Monday, May 17, 2010

129. ROOSTER TAKAAN, Paper Mache Mold

Papier mache art is synonymous with the town of Paete, Laguna which has been churning out colorful papier mache figures of all shapes and sizes for many decades now. The industry peaked in the 1970s, when Manila antiques and art shops included these colorful, folksy figures to supplement their dwindling supply of genuine antiques. The horses were painted in red lacquer then the body was further decorated with folksy patterns.

Along Mabini, the place to go for these decorative figures was Junque, whose proprietor was no less than writer-culturati-book publisher Gilda Cordero-Fernando. Silahis Arts and Crafts in Intramuros not only carried these painted paper equines, but also other figures, like roosters, rabbits and later, women in Philippine costumes, angels and Santa Claus. In due time, even the solid wood molds on which newspaper strips were glued became hot collectibles. The example shown above shows a mold for a seldom-seen rooster figure. This "takaan", as they are called, was collected from Paete and found its way to a Mabini shop, and then to a shop in Angeles. where I found it. It is too plain and heavy to become a "manok ni San Pedro", but it does make a nice doorstop!


Aside from the giant Rosary and the Spoon & Fork woodcarving, one other house decor that defines Philippine interior design is the "Weapons of Moroland" wall plaque. In the post-War years all the way to the 50s and 70s, this decorative plaque that features miniature weapons from the Muslim South was a staple in many Philippine homes, as well as a popular souvenir item among visiting tourists. This example is the harder-to-find smaller version, measuring only about 6 inches tall, is an example from the 1950s. It is of cheap plywood and painted aluminum and features the Philippine seal as well as a Moro shield in the middle of the wooden panel. The blades are made from cut aluminum. Some of the names of the weapons are kaus, kampilan, barong, laring, pira, panabas and many more (the larger version of this plaque features 22 weapons in all.)However, this plaque is missing three weapons: the Puñal, Kris and Bangkon. The "Weapons of Moroland" are still being made in fewer quantities today as their appeal has largely diminished brought about by more enduring souvenirs like giant folding fans, man-in-a-barrel, and yes--woodcarved Spoons and Fork, which continues to find favor in the homes of the nouveau rich and famous.

Monday, May 3, 2010

127. Coloring Book: BEN CASEY

Before Grey's Anatomy and Private Practice, there's Ben Casey--a medical drama series on TV that ran from 1961-66. Its main star, the heartthrob Vince Edwards played the role of the young, hunky doctor Ben Casey, a surgeon at County General Hospital. He was mentored by Dr. David Zorba (played by Sam Jaffe). The show found stiff competition from Dr. Kildare, also a medical drama series from NBC, which starred the equally cool and handsome Richard Chamberlain as the intern James Kildare. Both Ben Casey and Dr. Kildare even hit the airwaves on the same year. The audience was divided between the suave Dr. Kildare and the smoldering Dr. Casey, who was more intense, more brooding, more gritty--and more hairy! (blame it on Vince Edwards' Italian genes) . And, in the early ratings game, Ben Casey dominated its time slot. Both shows however generated a lot of merchandise like comic books, dolls, game boards, LP records and authorized edition coloring books--one example of which is shown above. The book, published in 1963, had pages to color of the doctor in action at the hospital.

Eventually, after 5 years, both shows were cancelled. Vince Edwards continued to act in Film and on TV (he made a TV movie in 1988, The Return of Ben Casey) until he died of cancer in 1996.


This antique ironstone baby plate made by HoldFast, a popular maker of plates and other houseware based in East Liverpool. I found this in Bangkal, and it was obvious the dealer recognized it as an antique, as it was hanging on a wall as a decorative plate. The central illustration shows a little boy and girl on a see-saw, who reminded me briefly of the Campbell Kids. HoldFast made many children's dishes, bowls and alphabet plates which featured letters of the alphabet written on the rim of the plate. HoldFast plates and dishes are noted for their durability and for their charming designs which often feature characters from Nursery Rhymes like "Bye, Baby Bunting" and "Pussy Cat, Where Have You Been?". This example is heavy and deep, and dates back from the early 20th century or even earlier. The best thing about it is, it still is serviceable, so now I use it as my breakfast plate!


