Tuesday, January 24, 2012


One of my most fascinating finds during my Bangkok years was this plaster cast mannikin figure of a Thai woman for some defunct department store in Thailand. This must have stood on a countertop, perhaps promoting the fashions of the day. I have seen similar countertop mannequin displays of U.S. make, but this one definitely is a local creation, with distinct Malay features that could very well pass for a Filipina beauty.

The figure stands 24 inches tall and stands on a base with a Thai script that I can't decipher. A Thai friend said it reads "THAI PHAIRAT", but is not sure if that's the name of a shop. There are holes on her heels that you can slip through metal pegs attached firmly to the base. The only individual parts are the arms, which were connected by inserting the metal strips at the shoulder of the figure. One metal strip has been lost, so when I got this, the lady figure was armless. Some fingers have also been chipped off her hands and there were broken or cracked parts of her arms and body that have been glued back securely.

Despite these imperfections, I found the Thai "puying" (lady) really pretty--her hair was styled in a neat bun, and her morena complexion only gave her lots of Pinay appeal. For years, I kept her, as is, with a wrap-around skirt and draped in lace on one shoulder, simulating a Thai costume. She used to wear a strand of pearls, which I have since misplaced.

One day, an idea just occurred to me to dress her up--not in chic clothes that she probably once wore--but in a Filipiniana costume. I visualized her in a checkered patadyong, with a kimona top, with a wrap-around tapiz and a panuelo.

I took my Thai mannikin to a restorer of religious figures who willingly took on my unusual project. He fashioned the kimona top using a scrap of embroidered fabric from an old Filipiniana dress. A suitable checkered cloth became her skirt and the panyo. A few weeks after, my Thai miss mutated into a Pinay dalagang bukid! Here are the amazing results of that transformation.

From Khun Porntip to Bb. Perla--what a refreshingly, beautiful change!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012


This is a 17" composition Rosebud doll by Horsman, one of the leading doll makers in the U.S. whose products found their way to Philippine emporiums and Manila department stores. She was a popular doll in the early 30's, made with a composition swivel head, shoulder plate, and limbs. This doll has gray tin sleep eyes with most of her hair lashes intact. Her open mouth reveals a felt tongue and four upper teeth. She has nice deeply molded dimples with blush on her cheeks, backs of hands, elbows, and knees. On the back of the neck, we find her name-- ROSEBUD.

She wears her brunette mohair wig styled in bangs and her original tagged dress that still retains its bright colors. The only damage are a few tiny pinholes on the back of the collar. The tag reads, HORSMAN DOLL MFD IN USA.

Apparently, this doll was well-cared for by its 86 year-old owner, who had her when she was about 8 or so. She was kept in a cardboard box in an aparador (cabinet), and there it stayed until she decided to sell the entire contents of her house--Rosebud included. I am glad she's moved in with me, where she awaits to be displayed a toy museum, soon to rise in my province!


I found this googlie-eyed creamer staring at me in an antique shop in Devonport, New Zealand, a charming, seaside resort in Auckland. Figural creamers have been around for so long and most are in the shape of cows, people heads and other animals. This one though, is quite a character. I did a bit of research but found nothing of this houseware collectible that definitely dates from the 1950s. For some reason, it reminded me of a man-in-the-moon or one of those nursery rhyme characters--Humpty Dumpty perhaps. Maybe it was part of a set or a premium giveaway from a now-extinct product. I thought I paid a bit too much for this creamer (30NZ$, or close to a thousand bucks), but then I'd be whacking my head now if I hadn't gotten it. I am sure I will be staring back at this googlie creamer each time I drink my coffee, amused by the thought that I will be as wide-eyed as him in the morning!!


For headache relief in the 1930s-40s, one could always count on Bayer Aspirin in the new, convenient tin container. The discovery of aspirin discovery was the result of the collective researches of several aspirin inventors. In 1897, a German chemist with Friedrich Bayer and Company was searching for a treatment for his father's arthritis pain and produced the first stable form of a product introduced as Aspirin. By 1899, The Bayer Company was providing aspirin to physicians to give to their patients.

This handy tin container, found in a local antique fair, used to hold 12 aspirin tablets and is small enough to be kept in a purse or a bag when headaches strike. It is just a mere 1.25" x 1.75" in dimension. So dependably effective were the tablets that they were even packed together with the supplies of the American astronauts when they went t the moon in 1969.

Pain relief has improved since the introduction of aspirin--now we have acetaminophen, ibuprofen and analgesia of varying strengths. It is good to know that aspirin continues to be the 'wonder drug' that it once was, still valued in the area of cardiac health in the same way that this little packaging 'antique' continues to be valued as a beautiful nostalgic item of the past.


An early Barbie doll from the collection of a 65++ year old mother who had this as a teen in 1961. A friend who works for an airline bought her this brunette Barbie, already a worldwide hit in the 60s, in France, of all places. After years of play, the daughter of the original owner decided to put it up for sale online--so that's how it got to my toy chest!

