Tuesday, December 31, 2013

285. Shadow Boxing: BAMBINO JESUS

Shadow box crafts seemed to be a popular hobby among Filipinos in the 20s and 30s as I have seen countless examples of all sorts---from boxing family portraits embellished with mother-of-pearl flowers, embroidered art, to religious tole art such as this 3-dimensional Bambino Jesus, pasted on a heavy board, then dressed in real cloth and accessorised with handcrafted symbols of his Passion as well as silk flowers. The shadow box dates from 1929--the back was lined with old newspapers dated from that era.
It's been said that these kinds of crafts were introduced by religious educators, evolved from some kind of monastic art that nuns dabbled with in the 19th century. Favorite motifs includ dressing up prints of the sacred Heart of Jesus and Mary, as well as the Holy Family. My Bambino box was purchased in Bulacan. The condition is fair to poor--the flowers are disintegrating, the lithographed cut-out of Jesus is starting to curl. Hopefully, I can have this restored soon! This kind of art is slowly vanishing, but it's never too late to try your hand at this--all you need are deft hands, some artistic skill and lots of imagination!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013


We've had this Santa glass container for the longest time, stored in an old book cabinet in our home since the 50s. It is a figural glass figure of Santa Claus, with a bag of toys on his back. I couldn't quite figure out what it was, as it had rims on the bottom, so I presumed it's a container of some sorts, but why should the lid be on the  bottom? When I moved house, I took Santa with me to my new home and has been with me ever since. Years back, I finally saw a similar example at a Makati Cinema Square second-hand shop, but with Santa's features painted on. It turned out that my Santa a candy container, for doling out sweets to kids during the holidays. And I thought I was a collectible expert. Ho, ho, ho! Merry Christmas everyone!

Sunday, December 15, 2013


These three miniature clay kitchen utensils are all that's left of a large kitchen play set, made in the Philippines in the 1930s. The first to be  a "kendi", an almost-defunct Southeast Asian earthenware--at least in the Philippines--used as a drinking vessel and treasured by early Filipinos as a family heirloom. The next item looks like a clay version of a "tacho", those rund copper cooking pans with handles. The last is a very tiny "mangkok" or bowl. These simple Philippine toys of fired clay were sold in bazaars and tourist shops during the Commonwealth years, popular souvenirs from an American-controlled country finding its identity through its unique traditions in play and children's leisure.

Sunday, December 1, 2013


In the 50s, young Pinoy lads dabbed their hair with "brilliantine" pomade to create the pompadour look that was the rage of the era. Popularized by James Dean and Elvis, the iconic men's hairdo was completed with cowlick that was forced to curl in front of one's forehead with more dabs of pomade. Early brands included imported ones like Vitalis and Brylcreem, but cheaper, local brands dominated the market from the 50s-70s, like "Palikero", "X-7", "Verbena", "Beatles" and "Robin Hood Medicated Solid Brilliantine Pomade".
Created by Beauty Chemical Lab which had a plant along Dasmarinas in Manila, Robin Hood caught on with the young crowd, favoring its extra-heavy brilliantine effect on hair. The brand icon shows the bemoustached hero-outlaw who robbed the rich to help the poor---Robin Hood--all in his red tights glory. Curiously, the package graphics show him wielding a sword instead of the bow and arrow that identifies him as an archer, first and foremost.
Robin Hood Pomade was promoted nationally and advertising tin signs like this example were nailed in front of neighborhood stores to attract consumer attention. Poamdes went out of style in the 90s, with hair gels and clay taking their place. But in the distant 50s, there was nothing like Robin Hood to groom you and bring out the the handsome rogue in you. Finally, as its advertising blurb proclaims---gleaming, shining, brilliant hair can now be "thrillingly yours!".