There's a growing legion of pop-out book collectors today, first introduced to the world by Edward Nister and Lothar Meggendorfer in Germany and Britain in the 19th century. They charmed kids with their 3-dimensional structure and their all-action features that moved and transform elements on the page.

I remember buying this fairy tale pop-out book for five pesos from a local grocery store in Balibago, Angeles City that had all sorts of things to sell, other than canned foods and drinks. On the second floor, Johnny's Grocery had a sort of a department store with a mini-book and stationary section. This is where I found this 1971 "Made in Czechoslovakia" Cinderella, illustrated by Czech artist, Voitech Kubaska.

These collectible books were originally printed in the Polish language but the American versions were carried by Brown-Watson. The elaborate pop-out pages were retained, with surprising action scenes on every page, like this ballroom party scene--Cinderella and the Prince were revealed by pulling a tab that raises the curtains, with a retinue of guests standing in welcome to honor the pair. Alas, my "Jack & the Beanstalk" pop-out books has been lost, but I hope I can find a similar one on ebay which occasionally lists these books--at prices that will make your eyes, well, pop-out.


Vintage cookie jars enjoyed a brief surge in popularity in the late '80s when they were rediscovered by nostalgia fans who appreciated them more for their decorative and creative design, shape and form than their utilitarian value. These new collectibles got a boost when Andy Warhol's collection of period cookie jars were sold in an auction in 1987, for a staggering $250,000! There were character jars, advertising jars, animal-shaped jars, jars inspired by nursery rhymes, storybooks, pop culture icons and even everyday objects. form than their utilitarian value. Cookie jars were made by a variety of ceramic firms, the most popular of which were the McCoy, Metlock, Red Wing, Shawnee and Brush Pottery--all from the U.S. But Japanese firms also produced unusual hand-painted cookie jars like this one, in the shape of a boy's head, with his hat as the jar lid, complete with a rattan handle. Bangkal in Makati, that happy hunting ground of second-hand flotsam and jetsam, yielded this, err, kooky find!

123. Whitman Book: GILLIGAN'S ISLAND

Collectible Whitman Books were published by Western Publishing, founded in 1910, and which became well-known for the Little Golden Books of our childhood--those thin, hardbound books with golden spines that carried titled from Sesame Street stories to children's classics. The company also came up with a book series for older children and teens from the 1940s-1980s. The series from the 1950s-1970s included titles licensed from popular movies and TV shows, and this "Gilligan's Island" authorized edition is one of them. Gilligan's Island followed the comic adventures of 7 castaways as they attempted to survive and ultimately escape from the island where they were shipwrecked. It aired from 1964-67 on CBS and was seen on Philippine TV (Ch. 7) as well as the Far East TV (Clark Field, included). The "Ballad of Gilligan's Isle", the TV theme song, even became a minor hit. I used to have a coloring book as well, but only this Whitman book survived to tell the "tale of a fateful trip that started from this tropic port, aboard this tiny ship. The ship set ground on the shore of this uncharted desert isle. With Gilligan, The Skipper too, the millionaire and his wife, the movie star, the professor and Mary Ann...Here on Gilligans Isle!".


Back in 1967, Cafe Puro, a local coffee brand--offered these glasses with folk-dance inspired designs. Native dances, from Singkil, Itik-Itik to Pandanggo sa Ilaw and Tinikling, were immortalized on these glasses which became popular collectibles. Consumers tried their best to complete a set, but I think we only managed to get 3 glasses. The colored promo ads are featured below, from a 1967 issue of The Sunday Times Magazine.

These Instant Cafe Puro glasses were made really well, and a lot survived to this day. My glass was found in a Cubao thrift shop--I found two, but only this one now survived, featuring a dance called "Kalapati", an Ilocano folk dance that mimicked the movements of doves. Cafe Puro as a brand still exists today, made by Commonwealth Foods Inc. Cafe Puro comes in foil packs now, no longer in pretty glasses such as these ones. They make better freeboes than those pricey mugs that today's brewed coffee shops sell--all you get is their company logo. In 1967, you get to drink and dance with Cafe Puro!