Thursday, December 25, 2014


Now here's a tiny trinket box--with dimensions of just  4 in. x 6 in. x 2.5 in.--made of narra, decorated with a relief carving of a farmer taking rest under a mango tree from his day's toil. Across the dirst road stands his nipa hut, shaded by a coconut tree, and flanked by a haystack. Looming in the horizon is a mountain. Souvenir carvings bearing Filipiniana motifs such as this were much in demand by tourists--and this box was especially made to cater to such market. Handicraft centers in Manila, as well as in Pampanga (for the U.S. market ) thrived till the 70s--offering similar items as monkeypod carvings, wall plaques (featuring farmers, dancers), ethnic busts, carved Filipinana chests (our versions of camphor chests) as well as lazy Susans. Today, a few shops exists, selling cottage industry products along the streets of Ermita, and in Angeles City, Pampanga--but the quality has really matched those made in the 50s, when even small items such as this trinket box, were handcarved with fine details, and finished so handsomely.

Sunday, December 14, 2014


In the U.S. one hot collectible field is Railroadiana--which refers to artifacts or items of current as well as defunct railways no longer in operation.This very rare specimen-- a small milk pitcher from the Manila Railroad Company is one such example. Passengers were served hot meals and drinks by uniformed railway staff, using tableware--plates, coffee cups, saucers-- bearing the MR logo. This surviving piece from the 30s, was offered by by a Manila collectible shop and it took little convincing for me to acquire it, as it's not only unique, but is also full of history.

The Manila Railroad Company was one of the largest domestic corporations in the Philippines from 1917 -1940's which the Philippine Government acquired in 8 Jan. 1917. Its railway lines totaled 1,140.5 in 1941, located in Luzon.  The lines extended from San Fernando, La Union, in the north, to Legaspi, Albay, in the south. The more important branches are the Paniqui-San Quintin, Tarlac-San Jose, Bigaa-Cabanatuan, San Fernando-Carmen, Calamba-Batangas, and College-Pagsanjan. The company was taken over by the U.S. military during World War II, to be used for the defense of the Philippines. The Manila Railroad Co., suffered irreparable losses from which it has never recovered, thus ending its operations.

Thursday, December 4, 2014


Time was when the Philippines was the largest exporter of Manila rope, made of abaca hemp. The country became world-famous for this prized product and one of the first companies to establish a rope business was the Manila Cordage Company which started as a subsidiary of Tubbs Cordage Company of San Francisco on February 20, 1924, Manila Cordage Company, a subsidiary of Tubbs Cordage Company of San Francisco, began operations at the junction of Cristobal and Otis streets in Paco, which had easy access to the Pasig. Its basic raw material was abaca, also known as Manila hemp, which by then was a much sought after commodity in North America.
It  began operations at the junction of Cristobal and Otis streets in Paco, which had an easy access to the Pasig River. Manila Cordage made ropes of all sorts from abaca, which was to be known worldwide as Manila hemp, a much sought after commodity in North America in the 20s-50s decades.
As the company grew, Manila Cordage marketing became more sophisticated, and by the early 50s, it produced merchandising materials and selling aids such as this tin sign that featured a range of products with their special specifications and dimensions. Signs such as this were given to hardware shops and provincial distributors (in this case, J. Rodriguez of Cagayan) to facilite the ordering of the products. It measures 10 in. x 22 in, and is backed by a thick cardboard. 
The invention of synthetic ropes put a dent on the Manila rope business, but the products remained important as they are eco-friendly, and they are specially required by certain businesses like oil drilling and construction. To this day, the Manila Cordage Co. is still a flourishing business with its facilities located in a world-class industrial hub ensuring a future for the rope that made Manila famous!

