Thursday, July 30, 2009


Before Havaianas, Crocs, Nike and Birkenstock--there was the bakya, the Philippines' national footwear. These clogs, made of lightwood, were first shaped to size, then the sides were carved with native designs as local flowers, birds, landscape, and in this example, bahay kubo. Today, the term "bakya" refers to anything low-class or unsophisticated, but there's nothing cheap and tasteless about this example. The carving is refined and detailed, the vibrant color choices, excellent. The strap is made from expensive velvet, intricately embroidered with beads. Only 6.5 inches in length and 2 inches high, thsi pair must have been made for somebody's spoiled daughter!

Chunky, noisy bakyas fell out of favor starting in the 50s, but tiday, they are being collected as fine examples of Pinoy folk art. I was lucky to find this pair in great condition from an online shop at a super affordable 'bakya" price!


Combat was the longest running World War II series on TV, running from 1962-1967. I was a fan of the 2 stars--Vic Morrow (as Sgt. Chip Saunders) and Rick Jason (as Lt. Gil Hanley) and I remember going agog when I received Sgt. Saunder's autographed fan photo from Uncle Bob's Lucky 7 Club. But what I really wanted was a Combat coloring book, which was impossible to get in Manila. Four decades later, thanks to ebay, I found one, published by Saalfield, unused and uncolored! Tada-da-dan, ta dan!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009


One dog led to another, and before I knew it, I had a poodle pound. Quintessential '50s canine icon, the poodle is. The fluffy-eared, well-groomed, eyelash-batting pooch also materialized on handbags, vases, aprons, trays and gave its name to a midcentury fashion hit--the poodle skirt! But my faves are these kitschy figurines made in the 50s-60s, that always showed a trio of poodles chained together, in family sizes (..err, there is a wayward squirrel family in this picture, ignore, ignore). These figurines were speckled in gold, or trimmed with furs, so appropriate for these cutesy, campy canines!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009


The Dutch contributed a lot to the world of pop culture, to wit: Dutch Cleanser, Dutch treat, Dutch wooden shoes, Dutch windmills, Dutch Baby Milk. It's hard not to ignore these imageries, so much so that even cheap wall plaques were made of the Dutch to decorate kitchen walls of the 1950s. This cute pair was found in a U.S. flea market for a dollar, now Dutch incredible!

12. COUPLE ON A CAKE: A Filipiniana Wedding Cake Topper

Wedding cake toppers are an American invention-- after all, we only had bibingkas (rice cakes) in the good old days. We put grated coconut on top of them, not fancy, inedible decors such as this! But this is the first cake topper I've seen with a bride and groom distinctively dressed as Filipinos. The dashing groom wears a white, sharkskin suit while his bride is attired in a formal butterfly sleeved gown trimmed with lace, complete with a dusty tulle veil. I found the lovestruck plaster pair, which dates to the early '50s, in a Cubao hole-in-the-wall thrift shop. Not in perfect condition, but this Filipiniana kitsch is worth keeping-- for better or for worse!

Monday, July 27, 2009


I had these plastic Beatles nodders for the longest time, purchased while I was a Bangkok resident. The Chatuchak shop had an amazing collection of Western collectibles (to this day, I regret not having bought the '70s Charlie's Angels dolls the shop had for sale) and one of the prized pieces were these 3 in. Fab Four figures that I can't find in any Beatles collectible books. Maybe they're unlicensed items. Maybe they're cake toppers. Or even voodoo dolls. But I love them yeah, yeah, yeah!

Sunday, July 26, 2009


Tita Cory Aquino may not be feeling good these past few months, but in sickness and in health, we Pinoys love her--and remember her with gratitude for toppling the Marcos dictatorship and restoring democracy to the Philippines. Ascending to the presidency in the name of her beloved Ninoy (Benigno Aquino Jr.) , Tita Cory became an icon of our times, and in the heady People Power days, assorted Cory dolls were made in her likeness. This 3.5 inch Cory Doll, a car hanger made of felt, shows our favorite tita in her trademark glasses and yellow dress, holding her fingers up in a LABAN (fight) sign. "I Love Cory", we all proclaimed, and to this day, this sentiment is still felt and shared by millions of grateful Filipinos.

Thursday, July 23, 2009


Pambansang Kamao just got dollified!
This is a one-of-a-kind Manny Pacquiao deconstructed action figure made by a Bulacan artist who, using Sculpey ( a kind of mdelling clay) sculpted the likeness of the boxing legend and plunked it on a generic 12 in. vinyl body of some other action toy. Manny wears his trademark shorts (handpainted) and rosary. The boxing gloves and Everlast training helmet cmplete this boxed ensemble. I was surprised that this didn't sell on, even after repeated re-listings. So I snapped it up for under 3K! Definitely, the best pound-per-pound 12 inch action puncher on earth!


