Wednesday, December 12, 2012


Now here's a nicely-put together cast metal bust of our national hero which I found in a used furniture shop in Apalit. And unlike plaster statues of Jose Rizal, this one is made of heavy polished brass. The base, I suspect, is a later addition, made of wood, aluminum and accentuated with a metal crest.  Maybe this once rested on somebody's desk, or in some school principal's or politico's office. But for now, I am happy to house Gat Jose in my library, happy to have a hero watch over me.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012


A 1969 Walt Disney tin lunchbox of Peter Pan manufactured by Aladdin Industries--found at the famous Grand Thrift Shop at Cubao Expo. A pity the thermo is missing! But this lunch box is in exquisite condition, almost unused! This side shows Peter Pan in a duel with Captain Hook...

The other side shows the Darling children flying with Peter Pan. The side panels feature other characters from the popular animated film. Great coloring on this box! I coveted this lunchbox when I was a kid..but unlike Peter Pan, I grew up and sort of outgrew my interest in such kidstuff. Until my second childhood stage kicked in....

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

245. Feeding the Kitty : CLAY CAT COIN BANK

Saw this very folksy clay cat perched on a shelf at the famed Grand Thrift Shop in Cubao, and I just couldn't resist it! It reminded me of those cheap Staffordshire cat figurines from the U.K.--but this local version packs a lot more charm with its expression and color! It is actually a clay bank, made in some local kiln, peddled and sold in the 50s or even 60s. Clay figurines such as these where very popular cheap gifts, and were available at any local market. A lot were also sold by ambulant cattle-riding vendors. There were clay pigs, clay fruits, clay vases, clay ovens, clay everything! -- all hand-painted with hardware paint.

This pussy cat with a sour grin looks like an ordinary, tail-less alley cat, speckled with yellow and black paint to simulate a kitty's tortoiseshell coloring. It stands rigidly on its base, ready to receive coins from a school kid (there's a coin slot on his back), but is unused, hence it's very good, almost purr-fect condition! It's getting harder to find these folk art clay figurines--too laborious to make perhaps, in this age of resin and plastic. Thanks for the meow-mories!

Monday, November 19, 2012


The celebrated miraculous bread, known as “panecillos de San Nicolas”, is known simply in Pampanga as “saniculas’. There used to be a ritual blessing of the cookies before they are distributed, although this tradition is now rarely practiced, saved for some Recollect parishes like San Sebastian where saniculas are still blessed during Masses.The cookie itself is made using age-old techniques and ingredients like arrowroot flour (uraro), eggs, lard, dalayap (lemon rind) and coconut milk.

The “saniculas” wooden moulds which are used to impress the dough with the distinctive imprint are interesting kitchen artifacts themselves. They are often commissioned from Betis and Bacolor carvers, and although the designs vary, the moulds always have the abstracted figure of the saint in the center, surrounded by floral, vegetal and curlicue patterns.

Kapampangan cooks treasure these uniquely-designed wooden molds, which commonly came as single blocks. Some have back-to-back designs, but most are often carved with the owner’s initials. As fine examples of folk art, “saniculas” moulds have also found their way in antique shops.

Thursday, November 8, 2012


Time was when every 50s and 60s home had "works of art" such as this--a 3-D painting of some generic rural scene, often bought at furniture shops and downtown bazaars. Cheaply produced, the paintings featured subjects such as nipa huts that were cleverly raised in relief from the canvass using sticks, paper mache and cardboards. Elements such as the roof, the walls and the fences were then gesso'ed and painted, in the hope of achieving a more realistic, three-dimensional look. Think of it as "extreme impasto".

Nevertheless, despite this technique, paintings still looked kitschy and naive. But nowadays, period kitsch have been elevated to the status of folk art, Filipiniana style, and this example--sold at a swap shop--carried quite a price tag, many time its original price.Not even the fancy frame can hide the hideous execution of its theme--from the waterfall that cascades down to become a multi-tiered stream, the cockroach-looking carabao and the bahay kubo that looks like a cross between a log cabin and an Ifugao ulog hut. But as they say, one man's awful painting is another man's precious "outsider art".

