Flip-Flops, Liliw Style

A trip in the town of Liliw would give flip-flop lovers a fresh view about this new craze. The homegrown, native slippers are hand-made, piece-by-piece, by the town’s oldest and finest-skilled shoemakers.



LILIW, Laguna – Even old-fashioned grandmothers would agree that flip-flops are the latest things in footwear all over the country in the last five years. Mostly rubber-made, their wide range of colors – from black, gray, moss green and maroon to brighter shades of red, pink, yellow, orange, royal blue and neon green – would fit to a wide range of end users – from the street kids and market vendors to students, young professionals or just about anybody who would want to be comfy when traveling, mall-hopping, going to school, office or just taking a walk down the street.

A trip in this town (110 km south of Manila via Sta. Cruz, the province capital of Laguna) though would give flip-flop lovers a fresh view about this new craze. The homegrown, native slippers hand-made, piece-by-piece, by the town’s oldest and finest-skilled shoemakers, are known here by the local name tsinelas.

Exciting designs

Abaca and native beads dominate the designs of footwear products here but there are also imported beads and soles from China, one of the store owners said.

The native accessories come in different striking and trendy colors such as hot pink, neon green, bright yellow and dazzling orange combined with brown and cream, the abaca’s natural color. Straps or the entrada are mostly made of abaca or felt cloth.

The soles are also mostly made of abaca or tikog (woven mat). My most favorite design has a tikog sole and thin abaca straps with coconut shells as accessories.

The designs are originally made by the manufacturers inspired by imported shoes and slippers.


Forty-nine-year-old Renato Capili is a native of Sta. Cruz town, same province. He has been a shoemaker for 28 years here Liliw, a skill he learned from his elders. He is single, he said, and spends most of his time doing different styles of slippers mostly made of native accessories like abaca from Bicol, beads from Divisoria in Manila and ready-made cork soles from Biñan, another town in Laguna 35 kms south of Manila.

On the other hand, Gin Sarmiento, 42, started working as shoemaker in Biñan for 13 years. He transferred to Liliw two years ago, “kasi matumal na ang industriya ng tsinelas sa Biñan dahil sa pagpasok ng mga imported na produkto” (The industry has slackened in Biñan because of the influx of imported slippers), he sighed.

Shoemakers here are paid P30 (flats) or P35 (with heels) per pair but P1 goes to the fabric cutter, therefore, the actual pay per pair is P29 or P34 depending on the style.

Old industry

Tsinelas production in this town started as early as 1960s, said Emma Camello of the Socialite Footwear, one of the pioneers in the footwear business here. Socialite Footwear is now operated by the family’s third generation heirs.

Manufacturers here were always in tight competition with neighboring town Biñan until the late 1990s when imported shoes and slippers flooded the town market causing the decline of the local footwear industry there.

Although Liliw footwear products are now popular in Metro Manila malls and flee markets and boasts of an international market in China, operations, production and storage are still backward. Production houses are literally in the backyard where shoemakers each have their own cubicles that serve as work places.

Learning from the Biñan experience, footwear manufacturers in Liliw have formed an association and have agreed to ban all imported footwear products from this town. (Bulatlat.com)

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  1. Interest,funny story! Actually I do not usually like to read the whole post carefully unless the post attracts me a lot. That is why I take a comment here. Nice jod, the blogger.

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