Celebrating its 388th Founding Anniversary this year, Marikina is rich with culture and traditions that the entire Philippines and the world must know about.
The city is known as the Shoe Capital of the Philippines because it was here where the first pair of shoes was designed and made in 1887, ushering in the birth of the shoe industry in the country. Marikina also boasts of its own food such as Everlasting, and has its own folk dances namely Lerion and Balse Marikina, both becoming popular, thanks to the remarkable performances of the Marikina Dance Guild.
Marikina is only one of the two cities in Metro Manila that has its own folk dances, says Elenita Cruz, founder and artistic director of the Marikina Dance Guild.
Marikina Dance Guild serves as the ambassador of Marikina in introducing the city’s culture and history through dance to Filipinos throughout the country. Though when it was organized 20 years ago, its main aim was to promote Philippine culture as represented by Marikina.
“Our primary goal is really to promote Philippine culture. Pero ngayon nag-evolve na rin iyon. It’s no longer just Philippine culture. Ang malaking hamon sa amin is how to promote Marikina culture. Even iyong mga practices, traditions, food, kasama iyon na dapat ma-depict at ma-present through dance,” Elenita says.
Introducing Marikina’s culture and traditions through dance and promoting its own folk dances are part of the programs of Mayor Marcy Teodoro.
“Iyan ang thrust ni Mayor Marcy ngayon – to promote the two Marikina folk dances and to teach them in schools,” she says.
Marikina Fiesta Tradition
To showcase Marikina's traditions, one of their dance performances incorporates the fiesta celebration in Marikina.
“Pinapakita namin ano ang fiesta ng Marikina. How do we celebrate the fiesta in Marikina? May mga pabitin, may mga palaro. But also we give out some Marikina food to the audience while we are performing,” she says. “That way, the audience can also taste and not just see and hear the way we celebrate fiesta.”
The guild also highlights Lutrina, another custom in Marikina that entails the procession of mini carrozas by children, usually done in April and May.
“We brought Lutrina de Marikina last year to CCP (Cultural Center of the Philippines) and did the Balse Marikina after that,” Elenita says.
Balse Marikina and Lerion are two popular folk dances of Marikina created by the late Dona Simeona Chanyungco, a recognized Marikina artist in the field of dance and hailed as one of the 13 outstanding individuals by Marikina City in December 2011 for her contributions in enriching Marikina's culture through dance.
Marikina Dance Guild was formed in 1998 under the helm of then Mayor Bayani Fernando, who invigorated the city’s culture and the arts scene. He named Kapitan Moy, the former residence of Don Laureano "Kapitan Moy" Guevara, as Sentrong Pangkultura ng Marikina. Kapitan Moy is known as the Father of the Shoe Industry of the Philippines.
There were 40 original members of the dance guild, mostly teachers and educators. As a guild, it has linkages with other dance groups in Marikina such as the dance troupe in the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Marikina (PLMar), whose members are also trained by the Marikina Dance Guild and who sometimes perform with the guild.
At present, the guild has 24 active members, mostly students from Marikina. It also works and collaborates with the the Marikina Cultural Group. Aside from folk dances, the guild also performs dance theatre, modern ballet, jazz street and other alternative contemporary forms of dance.
How does the guild find new talents?
“May mga summer workshops kami. Doon kami nakakakuha ng mga members na mga bata, mga estudyante. Basta taga-Marikina ka kahit saan ka nag-aaraal, pwede kang sumali,” says Elenita.
However, joining the Marikina Dance Guild is not that easy. Aside from the auditions and the necessary dancing and performing skills, the members must also possess and practice Filipino values all the time.
“Very choosy kami sa pagpili ng members. Mahalaga sa amin not only the skills but also the Filipino values. Trustworthy, committed at dapat malaki ang pagpapahalaga sa Filipino culture,” Elenita says.
Guided by its strong adherence to Filipino values, the guild has performed in almost every part of the country. The guild performs either on its own or as part of a group of dancers from Marikina belonging to different dance troupes such as the one from PLMAR composed of students and from the Department of Education composed of teachers.
“In May this year, we won the National Folk Dance Competition in Antique. It was not just the Marikina Dance Guild. We joined other groups who were under the Philippine Folk Dance Society, Marikina Chapter. Three years ago, we won First Runner Up for the same competition that was held in Vigan,” Elenita says.
The guild has also performed in important international events and gatherings such as the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) and the APEC (Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation ) Summits. Celebrations in Marikina -- such as the Cityhood Festival, the Ka-Angkan Festival -- are not complete without a dance or two from the guild.
No to Competitions
But the Marikina Dance Guild on its own is not keen in joining and winning competitions, Elenita explains, since its thrust is really to promote Marikina culture.
"The guild alone does not compete. Hindi ako naniniwala sa competition. The guild has a bigger purpose, promoting Philippine and Marikina culture. When you compete, nagkakaroon ng iringan. So hindi iyon ang objective ng guild," she says. "Pero tumutulong kami sa ibang groups na gustong mag-compete."
Instead of joining competitions, the guild spends its time educating teachers.
As part of Mayor Marcy's thrust to promote Marikina culture and dances, the guild is teaching educators from Marikina's public schools, both elementary and high school, about Lerion and Balse Marikina. The teachers would then teach the folk dances to their students.
Apart from Marikina, it is also helping other dance guilds in the country as part of its outreach program. The guild has been invited by other schools and communities in various parts of the country such as Davao City, the University of Makati and De La Salle Zobel not only to perform but to hold seminars and train their respective dance guilds.
After 20 years, the Marikina Dance Guild has indeed danced a mile in carving its own identity in the field of dance, and in the process has introduced Marikina's culture and traditions to the rest of the country.