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

242. A Case in Point: 50s COKE ALUMINUM CASE

One of my earliest Coca Cola collectibles is this stamped aluminum carrying case that can hold 24 bottles. I remember picking this up from good old Makati Cinema Square, which, back in the '80s , was  a favorite hunting ground for all things old, vintage and collectible. I've seen a few aluminum cases here in the Philippines; I don't think these were produced locally--local crates were of wood until the 70s, when plastic replaced them. The crate is divided into niches by means of metal rods that are covered in rubber. I just checked ebay and currently there's one similar to this priced at $96.00--with an hour to go before the end of the auction. Past examples were sold for $70 plus. As you can see, this aluminum crate is a nifty way to display my collection of vintage Coke bottles. What a way to "open happiness!"

Tuesday, October 16, 2012


Few months back, I was in Cubao to check on some stuff my dealer supposedly found from an old house in Quiapo. Just as I was arriving at his place, he sped by in his car, the trunk loaded with house junk--just precisely the stuff my thrift shop dreams are made of! He said he had a couple of old prints, so he pulled out this frame, with glass intact.
I could barely see what was behind the glass; it was smeared with dirt and dust build-up! But I could faintly see the hazy shape of what appeared to be a print of the celebrated Virgen de la Naval. I paid for the frame--dust, grime and all--and headed for home.
I immediately pried open the back of the frame, and the backboard turned out to be a cardboard print of some Dutch landscape, complete with windmills and all. My hunch was correct, for upon carefully removing the fragile paper print that the backboard supported, I turned it over to see that it was indeed a nice print of Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary--Virgen de la Naval!
The image of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary is one of the most revered Marian image in the country. The ivory figure was carved by a Chinese artisan in 1593, who was converted into the faith while carving the image. It now reposes at the Sto. Domingo Church in Quezon City where its annual feast day--La Naval Fiesta--is celebrated every October.
It was my first time to see this kind of print--I have one printed by the UST press that dates from the early 20th century. There were some pencil scribblings at the back of the paper print which puts the date of this making before the War.

Monday, October 8, 2012

240. Before They Were Famous: ALFIE ANIDO'S YEARBOOK

Remember Alfie Anido? He was one of the so-called Regal babies launched to stardom in the late 70s to 80s (the others were Willima Martinez, Snooky Serna, Jimmy Melendez, Gabby Concepcion, etc.). Well, back in 1973, he was a chubby elementary school graduate whose batchmates include President Noynoy Aquino, designer Pepito Albert and senator Teofisto Guingona III!
That's what I found in his Ateneo Yearbook, which I picked from the recent Greenhills Antiques Fair. Just 14 years old here, Alfie was a member of the Varsity Football. Upon graduation, he remained in Ateneo to pursue a management course.
While in college, he started appearing in commercials and in fashion shows, and was soon discovered for the movies. He was teamed up with former Miss Magnolia finalist, Dina Bonnevie, whom he supported in the 1980 hit camp film "Temptation Island".
Just a day before his 21st birthday, on 30 December 1980, Alfie died, reportedly of suicide. But rumors abound that the Enriles had something to do with his untimely death (he was with Juan Ponce Enrile's daughter, Katrina, at that time). In Enrile's recently published memoir, he revealed that Fabian Ver was behind the rumor linking his family to Alfie's death, a rumor that has become a sort of an urban legend in Philippine showbiz. Who would think that only 7 years before that, Alfie was a happy, chubby, cute young Atenean, with perhaps just his football games in his mind?

Sunday, September 23, 2012


I remember my Grandmother Patricia's (Apung Tiri) old and tiny demitasse cups which my Mother kept for the longest time in an old bookcase that had lost its glass panelled doors. In fact, she used that bookcase to store her special crockery, to be taken out and used only during special occasions like our annual fiestas. Same was true for Apu’s lovely little cups—they were only taken out once or twice a year. By any standards, her demitasse cups were just plain white ironstone cups, not even porcelain—with a raised relief of a carnation flower in front.

These cups were used to serve special hot chocolate, freshly made from ground chocolate mixed with peanuts and gatas damulag, then briskly whisked in a brass chocolatera using a wooden batirul. The resulting frothy chocolate drink was sipped daintily from these cups, to be savored slowly, with puto, broas or çhurros, depending on your taste and budget. 

Sometimes on Christmas, we also filled these cups with green duman (gelatinous rice) and then pour the hot chocolate afterwards—a taste treat unlike any other! My Mother too had her own sets of demitasse cups which she recived as wedding gifts—she had real porcelain cups with transfer print of roses as well as even smaller ones with gilt rims. So treasured were these cups that they were even etched on the bottom with my mom’s initials—E.R.C. Through the years though, we lost a lot of these cups; we only have half a dozen now, some without handles, others with cracks. Even then, I keep them on display on a shelf in our old house, a family souvenir of sorts. 