Thursday, November 13, 2014


A pair of Filipiniana paintings depicting Lapu-Lapu, the hero of Mactan and his wife, Bulakna--or so that's how the dealer described them to me. These mid-century 18 x 22" paintings, painted by artist Rodolfo Pasno, dates from 1957--and they were obtained online--in a facebook group, of all places. Pasno was a noted Mabini painter, active from the 50s thru the 70s, in a shop at the famed Pistang Pilipino.
They were sold in stretchers, with few chips and scratches. At some point, someone painted over the background, but that doesn't detract from the portraits that express so much of the character of the country's first hero and his voluptuous wife. I had them re-stretched, re-framed and cleaned, so now they're ready to hang happy I could sing! "In March 16, fifteen hundred and  hundred twenty one, when Philippines was discovered by Magellan..."

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

315. The Russian From U.N.C.L.E.: ILYA KURYAKIN SPY DOLL

One of my fave TV programs from the 60s boomer years was The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (United Network Command for Law and Enforcement) , broadcast on NBC from 1964-1968. It follows secret agents Napoleon Solo (Robert Vaughn)  and Russian Ilya Kuryakin) fighting its chief adversary, the agents of THRUSH  (Technological Hierarchy for the Removal of Undesirables and the Subjugation of Humanity). Solo and Kuryakin's popularity resulted in the creation of  11.5 in. vinyl "spy dolls" made in 1965 by Gilbert of Japan. In its perfect condition, Ilya would have come with a pistol, pocket insignia and a mechanical arm. Conceived originally conceived as a minor character, Kuryakin, became an indispensable part of the show, achieving co-star status with the show’s lead. McCallum’s blond good looks and the enigmatic persona he created for the character garnered him a huge following of female fans, leaving them weak-kneed and crying--Uncle!

Friday, October 24, 2014

314. How To Enter the Dragon: BRUCE LEE KEY CHAIN

Saw this cheap, plastic martial arts key chain in a Cubao thrift shop. The small, 2.5 in. figure is gold painted, and I assumed it to be Bruce Lee, who first appeared as Kato on the Green Hornet 60s TV series. Of course, he is better known as THE kung-fu master of all times! The figure holds a pair of nanchuks (chaku) and is poised to demolish the door if the key doesn't work! Bruce Lee souvenirs--as well as martial arts collectibles, are not hot items at the moment, but that doesn't matter--it's picking for cheap collectibles that gives me a kick!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

313. Advertique: AN ABOGADO'S TRADE SIGN

There was a time when it was popular to advertise your professional services via signboards often posted on the front of your residences for all the world to see your title and your degree--from Comadrona, Dentista, Medico to Abogado or Notario Publico. Of course, services are advertised more conveniently now online--in such special sites as Linked and in many profession-specific websites. But back then, you would see painted signs on tin and wood such as this--picked from Manila--artistically framed and lettered, examples of vintage signage art made extinxt with new technology like computer-designed and weather-proofed tarpaulins. Of course, there was an impulse to google Abogado Silverio S. Tayao  on google, and a wealth of information was gathered online: Atty. Tayao came from Malolos and was admitted to the Philippine Bar on 24 January 24, 1955. He rose to become a Judge in Makati.  I was glad to know that he is still active, with offices in Salcedo Village, also in Makati. But I am sure his office sign is much more attractive than this, perhaps of gleaming chrome and steel, for better visibility and presentation. I'd much rather stick to his tin sign, when billboards, signs and posters were all done by hand, making them truly, one of a kind!

Saturday, October 11, 2014


"Cute as a Kewpie!"
Kewpies were initially conceived as comic strip characters by artist,  Rose O'Neill. The name "Kewpie" it is said, was derived from "Cupid"-- also depicted in mythology as a youn child, naked and winged. The cartoons began to gain popularity after the publication of O'Neill's comic strips in 1909, and thereafter, paper doll versions of the Kewpies were made. The characters were first produced as bisque dolls in Germany beginning in 1912, and became extremely popular in the early twentieth century.Later, they were made from composition, celluloid, hard plastic, soft rubber and vinyl.
KEWPIES made in Germany. With and without the identifying Kewpie heart label. PICTURE SOURCE:

The earlier bisque and composition versions of Kewpie dolls are widely sought-after by collectors--and this  7-inch German-made example was a prize find from a local antique shop. Versions were made without the identifying Kewpie heart label found on the doll's chest, but all have the same characteristics: protruding belly, googlie eyes, stubby arms and little back wings. Kewpies have become part of our pop culture--used as mascots, in advertising, art,  and even in songs!

