Monday, August 31, 2009


When, as a kid, we used to go to Manila via the old MacArthur Highway, I would often see these aquamarine-colored glass knobs on top of the electric wooden poles lining the road. I would often wonder what those pretty little things were, until I found a similar piece in my grandfather's tool cabinet. I was the told that these were glass insulators used to insulate wires. Technology has made obsolete these glass insulators, but not to collectors who rediscovered these as late as the 1970s and turned them into hot collectibles (a rare glass insulator sold at a staggering $22,500 at a U.S. auction) .

Coming in different colors, various sizes, and unusual shapes, they are often used as paper weights or as sun catchers, to be displayed alongside other bottle collections. I only have four examples, of clear and aqua-colored glass. But there are other color variations like amber, pink and cobalt blue. Expect to pay from 50 to 500 pesos for a glass insulator --that is, if you can find one here (I did find one, at Makati Cinema Square).


In 1925. Camilo Osias, a U.S. sponsored pensionado, conceived of a primary instructional material for elementary school students. The product of this undertaking are "The Philippine Readers", a 6-volume book series that sought to answer the learning needs of young Filipinos. Published by Ginn and Company in 1932, The Philippine Readers are noted for the illustrations of Fernando and Pablo Amorsolo that acompanied the short stories and poems included in the book.

The books became highly collectible in the 1980s, when antiques shops like "Ilustrado", "Junque" and "Pamana" started carrying them. They cost about 50 Pesos then (with my Php 750 monthly salary, that's quite a sum!), but my copies were found in old libraries, with one even turning up in a Thai used book shop in Bangkok. complete with Chinese notations. Maybe, a local Chinese was trying to learn English the effective Filipino way!


Now here's a Magnolia bottle that you rarely see -- a clear milk bottle with the raised logo of Magnolia, the country's leading manufacturer of milk and dairy products established over 80 years ago by San Miguel Corporation . Now who does not know of its Flavor of the Month... Choco-Vim... and fresh milk products? Before the advent of tetra packs, Magnolia Milk came in bottles such as this, which came in 3 sizes. The old Magnolia logo even has its slogan "Certified Pure" on the ribbon below the brand name, which dates this bottle to the 50s. More recent and common would be the straight-sided milk bottles (1970s) with printed blue logos. After all these years, wala pa ring tatalo sa Magnolia!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

32. GONE WITH THE WIND: Paper Dolls

Film fans say that the most acclaimed movies ever made were those produced in 1939. That year, classics like Wizard of Oz, Dark Victory, Goodbye, Mr. Chips, Ninotchka, Stagecoach, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Wuthering Heights and Margaret Mitchell's much ballyhooed Gone with the Wind vied for Oscar honors. "Gone with the Wind" swept competition away--and millions of fans went agog over Scarlett, Rhett, Melanie and Ashley. Everything from soundtrack albums ("Tara's Theme" was a bestseller), period lamps, perfumes to coloring books and paper dolls such as these were made for a GWTW crazed market.

Above, you'll find cut 2 paper dolls of Rhett Butler (Clark Gable) and 3 of Scarlett O'Hara (Vivien Leigh). These were made the year after the movie hit by Merrill Publishing. I got these dolls from a sweet old lady in the U.S. who operated a mail-order paper doll business from her home. An unused GWTW paper doll book would command about $300 in the American market today, but I got mine for a few dollars. They're used, cut, bent and missing a lot of clothes--but frankly my dear, I don't give a damn.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

31. Here's the Real Thing: NORA AUNOR FOR COCA COLA

Ate Guy!!!!! At her peak, Nora Aunor--short, squat, brown but gifted with a golden voice that sold records, drew diehard fans and sold million pesos worth of products. Immediately, advertisers saw her kaching!kaching! potential. Cocal-Cola capitalized on her pulling power by enlisting her as their endorser. She starred in a series of Coke commercials in the 70s, and collateral materials such as this photo of the new Coca Cola girl were given away by the hundreds of thousands. (But mine has an authentic personalized autograph!). I haven't seen La Aunor in a looonggg, loooonnggg while. She's U.S. based now and has not been home for years. Her legions of fans are hoping for a Philippine comeback, but so far..."walang himalaaaaaahhhh!!".

