How I ‘saw’ the world through my aunt’s stamp collection
“Anong gagawin mo naman diyan? Kalat lang yan (What will you do with that? It’ll just become junk)!”
This was my mom’s reaction when I asked to keep a book containing my late aunt Grace Agbayani’s stamp collection. At that point, I didn’t have any reason, but I knew during that time that I needed it.
My mom and my aunt’s daughter, Janella, were cleaning the room of my aunt who just passed away, dumping all her ‘not so important’ things – one of which was her stamp collection.
Call it nostalgia, but for me, the stamps reminded me of my aunt and my childhood weekends spent traveling from San Mateo, Rizal to Marikina for our reunion. My family would go to my lola’s house in Marikina where my Tita Grace also lived.
I always looked forward to the weekends because aside from spending time with my cousins, it also meant the opportunity to scan the pages of my aunt’s collection while listening about her travels and experiences on how she got those stamps. From postal stamps from Hong Kong (where she worked several years), to stamps from India, Thailand, Italy, and to a country like Czechoslovakia, a country that not many people know of. These stamp never fail to amaze me every time we visit her.
The book is filled with stamps printed with colorful photographs and art with rich backstories and backgrounds. For me back then, these stamps are like tickets to see those countries.
Passion for travel
My fascination with geography and my dream to travel the world are also the reasons why I treasure this book much. The stamps show glimpses of a country’s culture and history, even prominent personalities.
Surprisingly, my aunt’s collection even contained stamps produced by countries that no longer exist or have been renamed. I discovered a 1989 stamp from Czechoslovakia (now the Czech Republic and Slovakia) showing Aleksander Aleksov Bulharsko.
There was also a stamp that dates back to 1984 from the Union of Soviet Socialist Republic (USSR). The stamp shows the Soviet abbreviation name in Russian, CCCP or Союз Советских Социалистических Республик.
The stamp collection also revealed to me the beauty of the world before the Internet existed. It served as a vista as these small squares introduced me to countries such as Micronesia, India, Belgium, and China. It also allowed me to take a glimpse of historic castles of Italy, the Castello Di Bosa and Castello Scaligero of Sirmione. It made me travel to Australia and see the famed Nooroo Garden found in New South Wales even without going out.
Pieces of history
There’s always a place for history inside my heart that made me more attached to this book. Some of the oldest stamps include a 1978 stamp from Bangladesh that showed the Baitul Mukarram Mosque, their national mosque.
There’s also a 1974 stamp that featured the first Kentucky Settlement Fort Harrod. There’s also a 1975 US stamp with words “Freedom To Speak Out. A Root of Democracy“ imprinted on it with a speaker’s stand. And one of the most interesting finds inside was a commemorative stamp of the Philippine National Bank celebrating its 50th year (PNB marked its centennial last year).
Looking back, I can’t imagine that I almost lost this stamp book, thrown away with other mementos with its own stories and histories. I never regretted keeping it as it became a reminder of the things that I learned growing up. It was also special because it represented the memory of a person who taught me how beautiful the world is – even if it’s just on a stamp.
Kim Ferrer is a 23-year-old millennial who loves to travel and write. She is taking on building her own stamp collection, taking inspiration from her aunt.