Friday, October 3, 2014


One of the earliest Chirstmas gifts I can remember was a 1960s coloring book of the U.S. Presidents given out by Planter's Peanuts---that peanut company with that ever-present Mr. Peanut mascot gracing the front page. The coloring book, purchased by my Mother from Johnny's grocery in downtown Angeles City, featured all the American presidents--from Washington to Kennedy. It was one of the few color books that I did not keep, so when I found this smaller paint book version--I knew this would be a perfect substitute!
Planters Peanuts was founded by Italian Amedeo Obici in 1906, in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. In 1916 the company held a contest to create a company logo and the contest was won by a 14 year old . schoolboy named Antonio Gentile who drew a Peanut Man. Artist Frank P. Krize, Sr., improved it by adding a top hat, a monocle, and a cane to the drawing, and Mr. Peanut was born. By the mid-1930s, the raffish figure had come to symbolize the entire peanut industry, appeared on packages, advertising and premium items like this paint book.
The paint book features side-by-side illustrations of the U.S. presidents--one in black and white and one in color, to be used as a color guide. Defining events from the president's term are also drawn; in the case of Pres. Kennedy, the age of space exploration is shown. The paint book is unused and dates before Kennedy's assassination.
Planters Peanut products were available in limited quantities in the Philippines--through the military PX goods mostly. Even today, Planters are imported, available in select groceries and supermarkets like S& R. It just goes to show how popular the brand has become globally, with Mr. Peanut winning acclaim as one of the most recognized character trademark in marketing history.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

310. When Bobbysox Music Ruled: RHYTHM TOTE

For almost all teens of the Baby Boomer years, music was an essential part of their life. It was the Age of Rock 'n Roll, of Paul Anka, Everly Bros., Frankie Avalon, Shelley Fabares, Fabian and Chubby Checkers--and of course, Elvis! American bandstand ruled the airwaves and millions of teens couldn't get enough of the bubblegum and bobbysox music that they sang and danced to, in their shindigs and barn dances. They took along their 45 RPMs in vinyl cases such as this "Rhythm Tote", when they gather 'round to share and review songs about heartaches, cheating hearts, hound dogs and puppies in the window. This cheap mid-century relic held 14 records in brown paper envelopes, plus an index page you can write on. Made by Teen Time Products in Rhode Island, it has a current market value of about $20.  Just 8.75 in. x 7.5 in., the "Rhythm Tote" is  a wonderful nostalgic record case to store those special memories in!

Friday, September 19, 2014

309. So Big, Yet So Little: BIG LITTLE BOOKS

I found this neat cache of books in a little shop called Round Trip Collectibles--a collectible store in Metuchen, years ago. I think I paid 5 dollars for the lot--7 Big Little Books, as old as the late 1930s and as recent as the late 60s (in the case of Batman). These kiddie readings saw print first in 1932, published by the Whitman Publishing Company of Racine, Wisconsin. They were small, they were compact and had simple captioned drawings opposite each page of the text. They soon became big hits among children, so competitor like Saalfield, copied this format. Back then, each book cost just 10 cents each.  Great graphics, great stories, great size and price...what more can you ask for in a book?

Friday, September 12, 2014


Captain Midnight was a popular U.S. radio series that began in 1938 in Chicago, created by Robert M. Burtt and Wilfred G. Moore. At the onset, "Captain Midnight" was simply an undercover name for pilot  Jim "Red" Albright. As an agent, he helped gather information to capture criminals. Captain Midnight was constantly trying to stop the plans of the evil Ivan Shark, remaining his evil nemesis throughout its radio run. He found help in Chuck Ramsey,a member of his Secret Squadron and Patsy Donovan. The series grew in popularity and was broadcast over the Mutual Network beginning in 1940 sponsored by Ovaltine.
The company had been looking for a heroic figure to sponsor their product, Ovaltine, as the country seemed headed for World War. Continuing the tradition of their previous series, Radio Orphan Annie, the company began to integrate coded messages and club identification into the episodes--brass examples of which were given out to viewers as premiums.
The "Mystery Dial Code-o-Graph" , first given in December 1940, was so called because the center of the inner disc was supposed to look like the dial knob of a radio. It was used to send a secret message to listeners about the next program episode. To decode, one had to turn the dial, which  proved to be a chore, what with the setting windows located at the back. The secret messages to decode were always given at the end as a "Secret Squadron Signal Session.".
The brass decoder has a slot for Capt. Midnight's picture (missing) and came with a manual, such as the one you see here. This highly prized radio collectible--available on ebay from a low of $69.95 to a high of $139--without a manual, was purchased complete and intact in its own envelope, originally addressed to a young radio fan from New Jersey.