Recently, I came upon a nice set of demitasse cups of similar make from two different sources—one from a San Fernando dealer and the other from a roadside Bulacan antique shop. I bought them years apart, so I suppose these cup styles were rather popular. But what makes them special was that they were personalized either with the names of the owners or with personal wishes intended for guests. One example has the name ”Apolinaria” written in a flourish in gold. Others carry greetings like “Amistad”(Amity or Friendship) and “Recuerdo” (Souvenir), in low-grade gold.

These were done by itinerant artisans who once roamed towns offering their unique services of personalizing utensils, jewelry pieces and objects of value by hand. There are those who carefully incised the back of plates and cups with the owner’s initials using a hammer and a metal pick. Others used their calligraphic skills, writing names using gilt paint, as in these examples. I was lucky to get ten perfect cups—each a showcase of the vanishing art of personalizing objects by hand, as well as memory pieces to remind me of my Apu I never met, and my late Mom’s cooking skills which I continue to miss every day.

Thursday, September 13, 2012


Coloring books are one of my fave collectibles--I saved a few from the 60s and 70s, which were largely based on TV programs like Brady Bunch, Partridge Family, Bonanza, etc. But the earlier coloring books--or paint books--were based on glamor girls, screen hunks, vamps, vixens and singing stars of Hollywood. The lovely Ann Sheridan, the original "Oomph Girl" is one such subject of this large (11 x 14), scarce paintbook that dates from 1944.

Ann was the winner of the "Search for Beauty" contest that earned her a screen test at Paramount Pictures. At 18, she was put under a contract under the name Clara Lou Sheridan. She moved to Warner Bros. in 1936 and became a leading star of many comedies and light romance movies
She remained active in the 60s, appearing in "Another World" (1964) and the western series "Pistols 'n' Petticoats" (1966). 
This paint book has 48 pages of Ann to color, showing her activities on and off-screen. It was publihsed by Whitman Co., a leading juvenile publications company. This is an ebay find, worth about $25, with a few pages colored.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012


My tin toy collecting was jumpstarted by this tin toy house that I bought at the famous Makati Cinema Square, back in the days when it was still a happy-hunting ground for scroungers and thrift shoppers--with the basement level full of shops that sold practically anything used, vintage and second-hand.

The painted metal parts were in a box that had long since disintegrated, but I distinctly recall that it was marked with a"BILT E-Z" brand name. I assembled the pieces easily and formed this multi-level structure, put it on a shelf and forgot all about it. That is, until I saw a similar tin building featured on a Smithsonian Magazine!

A quick research yielded some information about this toy from the 1920s. The BILT-EZ building was made by Scott Manufacturing Company Inc, Chicago, USA. The parts connect together by means of tabs which project at right-angles from the top and bottom of the wall pieces and slip into the edges of the roof/floor parts. Balconies and lengths of roof edging are also attached with tabs. Roof/floor sections are connected together by means of connector plate.

Here is a youtube video I found of this early tin construction toy:


Monday, August 27, 2012


As a collector of sacred art, I got excited when i saw these very old black and white prints showing religious figures, Biblical scenes and character at an art shop in Devonport, New Zealand. They are rather large prints and seemed to have come from the same book. There were classic representations of the Immaculate Conception, The Scourging of Christ, the Holy Family, The Way of the Cross--and so much more, probably printed in Italy. Some of the scenes are captioned in Spanish, French and English. The curator/shop owner told me they date back to the late 1890s-1900, making them authetic 100 year old antique. She was kind enough too, to give me a special package price for 3 lovely prints. In Manila, these would probably be worth Php 5,000 apiece, as European-made religious prints are hard to come by--last time I saw a black and white Currier & Ives print of Sacred Heart for sale locally was over a decade ago--and that was American-made!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

234. WE THREE KINGS: Nativity Figures

Christmas is still a long way off, but I just have to show this trio of plastic royalties that dates back to the psychedelic 60s. I found these in the weekend Avondale Market in Auckland, NZ--which is basically a farmer's market with a sprinkling of open stalls selling vintage stuff. Melchior, Gaspar and Balthazar may have been part of a Nativity set, typical of examples cheaply sold in the 50s and 60s. I couldn't find a manufacturer's mark, maybe these were made in Hong Kong. Holiday collectibles such as these have their own crazy collectors--and I guess I am one of them. Right now, this  merry plastic trio are gathered 'round my little plastic Christmas tree that is displayed year-round in my little house, ready to welcome visitors with their plastic gifts of myrrh, gold and frankincense.

