LAGUNA | Liliw Gat Tayaw Tsinelas Festival




Along with Liliw's other local goods, Liliw Gat Tayaw Tsinelas Festival highlights the town's signature product — the Liliw-made tsinelas (slippers) — and the Liliweño craftsmanship that produces those sturdy and well-designed footwears. This year's series of events marks the annual fair's 17th year. Its last day fell on a Philippine holiday, as it usually does, so I got a chance to witness a part of the week-long festivity without taking an absence from work. Happenings on the festival's final day included a Marching Band Competition, this year's Grand Bailete (parade of festival stakeholders while dressed in traditional Filipino costumes), and the People's Night but apparently, as I strolled around the town center, there's so much more that happened during the entire week of festive celebration.


Liliw Church

Aside from the thriving footwear industry, Liliw's centuries-old church draws attention from town visitors; it's probably the first spot that first-time visitors check out as they set foot. Liliw gets its old-world, countryside charm from the church and its relaxing backdrop that presents a rural feel.
Liliw Church, its fiery orange façade, and the relaxing rural backdrop
Liliw Church, its fiery orange façade, and the relaxing rural backdrop

Of Baroque architecture, St. John the Baptist Church was built in 1605. It's popular for its fiery orange façade built from mud bricks (adobe). Like most of the Spanish-era churches in the country, Liliw Church got its share of catastrophic fires and earthquakes that shook its foundation through the centuries.
Liliw Church's historical marker
Liliw Church's historical marker
Interiors of Liliw Church
Interiors of Liliw Church

Some events of the festival, such as the Street Dance Competition, took place within the spacious church grounds. Pertinent parades start and end at the church patio as well.


Gat Tayaw Street

Footwear stores stand abreast along Liliw's thoroughfare named after the town's founding father. Not only was Gat Tayaw Street a haven to shoppers; the colorful umbrellas that adorn overhead and the embellished storefronts also made it an Instagram-worthy avenue. Tsinelas-themed ornaments dress up the faces of the shops as they contend for Gayak ng Tindahan contest.
Footwear shops along Gat Tayaw Street
Footwear shops along Gat Tayaw Street
Colored umbrellas adorn a long stretch of Gat Tayaw Street
Colored umbrellas adorn a long stretch of Gat Tayaw Street
When those umbrellas were "put into use" when it drizzled.
When those umbrellas were "put into use" when it drizzled
Storefronts are embellished for Gayak ng Tindahan
Storefronts are embellished for Gayak ng Tindahan
One of Gayak ng Tindahan contenders
One of Gayak ng Tindahan contenders
A tourist-favorite among the designed stores
A tourist-favorite among the designed stores

Liliw's colonial-type municipal building and the monument in honor of Gat Tayaw, the town's founding father, stand along the eponymous street. The roadway was temporarily inaccessible to vehicle traffic as it was occupied by a lot of vendor booths and the festival's center platform where event hosts and town officials address the spectators. Gat Tayaw Street is central to this annual fair.
Gat Tayaw monument stands within a garden beside Liliw's municipal building
Gat Tayaw monument stands within a garden beside Liliw's municipal building
(1) Mutya ng Liliw candidates; (2) fashion-forward gowns participating in a contest called Retaso
(1) Mutya ng Liliw candidates; (2) fashion-forward gowns participating in a contest called Retaso
Gowns made from retaso (residues of materials used in tsinelas making) were displayed on street
Gowns made from retaso (residues of materials used in tsinelas making) displayed on street
The center stage, some media men, spectators, and Grand Bailete participants while waiting for the program to start
The center stage, some media men, spectators, and Grand Bailete participants while waiting for the program to start
Most of the festival's events were televised
Most of the festival's events were televised
Townspeople participating in the Grand Bailete, wearing traditional costumes
Townspeople participating in the Grand Bailete, wearing traditional costumes
Townspeople participating in the Grand Bailete, wearing traditional costumes
Townspeople participating in the Grand Bailete, wearing traditional costumes

Shop, eat ... repeat!

We arrived in Liliw at around 9:00 AM, by the time some diners were still unopened and the streets got no crowds yet. Getting there early, when no festival activity has started yet, gave us enough time to check out what Liliw's footwear outlets have to offer. Countless stores got countless designs of different footwear types suitable for all gender, sizes and ages — flip flops, sandals, wedge, heels, espadrilles, slip-ons, loafers, sneakers, topsiders. Name it, in Liliw you'll find it.
A giant wedge on display
A giant wedge on display
Men's shoes
Colorful slippers
Colorful ladies' sandals
My late Grandma used to wear these kinds
Liliw-made tsinelas up-close

Gat Tayaw Street's not the only avenue for the festival. Liliw's resident restaurants, pasalubong center, and a great deal of non-permanent food and refreshment stalls fill the downtown alleys that lead to Liliw's thoroughfare; one won't run out of choice when the hours-long shopping takes its toll on one's tummy.
One of several food alleys during the festival
One of several food alleys during the festival
Seafood Marinara from Arabela, one of Liliw's popular diners
Seafood Marinara from Arabela, one of Liliw's popular diners
Atsara variety and other pasalubong goodies
Atsara variety and other pasalubong goodies
Lipote fruit-flavored lambanog
Lipote fruit-flavored lambanog

READ ALSO: Liliw Food Finds

With these vibrant events, a plethora of slip-on outlets, and the occasional food park ambiance, Liliw Gat Tayaw Tsinelas Festival transforms the quaint Footwear Capital of Laguna into a shopping mall under the sun.

How about visiting the town and witnessing the fest next year?


Getting there:

Commute from Metro Manila (via Sta. Cruz, Laguna):
  • Bus from Alabang (at South Station); Fare: PHP 80-90 or
  • Bus from Cubao (HM Transport Inc.); Fare: PHP 140 or
  • Bus from Buendia (DLTB Co.); Fare: PHP 140
  • At Sta. Cruz, take a jeep with "Liliw-Nagcarlan" signboard; Fare: PHP 30
Commute from Rizal province (for my fellow Rizaleños):
  • Take Siniloan-bound jeep in Tanay Public Market; Travel time: 45 minutes-1 hour, Fare: PHP 40-50
  • Take a jeep bound for Sta. Cruz at Siniloan market; Travel time: 1 hour, Fare: PHP 40-45
  • At Sta. Cruz, take a jeep with "Liliw-Nagcarlan" signboard; Travel time: 30-45 minutes, Fare: PHP 30

Trip Notes:

  • Tsinelas Festival is usually held during the last week of April. Visit Liliw's Facebook Page and Official Website for the latest information.
  • The historical Nagcarlan Underground Cemetery is just around the corner. It will make a good side trip from Liliw.
  • Footwear price ranges from PHP 100-1000.


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