They don't serve Coke on trays anymore.
But back in the '50s, Coke in glasses was served at soda parlors on colorful metal trays such as this original "Menu Girl" tray. Even the ad slogans are on the rim of this tray: Thirst knows No Season and Have a Coke. Gives you something to read while waiting to make your move on your date. Tray measures 10-1/2" x 13-1/4". The slight paint chip and normal wear do not detract from the vibrant charm of this tray which I picked up in a Chatuchak collectible shop in Bangkok. Now how do you say "Have a Coke and a smile" in Thai? Hmmm..

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


This week marks the 40th year anniversary of the moon landing, undertaken by the crew of Apollo 11 lunar mission. While Neil Armstrong’s words “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind..” was reverberating in space, Miss Philippines Gloria Diaz was also making waves in Miami Beach by being elected as the 1969 Miss Universe, the first Pinay to win the coveted title. (And that’s how Filipinos became pageant-crazy!).

Both the conquests of the moon and the universe were reported as headlines of this Manila Times newspaper, 21 July 1969 issue, purchased from a collectible shop in Tiendesitas for a hundred bucks, brittle pages and all. (That’s why you should keep dailies with historic headlines—they make good future references as well as great cabinet liners).

Today, Neil Armstrong is 79 years old, and a member of the Astronaut Hall of Fame. Over a dozen schools, buildings, streets and even a song was named after him. As for Gloria Diaz, she is now an endorser of ..., hmm, a geriatric food supplement.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

6. And here's the Thriller: MICHAEL JACKSON DOLL

An animated homage to the King of Pop, the "Superstar of tye 80s"--Michael Jackson resurrected as a 12" vinyl in a genuine "Thriller" outfit. Produced by Matchbox in 1984, this fully poseable doll includes the Glittering "Magic" Glove, Shades, and Posing Stand. MJ was also available in other versions: "Beat It', "American Music Awards" and "Grammy Awards". Found in a sporting goods store in Angeles City, Pampanga that had lots of '80s vintage toy stocks. Rockin' robin!


Heads up on these kookie flower vases!
Made since the 1940s all the way to the 1970s, lady head vases continue to be today’s hot, hot collectibles, commanding from $50 to an astounding $1,000! They're made in pretty much the same way--with closed, flirty eyes and with an opening either on top or the back of the head. They were made mostly in Japan, the U.S. and Britain. Well, I got these favorites for just a few hundred pesos-- I think the cheapest was about 80 pesos (pictured above), from my good old favorite haunt, Makati Cinema Square.

This is called by collectors the "Scarlett Head Vase', becase of its supposedly marked resemblance to Scarlett O'Hara of "Gone with the Wind". (Well, frankly my dear, I don't give a damn). I got this in a main street antique shop in Metuchen, NJ, owned by a sweet old lady, Mrs. Evelyn Fincke.

I found a pair of these vases in Chatuchak, Bangkok--Southeast Asia's biggest flea market. I think the Thai local who got these was charmed by the Siamese-inspired headdress.

Collectors say that ethnic-type vases like this Nubian head vase are rare, but I did not have to look far. I found this vase on my aunt's dresser which she used to hold her combs and brushes. When my dear aunt passed away, this came to my possession.
This is a very large head that came with faux pearl jewelry. Very pretty! And the windswept, fly away 'do is so period. Found in a local thrift shop.


Monday, July 20, 2009

4. SAMPAGUITA PICTURES: Up from the Ashes

Lights, camera, action!
Spotlight on this circa 60s ashtray from Sampaguita Pictures decorated appropriately with the masks of Tragedy and Comedy in relief. Hundreds of these must have been given away to press people and friends at past studio functions and holidays—although it could have also been presented to a movie star. (Picture kontrabida Rita Gomez stubbing her cigarette on this ashtray while letting out her trademark laugh. Bwahahahaha!) . Cheaply made, this ceramic ashtray miraculously survived unused, and was found in a Kamuning thrift shop.

