Friday, March 27, 2009

Rizal stamps errors

This Rizal stamp was overprinted in red in 1966 as part of Marcos' campaign against smuggling. The "Pres. Marcos" inscriptions on the stamps on the right are aligned lower than those on the left stamps; also, the "o" in "Marcos" have embedded an inverted apostrophe. The overprint on the last stamp is also not complete. In fact, all four stamps are somewhat different in one aspect or another.

New Eagle stamps

Philpost recently issued many bird stamps, including the P50 and P100 Eagles shown here. As usual, the quality and artistry are much better than those of the definitives issued by other countries.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Peonies and stamps from Japan

This stamp was issued in 1996 by the Fukushima prefecture (equivalent to district, of which Japan has 47). It features a peony from Sukagawa City, famous for its Botan En, or Peony Garden, and its Torch Festival. Fukushima is now in danger because its nuclear plant suffered serious damages in the 3/11 earthquake and tsunami. The peonies, along with the water and vegetation there and nearby districts, have been contaminated by the radioactive emissions from the power plant's reactors.

 Peaches from Fukushima. Stamp issued 1990.

The stamp below shows a scenic view of Miyagi prefecture, where Sendai is located. I was scanning this stamp yesterday when I noticed a white scratch on the upper left portion. Having collected Japanese stamps for years, I have acquired a bit of taste for their symbolism. The scratch, or flaw, on the beauty of Miyagi, is it a portent of events to transpire?

1994 Stamp showing Matsushima in Miyagi.

I can remember seeing live on TV the 10-meter waves as they approached the shore of Miyagi. I suppose the boats were first to be crushed, followed by the huts and other edifices. The water and mud devoured the cars and planes in the airport, trains, people, pets, trees. The death toll will eventually surpass 20,000.

Zelkova Trees on stamp issued by Miyagi Prefecture in 1995.

Holstein Cows in Chiba, 1995.

Milk from cows and vegetation in Chiba and neighboring districts are reportedly contaminated with radiations. Japan's poultry and fish industries have slumped too.

Cranes in Hokkaido, 1990.

Hokkaido was also affected by the tsunami, which flooded several areas there.

About 10 years ago, in October 1991, a stamp commemorating the summit conference on Earthquake Disaster Mitigation was issued. I think what had been learned in that conference is in effect now.   

New stamps from Japan.

Yesterday I received this sheetlet and other stamps from a friend in Japan. The parcel from Kosaku, 75 years old collector and dealer, bears postmarks dated March 10, a day before the earthquake hit. My friend used to live in Tokyo; months ago he moved to nearby Chiba, where a huge fire broke out in an oil refinery minutes after the killer quake struck. So far attempts to reach my friend by phone have failed. I hope he is safe and well.  

Children playing in Tokyo, 2000. May the good days return. Bless Japan and its people.

Saturday, March 21, 2009


Every man is an island...

Billions of snowflakes have fallen since the first one was formed millions of years ago, still I tend to doubt the scientists’ claim that not one is identical -- every flake is invariably six-sided but unique.

It’s easier to believe the uniqueness of humans, in spite of the existence of identical twins. Homo sapiens has a much more complex structure than condensed water: small physical quirks and difference in personality make it impossible to duplicate me, for example. In the vastness of time and space we are not to be repeated. We are alone.

My father succumbed to pancreatic cancer in 1995. Three year later, I was taking snack with a friend in a Chinese restaurant in Binondo when, on another table across ours, I saw facing my way a man who looked exactly my father, the way I remembered him when he was much younger. The man, obviously talking in Chinese to his companion, had the same build, height, even the haircut my father preferred when all his hair was still black. Strange day.

I could not take my eyes off the stranger. Is his voice the same as my father’s? How old is he, what is his name, he lives where, could we in some way be related, how could he not know me? After the man left, it finally sinked in – my father was gone, never to return.

When young we think we will live forever: death happens to someone else, outside the circle of our friends and relatives. Then we grow up, to be jolted by the indifference of this world. Life is precious but subject to the whims of fortune –- an accident or disease can easily wipe out our schedules.

