Monday, September 14, 2009


This small Filipina doll, made in the 1930s for the tourist trade, was an ebay find. Philippine curios were quite in demand during the American occupation, either bought by visiting tourists or Americans based in the Philippines, for sneding to friends and relatives back home. This doll is typical of those cheap souvenirs peddled by outlets (such as San Juan Store, as the box label shows) all over Manila.

Made of composition and dressed in a native baro't saya, the features of this jointed doll are hand-painted. It is wigged and outfitted with non-blinking glass eyes. The molded head has cracked and the body shows signs of peeling paint. Despite the flaws, this doll has quite a history, as documented by the ebay seller.

Indicated on the box are the pencilled notations: "To the secretary of Gov. Frank Murphy". It turns out that this particular souvenir doll was given as a gift to the secretary of a fomer Governor-General of the Philippines at the time of the Commonwealth. William Frank Murphy (1890-1949) was appointed as a Governor General of the Philippines from 1933-1935--the last American to serve. He also served as the first High Commissioner of the Philippines and after his Philippine assignment, went on to become a Mayor of Detroit, Governor of Michigan and the Attorney General of the U.S. His contributions to his leadership of the Philippines were recognized by way of Fifty Centavo and One Peso Coins minted in 1936 with his likeness.

As for his secretary, the recipient of this pretty souvenir, no records of her remain.


  1. Great find. I hope I could find the recipe on making the paper pulp head and body.

  2. If we can find the original mold, I know how to make paper mache mulch!

  3. I have one of these dolls and am wondering how to price it on eBay... ???

  4. Clarification:

    Her outfit is called the balintawak (popularized by Mrs. Claro Recto in one of the pre-War socialite balls), and was used as appropriate wear for country outings and provincial affairs (such as the annual Antipolo pilgrimage).
    IMO this was the pre-War "casual attire".

    The defining features of the balintawak (less formal than its cousin the traje de mestiza) are its accessories: the alampay (usually pinned to the camisa, it was used as a ready-reach kerchief as well as improvised fan; in place of the usually stiffened & folded pañuelo) & the tapis (serving its original purpose as an apron, in Tagalog dalantal), both in matching patterns and textiles.