The Tsinelas (slippers), which was derived from the Spanish word chinela, is a light low-cut footwear that can be easily slipped onto the foot. It has a very simple design consisting of a flexible sole and a Y-shaped hold-strap strategically placed in order to bind the slipper to the foot. It is considered a necessity by most Filipinos and has been incorporated in the standard inventory of every household, regardless of their social and economic class. Though traditionally made from abaca or katad (leather), modern tsinelas are now made out of rubber, fabric, synthetic resin, and other materials.
The tsinelas, thanks to its practicality and usefulness, has become part of Philippine popular culture. It has also remained the footwear of choice for many Filipinos--especially during summer vacations, field trips, and outings--because it is inexpensive, lightweight, and easy-to-wear. Owing to its popularity, Filipino games--among which are tumbang-preso and paway--have been observed to employ the use of the tsinelas as a primary medium for their gameplay. There is even a festival in the country that celebrates the humble Filipino footwear.
The most popular traditional game that uses the tsinelas is tumbang-preso, where boys use their tsinelas to hit a can inside a drawn circle. Another game called paway makes use of the tsinelas as a pamato (primary tool), which boys use to hit the tsinelas of their rivals in order to win.
There is probably no other nation in the world that gives such high importance to slippers than the Philippines. At least two towns in the Philippines celebrate a tsinelas festival showcasing their local "tsinelas industry":
- Liliw, Laguna: The Liliw Gat Tayaw Tsinelas Festival--named in honor of the town's founder Gat Tayaw--was first held on April 5-7, 2002 in order to boost local tourism.
- Gapan City, Nueva Ecija: The Tsinelas Festival in Gapan City is held every August 6 to 25. This 17-day annual event showcases its tsinelas industry, which generates about 500 to 600 million pesos every year.
Pepe and his Tsinelas
A well-known story about the National Hero of the Philippines Jose P. Rizal involves a tsinelas. According to the story, when Rizal was just a boy, he went on a boat ride with his older brother in Calamba, Laguna. During the said trip, one of his tsinelas fell into the river and was swept away by the current. Unable to recover the lost slipper, the young Rizal threw the remaining pair into the river, hurling it as close to the first one as he can. His older brother, puzzled with the move, asked him why he threw the other pair. Rizal told his older brother that just as it is pointless for him to keep only one pair, anyone who finds the other pair in the river will have no use for it. For Rizal, the best thing to do is to provide anyone who finds the first pair a chance to use it, so he threw away the second.
The most popular local brands of tsinelas include Spartan, Beach Walk, Rambo, and Islander. These brands have their own distinct quality that makes them different from the other. Spartan is known to be very durable, Beach Walk is soft and comfortable, Rambo is known for its very thick sole, while Islander is the classy type.
A Disciplinary Tool
The tsinelas, especially the one made of abaca, is known to be an effective aid to instill discipline among Filipino children by their parents and grandparents. This traditional disciplinary practice is known as pamamalo.