A group in Cebu promotes the joy of stamp collecting
STAMP COLLECTING or philately is a fascinating hobby that not many people appreciate. What many take for granted is the art and history involved in creating a stamp — like fitting a work of art in a tiny frame that will serve as your letter’s ticket to its destination.
Prior to stamps, letters had to be paid for by the receiver. Back then, because the rates were so high, people refused to accept the letters, and even resorted to using secret codes so that they could cheat the postal services. They simply put secret marks on the outside of the letter to convey their message to the receiver, who would then read the secret message then refuse to accept the letter.
For this reason, “Post Office Reforms” was introduced in 1837 by British Postmaster General Sir Rowland Hill, where the sender shoulders the postage. It would take three more years, as this proposal was heavily debated, but on May 6, 1840, the first government-printed postage stamps were born.
Stamps reveal something about the country or city it is issued from. From celebrities, notable public figures, events or part of its history, stamps bear its origin’s identity, making it a delight to browse through collectively. This is probably why some have turned to philately, and finding like-minded individuals who share the same fascination.
One of the active stamp collecting clubs in the Philippines is the Cebu Stamp Club, Inc. (CSCI). Founded by Richard Allan B. Uy in 1996, it now has 461 members worldwide and is still encouraging other stamp collectors to join the club.
According to Uy, they used to have an 80-year-old Dutch priest who was a very active and supportive member of the group, but had passed on some years ago. Now, their oldest member is a German based in Cebu who is in his 70s. The youngest member of the club is Uy’s son, Jerald Kervin, who collects trains, dogs, space in stamps among others.
Uy himself started out as a young philatelist. He shares that when he was in his teens, he opened a steel cabinet that was full of letters and envelopes with stamps from China and Taiwan. His grandfather being in the import/export business had regular correspondence with these countries, thus the many stamps that got Uy into the hobby of collecting. Soon he found himself exchanging doubles with his friends who shared the same interest.
Uy’s most precious stamp in his collection is a rare Guerilla Stamp of 1943 issued during World War II. The stamp was printed by the Allied Forces in Brisbane, Australia in November 1943 for the 10th Military District Guerilla Forces in Mindanao. It was made to be a morale booster for the guerilla forces.
According to Uy, an estimated 5,000 were printed but only 2,000 were authorized for distribution. The US supply submarine, Narwhal, delivered 500 of these rare stamps for the use of the resistance forces in Mindanao. Mere possession of the stamp during that time was like a death sentence, as it would lead to automatic execution by the Japanese soldiers.
While it is not exactly the most expensive stamp in the world, this particular one is valuable to Uy because it reminds him of his grandfather.
“The Guerrilla stamp is my favorite. Having this stamp makes me proud of my grandfather, Paulino Neri Baz, who was a guerrilla fighter in Mindanao during the war,” said Uy. “I learned of his membership with the guerrilla movement when a cousin lent me his guerrilla identification card and some documents.”
Meanwhile, Uy dreams to have the Cebu Stamp Club on a stamp someday. He shares that they were responsible for the concept of the Tres de Abril stamp, where they collaborated with the Cebu City government through the Cultural and Historical Affairs Commission and the Stamp Advisory Committee of PHILpost. The stamps bore the artwork of a Cebuano artist, and were released on June 12, 1998, as part of a set.
Co-existing with technology
In this digital age, how does the club thrive?
“The club innovates and co-exist with technology,” Uy shared. “We were one of the first to have a website here in country. We do online auctions to members and we are consistent in creating exhibits and presentations in malls, schools and the latest was in a centuries-old fort. We use Powerpoint presentations, photo accents and dioramas, aside from the stamps to capture the audience’s attention especially the young ones.”
The CSCI founder also shares that the club continuously creates public awareness by holding exhibits mostly in malls, as well as creating a Facebook page where interested stamp collectors can join for free. The club also came up with “Today in Philippine History (Philatelic Edition)” series, where they share events that happened in history represented by a stamp. Uy claims this is the first of its kind worldwide.
As the written correspondence is becoming a rare activity in this day and age, will stamp collecting become one of those hobbies that would die in time? Probably not on Uy’s watch as he and the Cebu Stamp Club strive to keep philately alive through their efforts in raising awareness to this fascinating hobby.
Philatelists can get in touch with CSCI through their website cebustampclub.tripod.com or Facebook page (www.facebook.com/CebuStampClub/). They can also be reached through e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.