By Dom Galeon
Images courtesy of Lilia Pomarejo
The Cobbler. No, that’s not a new bounty hunter character in Star Wars. It’s how Lilia Pomarejo is known among Star Wars cosplayers in the Philippines.
The 56-year-old shoemaker from the Marikina-Antipolo area has been the go-to cobbler for anything Star Wars, from Jedi boots to leather imperial officer footwear, for the past five years now. But Lilia’s career as a shoemaker, as The Cobbler, started back when she was still a teenager.
“My husband, together with his brother, learned to first make slippers when he was 12 years old,” the Cobbler says. “I learned to make slippers and then shoes from him when I was 17 years old.”
To make sure that her designs match those from the Star Wars franchise perfectly, Lilia says that she watches Episode IV or the original 1977 film from time to time.
Lilia got busy again recently because of the May the Fourth celebrations last Saturday. But, she explains, she regularly gets inquiries and requests for a pair of boots here or a leather accessory there—she’s even worked on a Chewbacca costume. “There are always orders, almost every day,” she says. “Of course there are more during the weeks leading up to Star Wars Day, or when there are new members in the Philippine Garrison [of the 501st Legion].”
The 501st Legion is an international group of Star Wars fans who wear costumes from the films. It has over 12,000 members all over the world and those who are here in the country have formed the Philippine Garrison. It’s the largest group of Star Wars cosplayers in Asia. Their go-to shoemaker? The Cobbler. To make sure that her designs match those from the Star Wars franchise perfectly, Lilia says that she watches Episode IV or the original 1977 film from time to time. And she likes it, except that she hasn’t found the time to go through the other films. Of all the costume pieces she has made, The Cobbler says that the most challenging ones are the Jedi boots and Kylo Ren’s shoes. “They’re very detailed, so it takes time to finish them.”
Asked if she has a favorite from among the costume pieces she has made, The Cobbler says that she likes all of them. “They’re all interesting to me,” she explains. “And this is my work, so I have learned to appreciate every piece. Plus the fact that these Star Wars fans come to me for their costumes is a blessing. They trust that I give each piece my best.”