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

30. KISSIN' COUSINS: Salt & Pepper Shaker

Now, isn't this pair cute? Figural hard plastic salt and pepper shakers, meant to be paired for life! They're lucky not to have been separated after all these 40 plus years. (They should be middle-aged by now, but they have been doomed to remained young forever--in a squirrel pose!.) . Cheap, mass-produced Made in Japan plastic ware like this were staples in the kitchen. After use at the dining table, they would have been placed back on the kitchen shelf as a cutesy decor. A flea market find--with a twin-win price tag of--50 cents!

Monday, August 24, 2009


When visitors from the West came to visit the Philippines, they found the everyday Pinoy so interesting--from his features to his clothing and the props he carried to make a living. So much so that figurines of "Filipino types" -- the neighborhood vendor, the farmer, the milk peddler, the fisherman -- were produced to satisfy Pinoy-struck, souvenir-hunting Western tourists. I. Beck's at Escolta, the leading department store founded by Jewsih businessman Isaac Beck, made sure it carried stocks of these figurines. Here, you have two charming examples from the shop (the bases are marked "I. Beck's") , from the early 1930s. The pair of 8-inch Filipina types (a water bearer, a 'kakanin' vendor) were molded from escayola or plaster of Paris, a more contemporary material--early tipos del pais figures were carved from wood. Great ebay finds, but I had to pay a little more than a hundred dollars for the two figurines that are quite difficult to find in the country (Remember, these were made for the tourist market.) . The ebay seller wanted to throw in a 3rd slightly damaged figurine for 20$ more, but I had to decline.The spirit was willing but my credit card power is weak.

Sunday, August 23, 2009


A kinky way to stub your cigarette ashes. Figure out what the maker of this ash tray was thinking! Or is the naked body a reminder of our mortality--"ashes to ashes, dust to dust..."? Whatever, the sleek pseudo-deco design of this vintage 50s ash tray makes this a kitschy collectible.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


Capt. Kirk (William Shatner) and pointy eared Mr. Spock (Leonard Nimoy) are ready for space action where no man has gone before! Vintage 1974, made by MEGO. Four more action figures from the Star Trek TV Series were produced by the renowned toy maker: Scottie, Lt. Uhura, Dr. McCoy and a Klingon. I was lucky to find this pair, in near mint condition and still in their blister packs. A quick search on ebay yielded a similar mint Capt. Kirk figure priced at $145! Of course, I paid much, much less for these two. I got these from Hake's Americana and Collectibles, a mail bidding collectible shop that preceded online auctions by many years. So you could say I had quite a headstart. Such are voyages of a star flea market trader!

Monday, August 17, 2009

26. B.A. BARACUS: Isn't He A Doll?!

Remember the early 80s action adventure TV series "The A-Team"? Four soldiers of fortune (ex-members of the U.S. Armed Special Force) team up to go on mercenary missions, while running for their lives from the U.S. government. For three years, Hannibal, Face, Murdoch and B.A. Baracus invaded our homes and became part of our TV consciousness. Former bodyguard-bouncer-wrestler Mr. T made an indelible mark in teeveeland with his portrayal of mohawk-haired B.A.("Bad Attitude") Baracus, a role that made him an instant icon. This action figure, found in a provincial general merchandise shop that carried a lot of old toy stocks, is just one of the thousands of merchandise that was generated by the hit series. I wonder if the 57 year old Mr. T is still kicking ass today.

Sunday, August 16, 2009


Makati Cinema Square along Pasong Tamo has been my one and constant source of campy collectibles. These well-made plaster wall hangings in the shape of ballet dancers are perfect examples of high-end kitsch. As always, 1950s decoratives always came in pairs--for every prima ballerina, there is a matching danseur ( or primo ballerino?), sweet ain't it? A plain dull wall is sure to be enlivened and inspired by this masked couple's sinuous balletic poses. I am inspired myself! Shall we do don our tutu's and do our arabesques?

