THE FORGOTTEN ART OF SHOE SHINING

I met Benny Rubosin on Labor Day, 2022 at the Malcolm Park in Baguio City, busy in his business of shoe shining.

Unknown to many from the Millenial batch, a shoe shine boy does exactly just that: cleans, buffs, and waxes shoes.

The last shoe shine boy I know is Elvis ā€” a young man who raked it all in during the ’90s at the Department of Finance ground in Agrifina Circle, Luneta. “Suki” to the horde of government employees in the area at the time, Elvis’ hair used to be as shiny as his clients’ shoes.

A specially-designed chair with a footboard is used for shoe-shine patrons to sit on while their footwears are being served. No need to take off the shoes. Shoe-shine boys down on their knees laboring as the paying customer reads his morning newspaper: a common sight back in the days on every nooks in the metro.

Today, the once prevalent line of work is somewhat non-existent, vanished from the street corners of Quiapo, Binondo, Sta. Cruz, and so on.

I tried to seek Benny Rubosin’s personal view as to the death of this shoe-shining business: “People are no longer that shine anxious,” he says.

Benny has included shoe repair in his service. “Para kung di man sila magpa-shine, magpatahi naman sila.”

Business has been very bleak for him since the pandemic started. “Ngayon mahina kasi pandemic mas marami nagtitipid. Mas maganda nung may pasok mga estudyante.” Referring to the days when classes were face-to-face.

Still, the craft continues to provide his family with their life’s basic needs. “Nakakabuhay na din.”

Shoe-shining is nevertheless shining bright here in the country’s summer capital.

Being a shoe-shine boy, Benny Rubosin does not have the luxury of rest, even on holidays like, say, Labor Day. A day in honor of working people like him.

2 thoughts on “THE FORGOTTEN ART OF SHOE SHINING

  1. Finally!
    Thank you for this article, Elmer. Found another soul of the lost era, last of the Mohicans so to speak, who treasures shoe shine boys (of Sta. Cruz church). I was so amazed 15 years ago when I made a stop over at Vancouver and saw those shoe shine boys at the airport.
    Until now I shine my shoes the old way minus the tintang Intsik no longer available.
    May I suggest a topic for your next photo shoot? Have you noticed most of the best shoe shine boys and shoe repairmen are pilay and lumpo? Since elementary days, I have been observing them, of how they have been so good in shining and repairing our shoes when they could not wear shoes at all! It must be an emotional torture too for them we do not see. God bless you for your next photos!

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