Barbie (Barbie Millicent Roberts) is a fashion doll manufactured by the American toy-company Mattel, Inc. and launched in March 1959. American businesswoman Ruth Handler is credited with the creation of the doll using a German doll called Bild Lilli as her inspiration.

Contrary to the seller who advertised this as the first Afro-American Barbie, this is actually Barbie Ponytail #5. It is different from the Barbies released in the previous years in that it has a new, hard hollow torso, and a flesh-like, tanned complexion (earliest Barbies had a pale, ghostly skin color). Her brunette hair has a firmer texture, and she comes dressed in her traditional striped swimsuit, earrings, high heels and shades (now missing). She has also lost her wire stand.

Ken, Barbie's boyfriend, would be introduced the same year this doll came out (1961), and there has never been an idle moment since their first meeting. Yes, I do have a Ken doll from that era as well, a perfect match to my vintage Barbie acquisition. In the meanwhile, the two stand side-by-side in a glass encased cabinet in my toy room, playful reminders of an era when girls' idea of leisure was dressing up Barbie and pretending to go to shindigs with their Kens in tow.


Cowboy hero Hopalong Cassidy ran on television from 1949 to 1954, with William Boyd (1895-1972) in the title role.In 1950, Aladdin Industries created the first children's lunch box based on a television show, Hopalong Cassidy. The Hopalong Cassidy lunch kit, or "Hoppy," quickly became Aladdin’s cash cow. Debuting in time for back-to-school 1950, it would go on to sell 600,000 units in its first year alone, each at a modest $2.39 . A red and blue version were made, with a decal of Hoppy stuck on the front panel. A thermos was also made in red or blue cap.

I was lucky to find this lunchbox and a matching thermo (not shown) in a thrift shop in Metuchen, New Jersey that was holding a closing out sale. Still in serviceable condition, it set me back by $20, a hefty sum back in the late 80s. There was a later 1954 version Hopalong Cassidy made by Aladdin Industries Inc. One outstanding old store stock example in excellent/near mint condition sold at an auction for $1,382.94. That must have made the dealer very Hoppy indeed.


I lived for awhile in the City of Baguio and whenever I walked to the market, I would often see these homespun cloth dolls of orange muslin, handmade to represent an Igorot and Igorota and wrapped in cellophane to be sold as tourist souvenirs. Like the ubiquitous Man-in-a-Barrel and wooden Fork & Spoon giant wall hangings, these cloth dolls (made from as small as an inch to as big as a 2-footer) were among the bestselling items from the mountain city--made cheaply, but certainly full of folk charm. Baguio dolls are still being made and sold in the local stall of Marbayand Maharlika Livelihood Center, but the materials that are being used have changed, giving the dolls an uncharacteristic look. There are less details too, unlike these two half-a-century old dolls from the collection of a Manila octogenarian.

These 10 in. stuffed ethnic dolls have hand-painted faces; the lips are sewn with red thread. Though of basic construction, the pair are garbed in authentic Igorot costumes (well, almost!). The male doll in a g-string even has a small harvest basket at his back. The lovely Igorota wears a traditional wrap around skirt made from traditional woven fabric and her vestida is trimmed with shells at the collar.

Baguio has changed a lot these days--Session Rd. has been closed to vehicles, a giant mall dot the landscape where Pines Hotel used to be. Where are the Indian bazaars? The Old Pagoda Shop? Sunshine Bakery? I miss too, the scent of pines and the sight of sunflowers. But thank heavens I have these 2 dolls to remind me of my Baguio memories now blanketted with the mist of the passing years.

205. Pulling Strings: VINTAGE UKULELE

At the most recent Greenhills Antique Fair, I found this Philippine-made toy ukulele that I could not resist. It dates from the 1950s , and is fairly in good shape for a 50 year old musical instrument. At first, I thought it was a toy guitar--it was shaped like one. But then it only had 4 strings, making it an official ukulele. And to top it all, it was still playable.

I tried singing "My dog has fleas", to tune the 4 nylon strings, but it remains out of tune, so I'll leave it that way in the meantime. The front panel of the ukelele is inlaid with some other material, possibly plastic or other wood. Of hawaiian origin, the ukulele was widely popular in the Philippines in the 50s and 60s--thanks to Tiny Tim who strummed a uke to the tune of his hit song, "Tiptoe Thru the Tulips". Israel Kamakawiwo'ole revived the popularity of the instrument thru his 1993 medley of "Over the Rainbow" and "What a Wonderful World" that reached #12 on Billboard's digital chart. Likewise, Bruno Mars does a lot of songs accompanied by lazy uke strumming. Now, there's even a museum devoted to the tiny ukulele (http://www.ukulele.org/), proof that it has earned its place in musical history!