A collection of Imelda Marcos' shoes on display at the Marikina Museum. Photo from

On my way to the bedroom, I happened to glance at the utility room where a dusty shoe rack directly faced the door. What a sorry reminder of how forlorn things had become in those locked down days. Eighteen pairs of shoes, as of last count that I would regularly shine on weekends to be sure they were ready for the incoming week’s work shift. Thanks to the pandemic, I hadn’t done that for months. 

Let’s see, I have my favorites, usually in safe shades of brown, beige and black, which go with most any color of my office wear.  When I was starting work and was literally down at the heels, my fellow penurious friend and I looked with envy at our richer, self-indulgent friend’s numerous pairs of shoes.  She even had two pairs of pink sneakers!  We had exactly two pairs of penny loafers, I recall, in anonymous brown and black.  Pink was a frivolous color, a fancy choice that only those with enough matching clothes could afford. 

Over the years, I’ve earned enough to have bought a yellow pair of Mary Janes, a gold patent ballerina pair, a beaded pair of mules, a silver pair of strappy sandals  for a wedding, a red suede slingback, a purple pair of ankle boots, crocs, and assorted footwear in various hues of pink and fuchsia.  Hush Puppies, which are soft, comfortable and slip-proof would have been a habitual buy, but I already have all the brand’s three styles. 

Eighteen pairs when you’re retired and barely working from home may seem excessive but who do I give these tiny shoes to? Being a size 5 has been a bane, with me taking hours to finds shoes that fit me and often winding up in the children’s department to find one.  I remember how once, after two hours of fruitless search, I despondently sat down in the dog-shaped bench of the children’s section and asked the sales clerk for a pair of rubber shoes that would fit me, any style as long as it had no blinking lights and the tell-tale squeak meant to help parents locate their wandering kids.  

And so, while waiting for the other shoe to drop in those locked down days, my gungho pairs cooled their heels with nowhere to go. 

Not that I had any ambition of following in Imelda’s footsteps. Being infamous for the 3000 pairs of shoes you can’t even wear these days can be a kick in the ass.  During the heyday of the Imeldific’s foot fetish, my journo friends loved talking about her stomping grounds, and how shoes have defined her legacy.  But shoes, one of my lunch mate protested, have always been part of the Pinoy psyche. Footwear for most of us is a reflection of cultural taste, a measure of one’s station in life, she said. Recall how we disdainfully dismiss as “bakya” people who used to patronize Filipino movies, in reference to the wooden clogs that folk from the countryside used to keep their feet off the muddy fields.  Remember as well that recent fracas when some snooty exclusive club had an altercation with a senator’s sister because their yaya was refused entry for wearing sandals—not even slippers, mind, but one-inch wedges that however may have shown her unpedicured toes.  Oh, to be assaulted by those unsightly digits, what a nightmare to the coiffed set! 

Before that, there were those signs posted in classy places that barred the entry of people in sandos and slippers, an offense apparently in the same level as “firearms not allowed.”   For the love of God, cover those ghastly toes! 

Even ordinary folk use footwear to describe less than heralded circumstances. To indicate how much we were in a hurry, we’re apt to say, “Naka-tsinelas nga lang ako (I didn’t even have time to change from slippers to shoes)!”  And should we make the mistake of coming in slippers to a social event, we’re bound to shrivel under the intense head to toe scrutiny of fellow guests. 

While most of us strive to put our best foot forward, shysters have always been one step ahead. In these populist times, your Facebook feed may have once harbored a picture of this candidate whose masa image his PR handlers burnished further by showing him dragging a shoe with its sole hanging by a thread.  That fraudulent shot however swept voters off their feet, and so he’d been a pebble in our shoe ever since! 

About the Author

Pennie Azarcon Dela Cruz was a news desk editor at the Philippine Daily Inquirer and executive editor of the Sunday Inquirer Magazine. She was also a regular resource speaker on media for the Inquirer Academy and conducts writing seminars and workshops for schools and NGOs. 

She has won several awards in Journalism, among them two AIDS Media Awards, a DOST Science & Technology award, a National Book Award for best anthology, and a KLM Quill Award for best travel story.  She received a fellowship as well from the FOJO institute of journalism in Sweden, and a grant from the Women’s Edition and Population Reference Bureau in Washington D.C. to write about women’s health concerns. 

After finishing Journalism at the University of Sto. Tomas with magna cum laude and Rector’s Awardee honors, she immersed herself in the local women’s movement before joining mainstream media as contributing writer and editor for various publications.  An Asia Foundation fellow, Ms. Azarcon-dela Cruz was project director of the media monitoring group Mediawatch for the women’s group Pilipina.  She has authored and edited primers and modules on women and politics, adolescent sexuality, gender-responsive development, domestic violence, sexual harassment, sex tourism, population, Muslim women, and women’s rights for various NGOs and UN agencies.  She briefly taught media subjects at the St. Scholastica’s Institute of Women’s Studies as well. 

What is your reaction?

In Love
Not Sure

You may also like

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *