municipality awarding his contribution as one of the highest tax payers of the community. 

A passion passed on

Zapateria Sta. Ana Family
Zapateria: Tasyo's Son and his Family

With a new found love in life and for footwear, Tasyo committed himself and his family to live life proudly as Filipino craftsmen. Dedicating time and resources to foster the thriving industry with the help of his children. In the past 135 years, the legacy of Tasyo was passed on to four more generations; continuing the heritage as the industry evolved. His son Francisco  “Kiko” Sta. Ana became a figurehead of the industrialization of the community with his manufacturing company, Sta. Ana and Sons Co. (SASCO) and his ownership of “Marikit na Shoe Store” that focused on high fashion footwear designs. His son Fransisco, Jr. or Pakit later started his own company with his wife called “Ettakit” and pursued a political career. 

Zapateria: Left - Francisco Sta. Ana, Right - Leonor and Jose Sta. Ana

The first born of Kiko, Jose or “Pepe” along with his entrepreneurial wife, Leonor, became industry leaders as Marikina became the Philippine Shoe Capital in 1956, taking leadership of SASCO and founded the Philippine Shoe Company (PHISCO) being some of the first Filipino shoe companies to export to the United States with brands such as JEM Brothers and Jemellee. He was also part of the founding board of the Philippine Shoe Trade Fair. 

Zapateria History Philippine Shoe Capital
Zapateria: The Philippine Magazine Issue of March 1969

From the lineage also came a talented designer and shoemaker, Rico Sta. Ana, son of Jose of which he trained to be a knowledgeable shoe last sculptor. Starting his career as a shoe shine boy at his father’s factory, Rico grew to become a Master Sapatero and was dubbed as Marikina’s Youngest Shoe Designer.

Zapateria Marikina Designer Shoes

Zapateria: 1st Philippine Shoe Trade Fair Magazine

 He continued his family legacy with a pinch of eccentricity, founding his own footwear brand “Josanna” with his sister Rosario and designing for his wife Mercy’s “Ultimate Shoe Art” sandal company. Later in life, he designed for other notable brands such as Gibson, OTTO Shoes, Antonio Manila, and many more. 

Going beyond with a chosen family

In 2015, Rico unfortunately got into a near-fatal motor accident that almost capped the world of shoes for the Sta. Ana family. This event sparked an epiphany for his technopreneur daughter, Unyx, that beyond her father there will be no one else to continue the longstanding history of footwear from within their bloodline. Infusing the agile and versatile nature of the startup tech scene to the very traditional culture of the industry, she founded Zapateria; a creative playground for aspiring footwear enthusiasts and makers named after what Litquiatco and his sons would call their workshops. Acknowledging the dwindling interest for the shoemaking profession, the hub was set to light a fire among the next generation to appreciate and support the local craft. 


 

Springing from the thought leadership of the duo, almost five years later, Zapateria stands tall today as a haven for creativity and innovation with a community of talented and soulful individuals who despite not sharing the same last name, are proud to bring Filipino craft and creativity to the world. 

Zapateria Young Designers

As we turn the page to another chapter for our humble studio, we celebrate the dedication of those who went before us as they paved the way for many people to fall deeper in love with a craft worth celebrating. While unsung and may sometimes be difficult to source, these stories are happily shared among those who can appreciate the drive of our mission. Hoping to go above and beyond, shoes changed the lives of 5 generations and will continue to make a difference one soulful pair at a time.

This article is made possible through the documentation efforts of the author along with topic researcher, Bia Villanueva. Special thanks to Prof. Concepcion Lagos and the local city library of Marikina for the added resources.