Saturday, March 1, 2008

If it Looks Good, Collect It!

I’m really not sure how I got into collecting, but I know my love for it started when I was a young first grader. Two aunts, one from each side of my parents’ families doted on me and supplied me with little things which later became two small collections. I remember I was the only kid at school with more than a dozen unused erasers, most of them coming from my Aunt Carmela. And I will not forget my classmates’ envious looks at my colorful Sanrio pins courtesy of Aunt Susan.

Through the years, I have left and started old and new collections as my interests changed. Some of the items I collected (and later on left for some reasons) include stamps, stationery, chocolate foil wrappers, bottle caps, liquor bottles, Coca-Cola bottles, old comic books, mugs, candle holders, pencils, and flavored lip gloss tubes. Unbelievable, isn’t it? But through time, a number of items remained close to my heart.

I am particularly fond of elephants. My father, who is the only person in our family who loves watching cable programs that feature animals and everything safari, knows I will easily join him in the TV area whenever elephants are featured. In 1997, while buying a gift for someone, a small elephant figurine caught my attention and I immediately bought it. I started collecting elephant figurines and similar items since then. To date, I have 25 pieces in my collection; some are bought, but most are gifts from friends. My smallest piece is a ceramic incense holder from China, while the largest is a stack of five elephants, one on top of the other, made of Kamagong wood, crafted by a skilled Pinoy sculptor from the Ilocos region. I have elephant figurines coming all the way from Bangladesh, China, and Kenya.

My first elephant figurine, the one on the right, is made of ceramic from China. It is 0.875 inch tall and an inch long. The small one beside it is even smaller, it's an incense holder from Indonesia, brought home by Popen.

As fond as I am of elephants, I also have a keen interest in breweriana. I am fascinated by glass items like goblets, steins, and shotglasses. Back in 2006, while I was doing research for my NaNoWriMo novel, one of my friends suggested that I create a character in my novel that collects shotglasses (simply because my friend collect shotglasses). In the course of my research work, I fell in love with shotglasses the second time around. My very first shotglass is my father’s sake glass from Tokyo. It’s a gift from a friend and he wouldn’t let go, but I’ve already fallen in love with the geisha on it because it reminds me a lot of Chiyo, or Sayuri, of Arthur Golden’s Memoirs of A Geisha. In less than two years, my shotglass collection has grown to 57 pieces. And like my elephants, these shotglasses are very dear to me because most of them are gifts from friends who do not mind bringing such exquisite pieces from their travels.

See the geisha? The design is so exquisite, so beautiful, so charming!

My latest (and most expensive, so far) collection is very young, started only last January. My interest on it was born out of another idea from another friend. When a friend showed me his remote-controlled toy car, I knew I got to have one too. But I didn’t like cars. So I gave it up, until one lousy day brought me to a ToysRUs outlet. I saw toy firetrucks! There was no turning back. My first toy firetruck is a scale-model, die-cast Tomica. It’s an aerial ladder firetruck with a retractable ladder set. Again, I got hooked. In less than a month, I got nine trucks, five of which are firetrucks. Amazing.

Other small collections stored in my cabinets at home are notebooks (I have items from China, India, Korea, and Peru), Pinoy soda cans, and liquor stirrers. I also have several items with Nefertiti design and print, and one of them came all the way from Egypt, with her beautiful face painted on real papyrus. Interesting piece.

Somehow, each one of us has a collection stashed somewhere. It could be anything! I have a friend who collects market scene painting and eggs. Yes, eggs. She said she likes them because they symbolize life and rebirth. I also read about a guy who collects real firetrucks. Yes, real firetrucks. And he has asked for help a number of times because he doesn’t have a place to park all his trucks. And who could forget the creepy guy in American Idol who collects his nail cuttings? Yikes! But the point is, what looks like simple, ordinary, everyday things to others (even garbage) mean a lot to those who collect them.

My collecting habits may seem unappealing to others, and I wouldn’t be surprised if I will be branded as a hoarder instead of a collector, but what I have in my collections are not just material items that can be easily discarded later on. Each piece that goes into a collection was carefully selected, with its own memories and stories to tell. And no matter what anyone says about my collections, nothing can stop me from collecting and starting new collections later on. Right now, my eyes are set on tea and teabags. Later on, who knows? Wind chimes? Chopsticks? Tea cups? Old fountain pens? Well, I don’t know. As Andrew Zimmern said, if it looks good, collect it! (Err... I think he said eat it, right? Oh well, whatever!)

* To view photos of my collections, I have posted them on Flickr, although not all of my photos have been posted yet. It's a work in progress, so bear with me. To view them, visit my Flickr page.

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