By: Arabelle Jimenez
Have you imagined yourself wearing cool, stylish and sturdy shoes with soles made out of rubber tires? Amazing times are now happening indeed with the surge of upcycled products. People are getting more conscious of taking care of the environment and helping create a livelihood for many underprivileged Filipinos, as well.
“Ligid”, a Visayan word which means rubber tire, is the name of a locally made footwear brand with soles crafted out of this material. The upcycled product is conceptualized by Jason Luengo, a young man who was born and raised in Davao City.
Ligid’s roots come from another footwear brand of which Jason is also the creator. Tribu, was Jason’s first innovative product. These are outdoor sandals, which are very popular among mountaineers. In 1993, when he was just in his early twenties , he started making these sandals, with a mere capital of Php 500.
Hailing from Davao City, Jason Luengo grew up in a close-knit family. He always had dreams of going to Manila to find his fortune in the country’s capital. At that time, going to Manila was a wish to many. Coming from humble beginnings, he had no means or good reasons to visit Manila. In Davao, where outdoor activities are the main attraction, Jason was a mountain guide of Mount Apo, the highest peak in the Philippines. He had met different mountaineers, from the locals to foreigners, who were challenged to climb Mount Apo. He noticed that the foreigners were wearing open-toed strappy sandals that seem to be useful during the trek. “Why not make a local outdoor sandal that I can sell to mountaineers?” he asked himself. “Our terrain is rocky with mud and water streaming down the mountains. An open-toed sandal will be truly useful to adventurers exploring the Philippines.” At that time, it was quite an impossible task to even create a single pair of sandals.
One day, he got a knife, and made sole cuts, and finally made his first pair of sandals. He made one or 2 pairs more as orders came trickling in. With no machine to cut hard rubber soles, each pair was truly hand-made with sweat and labor. The challenge to create stylish and sturdy outdoor sandals was a huge hurdle. He realized he cannot make a living out of crudely made sandals. Thus, he put it aside, thinking that he will make it better at another time. He concentrated in theatre arts, and it was at this time that a new change has come into his life.
A talented man in theatre, dance and creative arts, Jason was discovered at a dance theatre performance. He was offered a scholarship to further his studies in dance which entailed him to travel to Manila. It was the greatest news in his young life. He immediately grabbed the opportunity to be mentored by big names in the dance arts. Before long, he took the overnight ship to the city of his dreams.
His group was housed in a cramped, one-bedroom apartment in Quezon City. It may not have been a bed of roses, but he saw new life in rose-colored glasses. While he trained dance at Metropolitan Theater and Ballet Philippines, the urge to work with his hands did not stay away for long. Holding only 500 pesos in his pocket, he ventured into buying materials and created his first pair of sandals in Manila. His designs were hip and attractive to the younger crowd. He started drawing a lot of designs which he kept in his cramped apartment. The first 2 pairs were sold, and he made another set with the profit. Despite living within meager allowance, he was able to save up and make new pairs. It was not easy as the orders came in different sizes and colors. With the help of his cousin, Renan, they were soon able to find corners in open-air bazaars, where they sold their outdoor sandals, calling it Tribu. They would just spread out a sarong in the grass and at the end of the each day, they ended up selling everything. This was a great encouragement for Jason and Renan.
Finding a machine to cut the soles and dressmakers to sew straps were the next challenge for Jason. He later on found a machine that was second hand and bought it for Php 2,000. He consigned a couple of dressmakers to work for him, and his savvy entrepreneurship brought him to another level in his outdoor sandal business. He started tapping mountaineering shops to include Tribu in their space. The rest is, as they say, history.
Fast forward twenty years today, Tribu exists in hundreds of stores in the Philippines, including Toby’s and Chris Sports, Gaisano Metro and some SM Outlets. It has also expanded distribution in the US and Singapore. Jason became a millionaire at the age of 30.
Jason created Ligid, as a way of giving back to the environment and to the community. He designed fashionable shoes with soles made out of rubber tires. At present, this is not yet out in the market, as production is on-going.
After Leyte and Samar were devastated by super typhoon Haiyan last year, his idea was to help people rebuild by giving them a new way of livelihood. He is currently going around local government units, meeting with them and creating cooperatives, who are willing to make Ligid Upcycled Footwear.
Why rubber tires? “Rubber tires are very harmful to the environment,” explained Jason during a recent interview at the Tribu office. “You can just imagine the millions of tires that are being discarded around the world,” Jason said further. “In Asia alone, we dispose tires by burning them, sending fumes that are not only harmful to the environment, but to people’s health, as well”. Collecting the right kind of tires is also another difficult process. “We can make 10 pairs of shoes from one good tire”, he continued.
Jason’s “bring it on” attitude has brought him places, making the brands Tribu and Ligid comparable and competitive in world-class quality. He doesn’t give up easily no matter what happens. “Never say die, and dream big. Libre ang mangarap (dreams are free)”, enthuses Jason. My inspiration is the Filipino people who patronize local products. I advise everyone to love your own, buy locally made products. As an entrepreneur, just go on and make it flourish, save up and be ready for challenges. If I were able to make it, you too can bring it on!”
Watch the video below to see Jason as he tells his story.