Saturday, August 30, 2014


I first saw this set of small coloring books being sold at Visual Mix, a 2nd-hand book shop that has evolved into the giant used book shop chain, Book Sale. Of course, I just had to get them; they were no ordinary color books to me--they depicted cartoon characters which I watched avidly back in the 70s and early '80s. There was PAC-MAN, based on a Japanese computer game, Pakkuman;  MARVEL'S SECRET WARS that featured all my fave super heroes like Thor, the Hulk and Spiderman; HERCULOIDS, a Hanna Barbera cartoon that had characters out to save the planet like Zandor, Tara, Dorno and Gloop & Gleep. Finally, there was POPEYE, THE SAILOR MAN, that had its beginnings in 1933, although the cartoons I remember were produced by King Features Syndicate from the 60s.
These were cheap Philippine reprints, nostalgic paper relics of  Saturday mornings of marathon cartoon-watching, when the world and I were younger.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

306. Advertique: MENNEN POWDER TIN

POWDER TO THE PEOPLE! MennenTalcum For Men. Vintage powder tin, 5" high.

The Mennen Company was founded in 1878 by German immigrant, Gerhard Heinrich Mennen, who founded his company in Newark, then later moved to Morristown, New Jersey in 1953. The company's first product was talcum-based powder, an innovation at the time. Its product line expanded to include over-the-counter pharmaceuticals and personal products such as the Skin Bracer, Speed Stick, and Baby Magic products.
The men's line began with  "Mennen Talcum for Men."  and this example dates to the '30s. It was found in a local shop with its content almost full. Areas of missing paint are apparent--the paint on the tin is easily washed off.
The product graphics are still strong and unblemished in some parts, and the front panel even retains the image of the founder. Locally, the brand was overshadowed by Johnson & Johnso, which dominated the powder market. Mennen found a niche with its men's personal care line like skin bracer, deodorants and after-shaves. Mennen was later sold in the '90s to manufacturing giant, Colgate-Palmolive.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

305. Campaign Memorabilia: MACAPAGAL TIN PLATE

MACAPAGAL FOR PRESIDENT! A 1961 campaign memorabilia promoting the candidacy of Diosdado Pangan Macapagal of the Lberal Party vs. President Garcia. 

Campaign gimmicks were not unknown in the 60s, and whe Vice President Diosdado P. Macapagal decided to run for presidency, he made sure his political promise will be remembered by every Filipino every time they set their table: "No more hungry Filipinos!!!". This campaign giveaway--a tin plate printed with Macapagal's name and famous quotation: "I'd rather g to jail than see the people go hungry!"-- was meant to do just that--and, as everyone knows, he succeeded, becoming the 9th president of the Philippines.
Found in a Bulacan shop, the plate is in a remarkable state of preservation--even it's plate stand was intact. I have seen a similar one years before ina Manila shop, a little rusty and dented--but which sold anyway, to my utter disappointment. This time, I would not be denied. Despite the rather steep price, I got this rare gem of a collectible, and a fine example of Pampanganiana, if there is such a term!
True,  Macapagal served the country to the best of his ability--but his term was considered unproductive, even with his Land Reform program. His term was badly tainted with the Stonehill corruption case, and in 1965,  he lost to Ferdinand Marcos--but at least he did not leave behind a country in disarray. The ouster of Joseph Estrada in 2001 paved the way for the rise to power of daughter, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, who went on to assume the presidency. Her term was another story.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014