Wednesday, August 12, 2009


C'mon, get happy! Remember Keith (David Cassidy), Laurie (Susan Dey), Danny (Danny Bonaduce), Tracy (Suzanne Crough), Chris (Jeremy Gelbwalks/Brian Forster) and Mrs. Shirley Patridge (Shirley Jones)? They were famous 70s family songbirds on TV who made it big with a no. 1 hit, "I Think I Love You". To think that only David and real-life stepmom Shirley did the singing. For 4 years (1970-74), the bus-driving Partridges were the toast of the U.S. showbiz circuit, making records and generating merchandise and collectibles lapped up by frenzied fans (that included me)--from gameboards, paper dolls, coloring books--and yes, this metal lunchbox with a matching thermos. I love the groovy graphics and the Mondrian inspired colors and lay-out! The Partridges in real life, has since gone to live laughable, eccentric, troubled and mixed-up lives (Remember Danny's transvestite encounter? David's tell-all sleaze book? Shirley's quirky 2nd marriage?)--but this lunchbox is a remembrance of a family's TV-perfect fantasy life--good-looking, talented, rich and famous!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


Images of the exotic South Pacific found special appeal among Wetsren tourists that travel mementos frequently included matching souvenirs such as these, showing a Hawaiian man and his lei-holding wahine. Mass produced and cheaply priced, these kitschy figurines graced many American homes, to help fantasies of a dream vacation in the Far East--where grass skirted maiden danced and swayed like coconut trees and ukulele-toting muscled natives lazed around their little brown shacks in Kealekekua, Hawaii...


Here goes the poodles again--this time, as a handbag incarnate. This very 60s, very chi-chi bag is made from woven plastic, and this whole doggie courting scene starring two black French poodles is preserved over a plastic wrap. A hard plastic twisted handle completes this bag which probably was the talk of many cocktail parties, shindigs and soirees. Found in a U.S, flea market, for a few dollars and scents. Excuse me, I have to walk my bag..

Monday, August 10, 2009


When television became the rage of the 1950s, small TV lamps also came into vogue--to be placed atop the TV set to add mood lighting. In time, enterprising lamp makers created bases in all bewildering shapes and sizes--from electrically-lit crocodile figurines, plastic Japanese lanterns to ceramic leopards with gleaming, lighted eyes. But nothing beats this surf 'n turf TV lamp (yes, dearies, there is a bulb buried somewhere amidst the crustaceans) creatively assembled from a large shell, coral pieces, conches, bi-valves and other marvelous forms of marine life. But look again--a plastic flamingo and palm tree complete the "sun, sea and sand" concept! Err, where's the "sun", you may ask? Flick the light switch get the drift (wood)...


Where have all the transistor radios of yore gone? Time was when everybody had them! I found this funky, gleaming yellow '50s Dynatron Tourist transistor in one of the stalls of the famous Portobello Road antique strip in London--and still in great working condition. I think I paid 10 pounds for it back in 1989. (However, I can't find a similar 2-terminal square battery, so now all it does is squeak static!). Video killed the radio star--but not this one!

Sunday, August 9, 2009


Oh, you cute kitschy kitty thing! When this feline timekeeper was working, it had a pendulum tail that tick-tocked the seconds away, while the jewel-encrusted googlie eyes glanced from side to side. The numbers are marked with rhinestones, the better to keep your eye on the time. This 50s clock is being reproduced to day, but nothing beats this original which now serves my kitchen as a purr-fect decorative accent.

Thursday, August 6, 2009


Still stayin' alive after all these years! John Travolta, who discoed his way to the 1978 blockbuster hit "Saturday Night Fever", makes a second appearance as a vinyl superstar doll. As the cocky "Vinnie Barbarino", on the poluar TV sitcom "Welcome Back, Kotter" (1975-79), he continued to swagger and shimmy his way to countless TV fans. Here's to the Sweathog Days!!

Monday, August 3, 2009


Made years apart, this pair of small, hand-drawn picture frame prints in their original wood frames were found in one Mabini antique shop. They are reminiscent of Western calligraphic art, more specifically, the fraktur drawings of Germany. Both prints have cut-out windows on which pictures of loved ones could be inserted. The first example, dated July 26, 1916, bears the name "Pering". A heart shaped window once bore Pering's picture. Below the name are small rustic illustrations, accented by flowers. The 2nd frame, dated Dec. 18, 1934 was presented by a certain Lucien to sweetheart Anching, including this sentiment in English: "In your moments of meditation, let me be the subject of your inspiration..With my most and sincere appreciation, Lucien". Great examples of Philippine folk art, that not only show the creative skills of Filipinos but also their poetic sentiments when they become lovestruck.