Sunday, August 5, 2012


This picture showing a beautiful pair of Filipiniana busts was sent by phone to me for my consideration by my antique dealer from Bulacan. One look and I knew these were very rare pieces--and very old. The almost identical busts show two Filipinas in a typical Maria Clara outfit, characterized by a stiff panuelo, covering their camisa. One of the ladies has her head in a more tilted position and is about half an inch shorter, but both are carved similarly, right down to the hair caught in a bun at the back. There are polychrome traces on these fine softwood carvings.

I agreed with my dealer to see the busts up close on a Friday, as I really don't buy items without first seeing them--especially at the price he wanted. But towards the week, he phoned again to tell me that the middleman peddling the busts was pulling them out from his shop (he was taking them to Manila)--and asked f I could see them before Friday. That proved impossible for me, as I was still at work in Makati, so sadly, I passed them up. But the images of these rare Filipiniana pieces kept haunting me.

Next thing I knew, the pair appeared in an online shop in just a matter of by a Manila dealer. I quickly got in contact with the dealer and confirmed that the pair was still up for grabs. There was only one catch though--the original price had doubled! But at that point, i didn't care--the rarity of these pieces told me they were still worth much, much more.

I surmised that these were not commercially sold pieces but commissioned works from some sculptor meant to grace a grand old bahay na bato. Their faces might have even been modelled from real Filipina ladies, sisters perhaps. Another possibility was that these were works of an advanced art student, projects of his sculpting class. The details are impeccable, right down to the turned pedestals and the lacey like edgings of the ladies' panuelo.

 But there was one more catch before I could even go check them out at the dealer's place: one bust had been sold. I would have wanted to get the pair, but I was still in luck: since I got to the dealer's place first, I had the first option to choose the bust of my preference. Of course, I picked the taller one, all 23 inches tall, showing a more mature lady of refinement and wealth. So ends my successful chase for this bust that had been the object of my fascination for a week--Maria Clara was mine to keep!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

232. LETTER ART: Victoriano Caballero

While scrounging around for some worthy finds at the antique row of NLEX's Sta. Rita Exit, I came upon an old religious print of the "Virgen de la Paloma"--tattered beyond repair--framed in a crumbling gesso'd picture frame. It was a pity that the print could no longer be salvaged, it had large missing parts--but the dealer pointed out to some possible paper treasures found at the back of the picture. Indeed, 3 pieces of paper were found sandwiched between the frame and the print, acting as backboards.

I was immediately drawn to a 22 x18 sheet of browning paper--a watercolor letter art bearing the name "Victorino Caballero". Letter art was a popular Filipino past-time, and the best examples were the water color 'letras y figuras' creations in the 19th century. "Letras y Figuras" refer to an art form involving the painting of the letters of the alphabet by ingeniously forming their contour out of the shape of human figures, animals, plants, and other objects. The foremost proponent of these charming folk art pieces was Jose Honorato Lozano. 

Simpler letter art involved embellishing individual letters with design elements like floral motifs, just like this example, thus creating a new font style that is at once pleasing and beautiful. This, actually, is a memorial piece--bearing the name of the dear departed. Underneath Victorino's name are pencilled inscriptions--indicating that this was unfinished: "Namatay ng icadalauampo ng Octubre ng taong isang libo ualong daan at ualong po at lima" (Died on the 20th of October in the year 1885). This work certainly was done after 1885, maybe a few months or so after the departure of Victorino from this mortal world.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

231. God Wave The Queen: SOLAR QUEEN LIZ

2012 marked Queen Elizabeth of England’s Diamond Jubilee Year and as a tribute, this limited edition ‘Solar Queen’was created by Kikkerland Design of USA and Canada—made in good ol’China, of course.

My sis, who vaguely appreciates my bizarre hobby, sent this animated doll to me from her New Zealand home base. How does it work?

Well, just place the Solar Queen in the sunlight and watch Her Majesty wave with a subtle twist of the wrist. This gesture, cultivated over the centuries, is the true mark of royalty. The solar panel on her handbag is her power supply, so she never needs batteries—which means she may just wave forever!

Sunday, July 15, 2012


I was scavenging for old reading materials at a thrift shop at the famous Cubao Expo when this book with a familiar green cover caught my eye. Yes! It’s the same textbook we used in Grade 4, if I remember right—entitled “Your Country and Mine”.

 It was authored by Catalina Velasquez-Ty, Tomas Garcia and Antonio A. Maceda, published in 1954 by Ginn and Company, a well-known American publishing firm that had offices in Boston, new York and—Manila!

Once I leafed through the pages, I was transported back to my grade school days, when I used to admire the beautiful full color artworks that appeared in the book.

Little did I know that the illustrations were done by Cesar C. Amorsolo (b.1903/d. 1998) – Fernando Amorsolo’s nephew. His father, Atty. Alejandro Amorsolo also painted. Orphaned at the age of 6, Cesar went on to live with his uncle Fernando, whom he would serve as his assistant for 30 years.

Coming into his own, he painted in Manila, Hong Kong and Los Angeles, where he stayed for 7 years. Gifted with a fine hand, his paintings of rural scenes carry the same unmistakable Amorsolo lighting. Ginn and Co. often commissioned him to do artworks for their books printed in Manila, doing illustrations in oil, pastel and occasionally, watercolor. Cesar Amorsolo belongs to the so-called Mabini artist group who painted in the folk genre for the tourist trade.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012


Now this battery-powered tin chicken toy caught my fancy in a roadside shop--only because of its  unsually funny complex features--it pushes a pram containing her bobbling-head chicks, walks with a loud squalk while moving its wings and then stops to lay 2 plastic eggs! Now that's a weird playtime pleaser! I've seen a couple of YouTube videos of similar egg-laying chicken toys--but not like this pram-pushing variety. The condition of this toy is perfect--maybe it's missing 1 egg, but other than that, I see no major mechanical defects. Which leads me to believe that this is a newer toy model, possibly from the 70s? Or even later. I originally thought this was made in Japan, but a reader corrected me--it's made in China (thanks RodC). What a fine feathered find!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

228. Holy Wheels! A BLUE BATMOBILE!

 Holy Baloney! Another Japan-made Batmobile from the 60s! And this time, it's the rarer blue model variety.  This battery-powered super car comes with the vinyl caped crusaders, ready to take them to the scene of the crime, complete with light and bump and go action!

This Batmobile was inspired by the campy 1967 TV series, "Batman", starring Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward as the Boy Wonder. There was also a black version of the Batmobile--and I am determined to find that one too.

As you can see, this Batmobile is a bit scruffy with dings and dents and some rusting all over. But that doesn't detract much from the kitschy appeal of this toy, which harkens back to the days when everything was over-the-top, with everyone screaming "Kapowww!! Kablammm! Holy Cowww!" every time Good triumphed over Evil.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

227. I, ROBOT: A Horikawa Shoot 'n Walk Robot

One of the most prolific makers of Japanese battery operated toys was the Horikawa company which manufactured and sold hundreds of different tin robots and space toys. Horikawa sold so many different robots in the 1950's through 80's that new variations are being found regularly by collectors--just like this vintage 70s monter, which came literally robot-walked to my doorstep. It's a large, heft robot (16" tall!), noseless, with tin and plastic body. When running on its batteries, it walks, stops, and its chest opens to reveal a deadly set of rocket artillery, which it shoots with matching light flashes and sound effects. Pretty impressive for a 40++ year old robot, no?

Thursday, June 14, 2012

226. A Jeep for Keeps: TIN ARMY JEEP

I'm not a big collector of tin toys, but when this friction metal tin toy jeep--in exceptional condition--I made a rare exception and bought it at once, even if a bit pricey. The Japan-made toy depicts a U.S. army jeep painted in the typical drab olive green color. Jeeps were used extensively in the last World War, so I found the idea of a Japanese manufacturer making a U.S. war jeep a rather interesting study in irony. This toy, dating from the 60s features two vinyl soldier figures, one driving the vehicle and the other, manning the machine gun mounted at the rear.
When the battery-operated toy is turned on, the army jeep moves forward while the gunner sways from side to side, firing at unseen enemies. I have seen similar tin army jeeps offered on ebay, in the range of $100 and up, and I don't regret getting this fine specimen that has a crossover appeal with WWII memorabilia collectors. Of course, you know what we did to the jeep--we closed it, lengthen it, painted it with bright wild colors, trimmed it with plastic buntings and added a stainless steel horse as a hood ornament. Voila--the Philippine jeepney! Now that's a real collectible toy!!