The Flintstones, an animated cartoon from Hanna Barbera Productions,  were a stone-age family from Bedrock, with a working class background. Like modern-day families, the Flintstones, along with their neighbors, the Rubbles, the Flinstones, headed by Fred and wife Wilma, had to contend with everyday concerns like eking out a living, issues in the workplace and at home. The cartoon was broadcast from 1 Sep. 1960 to 1 April 1966, and proved to be the most successful cartoon in 3 decades, topped only by the Simpsons. Naturally, Flintstones merchandising were made by the hundreds of thousands. This 1970 set of plastic mugs are from the popular Chewable FLINTSTONES Multiple Brand Vitamins. The plastic promo cups show Fred Flinstones, Dino and daughter Pebbles. They're about 3.75 in. tall and 2.75 in. in diameter. When I found this set in a U.S. flea market being sold for $5, I could not stop myself from screaming..."Yabba Dabba Dooooo"!

Friday, July 18, 2014


We've had this wooden box for years...a 60s merchandising piece for Philip Morris 100s filter cigarettes meant to hold cigarette cartons and carried by ambulant vendors. I don't know how it came to be in the family, but we did have Sarao jeepneys that went on the road with our trusty drivers--maybe this was left inadvertently by one of the cigarette boys. The cigarette boys catered to pedestrians, jeepney passengers and jeepney drivers, hence, the handiness of this box which featured a section for loose change.
Philip Morris Incorporated began in the Philippines around 1955, when it entered into its exclusive licensing agreement with Filipino-owned La Suerte Cigar and Cigarette Factory. Its filter-tipped cigarette became a Philippine favorite. Boxes like these are still made--but the ones I see are either for candies or are of the home-made type, with a covered section for coins that was often shut open-and-close, creating the distinctive attention-getting 'takatak' sound that gave cigarette boys their names--'takatak' boys!

Saturday, July 5, 2014


Now here's a pick that I didn't have to pick. It was a freebie from a second-hand dealer whom I have patronized for some time. I never get out of his shop empty-handed, so out of appreciation, he gifted me with this aluminum helmet, painted red and inscribed with "East Binondo", which I assumed was a fire brigade in that Chinatown district. There is a logo: OCR-PICAG AFP, which I found out after googling, stood for Office for Civil relations-Public Information Civic Action Group, a defunct group of the Armed Forces during the Martial Law years.
It's apparent that this helmet has seen better days--it's been repainted several times as seen from the paint layers--it must have been blue before it was red! Maybe this was not even a fireman's helmet before, perhaps a protective gear from the violent rallies that went before the infamous Sept. 21, 1972 date.
There are Chinese incriptions written in permanent marker,on the inside of the helmet. Maybe you can figure that out, as I can't read Chinese. In the meanwhile, I left this helmet hanging on a wall shelf--it's rather off when displayed together with my antique salakots. I may never have use for this, but it's nifty to think that I have a genuine 'occupational collectible" from the Martial Law period!!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

301. Switch It While You Work: SNOW WHITE CHALKWARE LAMP

Walt Disney took moviedom by storm when it screened it screened its first animated feature, "Snow White and the 7 Dwarfs"  in 1937. Based on the fairy tale character, Snow White became a worldwide sensation and it popularized such songs as "When You Wish Upon a Star", "Someday, my Prince Will Come" and "Whistle While You Work". Snow White was the first of the so-called Disney Princess and is the only animated figure that has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Immediately, licensed merchandise were made of the characters, especially the 7 Dwarfs--Grumpy, Happy, Doc, Bashful, Sneezy, Dopey and Sleepy. Snow White too, was immortalized in the form of dolls, gameboards, coloring books, figurines--and one of the earliest is this lamp base. La Mode Studios of New York was licensed to create these lamps made of painted plaster, in 1938. molded in the shape o Snow White. The drwafs too were cast as lamp bases, but the Snow White lamp--with a matching lampshade--remains a favorite. This particular lamp base however is very different from what La Mode created, so I assume this was from a different, unlicensed manufacturer, riding on the crest of the popularity of the cartoon. It bears no copyright date, but is incised with the Walt Disney name.
I found Snow White many years ago in Chatuchak market in Bangkok. Far from having a flawless fair complexion, she has a tan, almost like a morena Filipina. My Snow White came with a glass shade that does not really fit, which I believe to be a replacement. I am sure it can be rewired and restored (I actually repainted the scruffs on her body), and someday...her switch will come.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014


