In an almost forgotten corner of a popular shopping hub in Cubao, Metro Manila, sits a group of shops that seem to exist in a world of their own. This location used to be a popular place to buy shoes in the 70s back when it was called the Marikina Shoe Expo and it was where the top brand shoes made in Marikina (whose workmanship can rival those made in Italy some say) were sold. My mom and dad would take my brother and I there at the start of each school year when we were kids to get our school shoes and to pick up a few pairs for themselves as well. It was THE place to get bespoke footwear and leatherwear at that time.
I had all but thought that this section of Cubao had been torn down when the spanking new malls around it were built in the mid-80s and 90s. I would pass it now and then on my way to work and all I could see that was left of it were a few shops with almost nothing in their windows – the bespoke, handcrafted shoes and bags were gone, their day in the sun usurped by mass produced faux leather shoes imported from China, Taiwan and Korea.
In recent years though this place has experienced a rebirth, transforming itself from the rickety, seedy-looking place it had become to a vibrant, fun shopping mecca for lovers of handmade and vintage. Now known as Cubao-eXpo, the former shops now house a quirky assortment of art galleries, restaurants, vintage and antique shops, shops selling holistic products, shops selling old, rare books, one of a kind handmade wearable art, repurposed furniture, handmade jewelry and clothes by upcoming designers. This non-descript row of shops is frequented by artists, fashion designers, interior decorators and even movie stars to get first dibs on quality handmade and one of a kind apparel and hard to find vintage items.
I could spend hours just going from shop to shop. But of course, the shoe lover that I am I quickly spied this little shop called Beadlady that sold handmade, handpainted shoes! There was a whole rack of them and you can even ask the artist to customize a pair for you.
This pair with the peacocks on them are my favourite
There was a whole wall of handpainted wooden bangles in this shop as well – I’m loving the ones in shades of blue -
And even handpainted canvass totes. To one corner of the photo below you can see a rack displaying handmade earrings
And don’t you just love this little shopfront display?
I picked up my first batch of polymer clay from this store. I honestly don’t know what to do with it yet, but it will certainly be a topic for a blog post soon I’m sure.
Then it was time to go troll the vintage shops.
I found old glassware
Old books and vinyl records -
Wouldn’t it be cool to get this large, red coin-operated phone rewired so it can function as a phone again? And do you see that little sewing machine in the background? The shopowner said it can actually sew small items. Such a pity I can't sew!
Of course, I would never pass up taking a peek at the latest treasure trove of vintage jewelry –
I am loving that pearl brooch! And that blue enameled daisy pin. And oh – look at that lovely bouquet with the pink rhinestones, I want that too. Okay – maybe I should just carry the entire case out the shop door. LOL.
And then my daughter spied this pair of dolls. It was the day after the big Japan quake and seeing them up on the shelf made me think of all the little Japanese children and their families who were affected by this terrible tragedy.
Definitely not the end of this post. There’s a part two coming where I will show you the art gallery, the place that still makes bespoke shoes (my son’s school shoes are made there – just following tradition I guess) and the inside of a lovely Italian restaurant owned by a retired Italian paparazzi (for real!).
In the meantime, I’ll leave you with this photo of Danica, my daughter’s friend, taken while the two of them were browsing in one of the shops that sold all sorts of curiosities from all over the world. I think this photo says it all about the quirky, happy, free spirited vibe of this place.