Thirty-six years ago, in UST, a graduating medical student was in class doing laboratory work, then he collapsed and never regained consciousness. I was 19 then, and I thought: He spent most of his time assiduously to get high marks in high school so he can enter the prestigious premed course in the university, only to drop dead in his graduating year.

That incident turned my life. I decided to spend what’s left of my years to at least have my share of fun. If I ever reach, say, 40, at least I would have had 21 years of fun through the obstacles and vicissitudes life will hurl in my path. I may be wrong, but it is better than being dead before 20.

Outgrowing my ignorance later, I realized that billions of lives, like snowflakes, just fall and melt away, most in serious pursuit of financial stability -- in other words, people are spending their lives to have much money, not the other way around!

Everywhere, I see people getting old in dark hardware stores, auto shops, insurance firms, government agencies, small stores and big supermarts, etc., exchanging their life-years for money, which in old age will be useless to retrieve the excitement and enchantment of youth. Billions are not even aware that there is an alternative to the drab existence they lead, that a struggle is even necessary to attain the beneficence and joy of existence.

In one of his novels Raymond Chandler once expounded on the nature of clerkship: “You go in through double swing doors. Inside the double doors there is combination PBX and information desk at which sits one of those ageless women you see around municipal offices in the world. They were never young and will never be old. They have no beauty, no charm, no style. They don’t have to please anybody. They are safe. They are civil without ever quite being polite and intelligent and knowledgeable, without interest in anything. They are what human beings turn into when they trade life for existence and ambition for security.”

The greatest waste in this planet is human life. Until we understand it, we can’t appreciate the uniqueness of this gift. We are together, but each of us is alone, in birth and in death.

Monday, March 16, 2009

New Bird Stamps

Philippine stamps are beautiful

Philpost has issued three new Bird issues -- P1, P2, and P7. As usual, the quality and artistry is top rank. Unfortunately, philately is not so strong here as in other countries in spite of the beauty of our stamps.

We will catch up when our citizens become more literate than technical in their educational and personal pursuit. I will not see that development in my lifetime. The tragedy of the Philippines is that since it was colonized by Spain up to now, we have not had a single leader who really loved the people.

'Nuff said.

Monday, March 9, 2009


This song of the '70s still haunts me. The lyrics and the melody made me realize that a rock song can be a poem, too -- raw but tender. Of course, this is different from the lyrical poems of long ago. There's a world of difference between Robert Burns' Flow Gently, Sweet Afton, say, and Bon Jovi's Bed of Roses.


She's faced the hardest times you could imagine,
And many times her eyes fought back the tears.
And when her youthful world was about to fall in
Each time her slender shoulders bore
the weight of all her fears,
And a sorrow no one hears, still
rings in midnight silence, in her ears.

Let her cry, for she's a lady
Let her dream, for she's a child
Let the rain fall down upon her
She's a free and gentle flower, growing wild.

And if by chance, I should hold her,
Let me hold her for a time;
But if allowed just one posession,
I would pick her from the garden, to be mine.

Be careful how you touch her, for she'll awaken;
and sleep's the only freedom that she knows.
And when you walk into her eyes, you won't believe
The way she's always payin' for a debt she never owes,
And a silent wind still blows, that only she can hear,
And so, she goes.

Let her cry, for she's a lady,
Let her dream, for she's a child,
Let the rain fall down upon her:
She's a free and gentle flower, growing wild.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Rambling about stamps

Philpost released this week the Philippine-Korea Diplomatic Relations set. I bought many sheetlets, each containing five horizontal-pair sets. Or what we Philatelists call se-tenant sets. A se-tenant set is composed of two stamps with different designs paired together. Anyway, my point is that our stamps are beautiful, even when compared to those of other countries'.

I will admit our literacy rate is comparatively rock-bottom, but this is offset by the fact that we are a nation of artists. We excel in the arts -- music, painting, sculpture, anything that is fun. Well, reading and learning is fun, too, but that's for people of limited talent like me.

If you are blessed with talent, you can have fun all your life -- playing billiards for 50 years or more, holding your own against the best poker players in the world, having your painting auctioned for millions of bucks, drawing blockbuster heroes in comicdom, etc., and not worry about money.

As usual, my thoughts wander. Basta! Our stamps are admirable. 'Nuff said!