Sunday, December 14, 2014


In the U.S. one hot collectible field is Railroadiana--which refers to artifacts or items of current as well as defunct railways no longer in operation.This very rare specimen-- a small milk pitcher from the Manila Railroad Company is one such example. Passengers were served hot meals and drinks by uniformed railway staff, using tableware--plates, coffee cups, saucers-- bearing the MR logo. This surviving piece from the 30s, was offered by by a Manila collectible shop and it took little convincing for me to acquire it, as it's not only unique, but is also full of history.

The Manila Railroad Company was one of the largest domestic corporations in the Philippines from 1917 -1940's which the Philippine Government acquired in 8 Jan. 1917. Its railway lines totaled 1,140.5 in 1941, located in Luzon.  The lines extended from San Fernando, La Union, in the north, to Legaspi, Albay, in the south. The more important branches are the Paniqui-San Quintin, Tarlac-San Jose, Bigaa-Cabanatuan, San Fernando-Carmen, Calamba-Batangas, and College-Pagsanjan. The company was taken over by the U.S. military during World War II, to be used for the defense of the Philippines. The Manila Railroad Co., suffered irreparable losses from which it has never recovered, thus ending its operations.

Thursday, December 4, 2014


Time was when the Philippines was the largest exporter of Manila rope, made of abaca hemp. The country became world-famous for this prized product and one of the first companies to establish a rope business was the Manila Cordage Company which started as a subsidiary of Tubbs Cordage Company of San Francisco on February 20, 1924, Manila Cordage Company, a subsidiary of Tubbs Cordage Company of San Francisco, began operations at the junction of Cristobal and Otis streets in Paco, which had easy access to the Pasig. Its basic raw material was abaca, also known as Manila hemp, which by then was a much sought after commodity in North America.
It  began operations at the junction of Cristobal and Otis streets in Paco, which had an easy access to the Pasig River. Manila Cordage made ropes of all sorts from abaca, which was to be known worldwide as Manila hemp, a much sought after commodity in North America in the 20s-50s decades.
As the company grew, Manila Cordage marketing became more sophisticated, and by the early 50s, it produced merchandising materials and selling aids such as this tin sign that featured a range of products with their special specifications and dimensions. Signs such as this were given to hardware shops and provincial distributors (in this case, J. Rodriguez of Cagayan) to facilite the ordering of the products. It measures 10 in. x 22 in, and is backed by a thick cardboard. 
The invention of synthetic ropes put a dent on the Manila rope business, but the products remained important as they are eco-friendly, and they are specially required by certain businesses like oil drilling and construction. To this day, the Manila Cordage Co. is still a flourishing business with its facilities located in a world-class industrial hub ensuring a future for the rope that made Manila famous!

Thursday, November 13, 2014


A pair of Filipiniana paintings depicting Lapu-Lapu, the hero of Mactan and his wife, Bulakna--or so that's how the dealer described them to me. These mid-century 18 x 22" paintings, painted by artist Rodolfo Pasno, dates from 1957--and they were obtained online--in a facebook group, of all places. Pasno was a noted Mabini painter, active from the 50s thru the 70s, in a shop at the famed Pistang Pilipino.
They were sold in stretchers, with few chips and scratches. At some point, someone painted over the background, but that doesn't detract from the portraits that express so much of the character of the country's first hero and his voluptuous wife. I had them re-stretched, re-framed and cleaned, so now they're ready to hang happy I could sing! "In March 16, fifteen hundred and  hundred twenty one, when Philippines was discovered by Magellan..."

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

315. The Russian From U.N.C.L.E.: ILYA KURYAKIN SPY DOLL

One of my fave TV programs from the 60s boomer years was The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (United Network Command for Law and Enforcement) , broadcast on NBC from 1964-1968. It follows secret agents Napoleon Solo (Robert Vaughn)  and Russian Ilya Kuryakin) fighting its chief adversary, the agents of THRUSH  (Technological Hierarchy for the Removal of Undesirables and the Subjugation of Humanity). Solo and Kuryakin's popularity resulted in the creation of  11.5 in. vinyl "spy dolls" made in 1965 by Gilbert of Japan. In its perfect condition, Ilya would have come with a pistol, pocket insignia and a mechanical arm. Conceived originally conceived as a minor character, Kuryakin, became an indispensable part of the show, achieving co-star status with the show’s lead. McCallum’s blond good looks and the enigmatic persona he created for the character garnered him a huge following of female fans, leaving them weak-kneed and crying--Uncle!

Friday, October 24, 2014

314. How To Enter the Dragon: BRUCE LEE KEY CHAIN

Saw this cheap, plastic martial arts key chain in a Cubao thrift shop. The small, 2.5 in. figure is gold painted, and I assumed it to be Bruce Lee, who first appeared as Kato on the Green Hornet 60s TV series. Of course, he is better known as THE kung-fu master of all times! The figure holds a pair of nanchuks (chaku) and is poised to demolish the door if the key doesn't work! Bruce Lee souvenirs--as well as martial arts collectibles, are not hot items at the moment, but that doesn't matter--it's picking for cheap collectibles that gives me a kick!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

313. Advertique: AN ABOGADO'S TRADE SIGN

There was a time when it was popular to advertise your professional services via signboards often posted on the front of your residences for all the world to see your title and your degree--from Comadrona, Dentista, Medico to Abogado or Notario Publico. Of course, services are advertised more conveniently now online--in such special sites as Linked and in many profession-specific websites. But back then, you would see painted signs on tin and wood such as this--picked from Manila--artistically framed and lettered, examples of vintage signage art made extinxt with new technology like computer-designed and weather-proofed tarpaulins. Of course, there was an impulse to google Abogado Silverio S. Tayao  on google, and a wealth of information was gathered online: Atty. Tayao came from Malolos and was admitted to the Philippine Bar on 24 January 24, 1955. He rose to become a Judge in Makati.  I was glad to know that he is still active, with offices in Salcedo Village, also in Makati. But I am sure his office sign is much more attractive than this, perhaps of gleaming chrome and steel, for better visibility and presentation. I'd much rather stick to his tin sign, when billboards, signs and posters were all done by hand, making them truly, one of a kind!

Saturday, October 11, 2014


"Cute as a Kewpie!"
Kewpies were initially conceived as comic strip characters by artist,  Rose O'Neill. The name "Kewpie" it is said, was derived from "Cupid"-- also depicted in mythology as a youn child, naked and winged. The cartoons began to gain popularity after the publication of O'Neill's comic strips in 1909, and thereafter, paper doll versions of the Kewpies were made. The characters were first produced as bisque dolls in Germany beginning in 1912, and became extremely popular in the early twentieth century.Later, they were made from composition, celluloid, hard plastic, soft rubber and vinyl.
KEWPIES made in Germany. With and without the identifying Kewpie heart label. PICTURE SOURCE:

The earlier bisque and composition versions of Kewpie dolls are widely sought-after by collectors--and this  7-inch German-made example was a prize find from a local antique shop. Versions were made without the identifying Kewpie heart label found on the doll's chest, but all have the same characteristics: protruding belly, googlie eyes, stubby arms and little back wings. Kewpies have become part of our pop culture--used as mascots, in advertising, art,  and even in songs!