Sampaguita Pictures, founded in 1937, was a premiere movie studio that gave us unforgettable movie stars like Carmen Rosales, Rogelio de la Rosa, Pancho Magalona, Tita Duran, Gloria Romero, Susan Roces, Luis Gonzales, Tirso Cruz II and Nora Aunor, among others. The studio also produced such classics as Bituing Marikit., Paru-parong Bukid, Maalaala Mo Kaya?, Amy, Susie and Tessie, Talipandas, Silveria, Dyesebel and Eva Fonda. Mike de Leon’s Batch ’81 was its last production.


This juvenile book favorite became a TV series in 1977, starring Parker Stevenson (as Frank Hardy) and Shaun Cassidy (as Joe Hardy) as the teen detective brothers who did some serious sleuthing alongside Nancy Drew, who also merited a spin-off TV series, starring Pamela Sue Martin.

The Hardy Boys ended after 35 episodes, and all that I have to remember it by is this tin lunchbox that immortalized the good looks of these two young TV sensations. Post-Hardy, Parker married Kirstie Alley and joined Baywatch. Shaun starred in a hit Broadway play with half-brod, David in the '90s.

As for Pamela..well, there was this irresistible Playboy centerfold offer, and so...

Sunday, July 19, 2009


Holy Batmania! Batman and Robin coinbanks! The campy TV series ‘Batman’ (starring Adam West and Burt Ward) that first aired in 1966 proved to be such an outlandish hit that it spawned a thousand and one merchandise for gullible kids to lap up—from masks, costumes, Batmobile to more unique items such as these 7 inch porcelain banks. A Manila shop that was going out of business had old stocks of toys –so I did her a favor and cleaned up her shelves. That’s how I came to own this Dynamic Duo for just a dollar! Ka-ching! Ka-ching! Kappowww!


Collecting is an obsession that has its roots in our childhood. In our youth, we amassed postcards, marbles, Barbies, cigarette packs, movie stars’ photos and autographs. We kept toys, premium items, bottle caps and comic books. As adults, we hoarded souvenir items from our travels: ash trays, matches, bells, spoons and figurines. To a great extent then, collecting takes a lifetime. As one inveterate collector said: “I know I will collect for as long as I live because I never stop looking for things”.

I like to think that we collect not for economic reasons alone/ We want to enrich our life by surrounding ourselves with these objects which we alone think are valuable, interesting an beautiful. To a real collector, it is not often the material value that matters but the personal meaning of the object to him. Such an item may be linked to his past. Its acquisition, therefore, may evoke pleasant memories of “the good old days”. On the other hand, it may just be a source of plain amusement, an object that will help him evolve his own ideas of beauty and value.

I remember, for instance, a doll that my eldest sister used to own. It was a 1950s doll of hard plastic, and, in our hands, underwent countless horrible ordeals. In our boisterous games, this doll was kicked, tied and hung, tossed in the air, rolled down the stairs and defaced with crayons until the garbage dump claimed the poor thing. As the years passed, the doll was quickly forgotten and my sister eventually married, settled in the States and we all grew up and led separate lives.

One day, however, while I was having a picture framed in an art gallery, I noticed a doll sitting on a shelf with the familiar auburn hair, close-open eyes and smiling mouth. It was an exact duplicate of the doll my sister had. One look and I knew, I just had to have it. Fortunately, the gallery owner didn’t care too much about the doll, and so a little cajoling and a few hundred pesos later, the doll was mine. More than just a plaything, I now realize that this doll represented a piece of our family’s past, a most happy time in our youth long gone, but never forgotten. Thus began my insatiable life-long hunt for lost childhood keepsakes---in the form of toys, dolls, action figures, gameboards and other kidstuff.

Then again, the other fulfilling aspect of collecting is that it can lead you to strange, wonderful adventures. In one day, you can go from an artsy antique shoppe to a cramped, hole-in-the-wall thrift shop. I have scoured places in Vigan, intruded the privacy of an Ilongga’s mother home, crawled on all fours in Angeles U.S. surplus stores, visited Makati tag sales thrice on a given day in my quest to satisfy my obsession.

I have gone from New York to Kamuning, Portobello Road to Pasay, Chatuchak to Quiapo, Jonker Street in Malacca to Marikina Shoe Expo, in search of the stuff of my dreams, often not knowing what to buy, until I see it: a rusty pedal car, a Partridge Family coloring book, a Batman lunchbox or if I’m lucky, an Alien figure.

Indeed, collecting is a risky yet an irresistible game. It is a study in trial and error and it brings the gambling spirit in all of us. As we seek, so shall we find---fabulous finds one day, expensive mistakes the next. It is the joy of the hunt that fuels us on, the thrill of pursuing our links to the past and the ever-present possibility of unearthing Cleopatra’s jewels among glass baubles.