Discards and treasures

- Tingting Cojuangco () - February 19, 2012 - 12:00am

It was Eddie (without a family name) who drove out the shadows in my hallway and whom we fetched at the fire station on Evangelista Street, Pasay City. It’s been five years now with Evangelista Street on my mind but my feet are glued to Makati. Glued: that reminds me of Police Senior Inspector Luisito Andaya. I had sent him a text last November: “I miss the Academy and one thousand cadets in maroon standing at attention, beneath the branches of age old trees.” He answered: “Miss you, Ma’am. I can relate to the trees myself. My feet felt like they were glued to the parade ground and more like I had grown roots on my soles when the parade and drills were too long.” That pierced my grim reminiscing as I laughed all the way from Cavite to Makati. I appreciated Andaya’s point of view. It was youthful reality, a matter of fact versus an elder’s gloom, which inspired me to distract myself and rediscover Evangelista Street. I know there is no shop in the world where I can buy friends nor replace them, but I can amuse myself with friends on Evangelista Street. Jeepneys occupy half of the road, squeeze out pedicabs, noisy bearded drivers shout among themselves, pedestrians cross wherever they want, while tires, mag wheels and fenders hang from almost every store. Evangelista Street, where second-hand household items can also be purchased. I remember a woman in a jeep in the mid 1970s who went to Forbes Park residences to buy beaded gowns, clothes of cotton and satin and Pucci silks and sell them on Evangelista Street. They were probably worn three times over and discarded by their owners.

I walked the length of that street decades ago and it’s still business as usual today. Last Friday I was crisscrossing its side roads entering tiny establishments that sold curio items such as coins, miniature figurines, bangles and brooches. Wooden furniture and lamps were labeled “vintage,” written on a small Cartolina paper. There were shoes with heels repaired, plastic chairs, chandeliers, odd paintings, mirrors and rolled-up rugs. Whatever you look for is there, with varied choices causing confusion. I was purchasing Lalique vases that had two or three colors with the condition that they had to be good bargains. One store in the main road had a Lalique heavy vase in red and white for P3,800. No, that was too much for its size. But Eva said, “You can bargain.” She went down to P2,800; it was still too expensive. She had a collection of white ceramics but it wasn’t what I came for.

“There’s more,” my companion said. “Plenty other stores.” Every store sells only one-of-a-kind items. Well, yes, considering its provenance. I bought a sort of twisted vase priced at P800 for P500. Buena mano daw. I turned left to Rebecca’s chandeliers. “Ma’am yung chandelier na parang may falda is from Burma.” It was shaped like a tiffany lamp without colors. Its long glass beads were strung together vertically and I ran my fingers through it because the lamp looked like a hula skirt. It could have hung over a colonial oval table on top of an ashtray with a cigarette belonging to an Anglo-Burman. I bought it. My neck stretched upward and my eyes caught a glimpse of a tiny glass (not plastic) chandelier with its teardrops dripping downwards. It was similar to the chandelier I brought and hung over my daughter’s desk when they were 10 years old. “I’ll take both, Rebecca.” These entertaining stores have a smorgasbord of lights hanging from the ceilings. I envisioned that “dripping” chandelier hanging from my trellis. Glass and wood, an elegant contrast. The hula skirt lamp Mang Andy would attach over my Maranao drums. Luckily I caught up with them, my carpenter and electrician, and we figured how to hang them. “Higher… Lower… Please buy a brown electrical wire to add to the length of both lights and secure the brown wire with thumb tacks or nails to hide it in the wood… Don’t make them the same level.” Peachie P. suggested, “It would look charming to hang some lower than the other.” I’d need more chandeliers to achieve that misaligned effect. Remember the glass chandelier with the opaque leaves over its bulbs? That was very attractive. I will need another. How about the chandelier with glass beads that flirted with the sunlight, reflecting green, pink, purple and blue? Rebecca, my instant friend whom I couldn’t call exactly a mangbubulok, brought both to the house. They do deliver. She brought as well a pair of half-moon chandeliers from a home for sale. A woman sold it to her and perhaps another one would buy it. It’s true: one person’s discards become another’s treasure.

My companion, engineer Bebot Valeza, purchased, from a chubby and jolly doctor of medicine, a white vase embossed with Grecian women dressed in blue dancing attire. In spite of over-extending our bargaining skills, Doc patiently accommodated us, even sacrificing profit in his buy-and-sell operations. “Never mind” he said. “I have new customers through Peachie at bahala na ang Diyos sa inyo.” He was complaining to God about us. If there is a purpose to return to Evangelista Street, he is reason enough. Numerous items from painetas to boxes and statues and crucifixes, sugar silver bowls and trays; there was no walking space in his tiny showrooms. With the evening creeping up on us, Peachie advised me, “You have to find the time to go to Evangelista Street. Walk around and relax. It’s my therapy.”

“Two thousand?” “No, 700...” It was embarrassing, haggling down the listed prices, but it was hard-earned money we were spending. Like always, compromising leads to success. “One thousand? Okay.” Evangelista Street? We went for bargains and succeeded.

Since we’re discussing good buys — and good-bye to our allowance — the second floor of Cinema Square sells what you’ll find in Evangelista Street in a contained area. Look for the ark that reads “Segunda Mano.” You’ll probably find Peachie there in another rendezvous during her therapeutic mode, enjoying dusty encounters.

All told, I walked into Firma at Greenbelt 5 and found their items reasonably priced. Some were lower then or comparable to Evangelista and Segunda Mano. What a shock! What a surprise! Casing streets and stores and surveillance (you need to use psychology on the seller, as he does you) pays off. Playing hard to get included.

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