Now here's an ingenious battery-run mechanical toy I've had for years. It's one of my first tin toy actually, bought from a store in Binondo with many old stocks. It shows a charming little bear made from fluffy fabric with a book on its lap. When switched on, one paw--which has a hidden magnet--stamps a metal page of the book, and then flips it over--just like he is reading the book. The book pages have incredible details, showing story titles like "The City Mouse and the Country Mouse". There are no marks on this late 50s-early 60s toy, but it looks Japan-made. The fur fabric has started to fall-off and I am resigned to the fact that it will soon deteriorate--but I intend to keep this toy for awhile even in this state, at least for display. For where on else can still one see a bear that reads?

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

299. Classic Ghostbusters Find: STAY PUFT MARSHMALLOW MAN

One of the most sought after collectibe figure from the 1984 movie Ghostbusters,  is Mr. Stay Puft Marshmallow Man (doesn't he look like a close cousin of the Michelin Man?). I found this sealed toy by Kenner in an Angeles City shop back in 1995, which still had old stocks of Ghostbusters toys, many in boxes. So what do you expect? I bought them all, of course. But this one is my favorite--dating from 1987.

Mr. Stay Puft, in his trademark sailor suit, was the final enemy of the first Ghostbuster, the chosen Destructor Form of Gozer, when Ray let the idea of a company logo "just pop in there". Out of the package, he sells for about $45 in great condition, but I've seen mint examples in their original packaging go for $200 or more! So sorry for the bad photo, I'm not about to tear Mr. Stay Puft out of his plastic cocoon; I ain't afraid of no ghost, I'm afraid it will decrease in value!

Thursday, May 8, 2014


Miniatures are a big collecting field in the U.S.--there are dolls, furniture, figurines, decor of all sorts--all in Lilliputian size, available to collectors. This set of altar vessels are more unusual, in that they are seldom seen, and if made available, carry quite a hefty price tag.  Standing no more than 4 inches tall, the set includes a pair of cruets, ciborium, chalice and what seems to be a reliquary or a monstrance.
Made of cast metal plated in bronze, the sacred vessels date from the early 1900s and were made in France. Similar ones, of pewter or tin, were also manufactured in Germany. Though small, the vessels are highly detailed, with "repousse" designs on their bases. They were designed for use in home altar, for a priest's altar table or even for dollhouses.
Examples sold on ebay are indivudually priced anywhere from $20-$250 each, but I was lucky to stumble upon this 5-piece set, with a very low starting bid. At the end of the bidding period, I had them all for just under $60! Sing hallelujah to the Lord!

Wednesday, April 30, 2014


 An interesting bottled whimsey that gives a fresh spin to the usual "ship-in-a-bottle" folk art. This crucifixion bottle, an ebay pick, dates from the early 20th century, and is quite an elaborate creation, featuring almost all the symbols of Christ's passion, all carved and cut from pine.
 The focal point of the bottle is a large serrated cross, and each facet shows allegorical and symbolic carvings such as a ladder, an anchor, a heart, a cross, and miniature crosses.
 This side of the bottle shows a rooster (associated with Peter's denial of Christ), a lance, a hammer, and a whip.
Turn the bottle around and you will see a pair of crossed swords, a shovel and a spear. The cross itself is trimmed with 3 criss-crossed serrated bars. Crucifixon bottles, as these are called in Europe and the U.S. were favorite folk art crafts done by local artisans and ordinary people during their spare time. There are also crucifixion bottles from the Philippines which were believed to have been made by Bilibid prisoners as part of their rehabilitation program. Regardless, all these bottles were made by deft and steady hands, requiring patience and many hours of perseverance to complete such folksy, collectible bottled art.