June 1, 2023

Modern day homes are trapped in the disposable era where furniture and decorations are temporary and devoid of memories. There are those that are hodge-podge displays of seasons long gone but bursting with stories and there are some that traverse through decades leaving remnants of history. The collections in this home that I borrow these pieces from brought me back through pleasant times with friends. I share them with you.
A faded hexagon jade colored wooden box with faded decorative black etchings sits atop a high side table. The immediate instinct is to touch and open it to test if the lock still works. It opens up to reveal the five fragile shells of sea urchins, cigarette paper, and two screws. The sight brought me back to Santiago Cove in Ilocos Sur with the late Bishop Carlito Cenzon and to Tacloban where we were served these seafoods.
According to the owner, this belonged to her mother when she was still single. In those days, her mother must have passed through Hongkong to get this vanity box. The hexagon is a lucky shape and is said to signify higher wisdom and spirituality. It is the Chinese who use this shape in many items because it is said to be the perfect shape that has the north, south, east, west, and heaven and earth. A closer look at the details reveal that the joints of the box are dovetailed which is characteristic of the art of carpentry of old. I will not guess the type of wood but this could be of oak or cedar, which were common in the 1800s.
The rice grain box with the handle is a side table or a stool when friends gather. This piece is carved from a whole piece of wood. It must be an old Cordillera carving because wood doesn’t grow that big anymore. It looks like mahogany but wood can be dyed to make them dark. The piece reminded me of Ifugao and the way these folks build their homes with carved rounded discs on the posts so mice couldn’t enter their kitchens and get food. This carved pot with a heavy and well fitted lid would have been impervious.
There is a stool made from one whole block of wood similar to the rice pot. This piece is smooth and contoured for one person to sit on. It may not be comfortable but the idea of having a piece of furniture that is made from one piece of wood and imperfectly shaped cannot be replicated or seen again. There are no more trees in these mountains that are the same size.
There were two feet that served as the legs on a low table. The splayed toes on the foot are the same form as that of many farmers in these parts. It is said that these help them keep a strong foothold while traversing the slippery mountain slopes. The table is literally standing on solid feet.
The bird cage is not made in the same shape and size anymore. This displays the patience and artistry of the welders of old. Bird cages no longer hang outside the window but these are in rectangles to conveniently put on cabinet tops.
Wooden trunks were the luggage that were vogue when ships were the main means of foreign transport. These were made from cedar, oak or maple lumber, says Google. These storage for clothing and other personal effects had metal locks and clasps to secure them. This reminded me of a classmate who owned three chests made from camphor wood and were ornately engraved. She prided in these chests that gave her blankets and beddings the smell of camphor. Just today, I realized the difference between these trunks made in Europe and Western countries with those made in China. The artwork in those made in China make them more precious.
Side tables are things of the past. These were used to mount sculptures and other art pieces. Here, it is used for a vase full of freshly cut anthuriums. Today, these are no longer useful. There is no delight in spaces where the eyes may rest on a detail of the flower or the color of the vase.
How I wish I had taken pictures of the wooden cabinet doors too. These were made from salvaged doors from different rooms or houses. The colors were faded too. The knobs were diverse and these were not on the same levels. I suddenly remembered our house in the mountain that had these round glass knobs too.
How many of us have ever appreciated these things of the past and the rich experiences that we relive when we see them? These may never be had in the same form again. Enjoy the memories while they last. My bad, I am putting this out for your eyes without asking the owner.