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: