I recently cleaned out my mother-in-law’s china cabinet, and my oh my, what a lot of dust stuff! We’re renovating my husband’s old house soon, and since my MIL doesn’t live here anymore, she gave her permission to clear out plenty of their things inside. We’re dividing some of the plates and glassware among ourselves (basically just me and my sister-in-law), and the rest we sold off at a garage sale over the weekend.

This wasn't even half of what we plowed through.
This wasn’t even half of what we plowed through.

Now I know to other people, these old things are just clutter. But there is beauty to be found in other people’s “trash”. I’ve always been keen on vintage. In fact, back when I was much younger and had more time on my hands (but ironically didn’t have yet the money to spend with), I would scour thrift streets (like Bangkal/Evangelista Street in Makati or Kamuning in QC) and ukay-ukay shops (like the ones on Aurora Boulevard) for old, pre-loved items for the home. Some of my purchases from way back are still things I use today.
When you’re going through a traditional Filipino platera—especially one that hasn’t been touched (nor cleaned) in many years (and I do mean decades)—always have the right tools to help make the gargantuan task much, much easier.
You will need:

  • Lots of clean rags. If you can, divide the lot into rags for wiping off dust and dirt, rags that are okay to wet with water (in case you need to wash some things), and rags for drying wet items.
  • A mask to protect yourself from all that dust
  • Your own bottle (better yet, a large Coleman will do) of water for hydrating yourself
  • Snacks for when you get hungry
  • Trash bags (for broken/unusable stuff that need to be thrown out), and newspaper (for wrapping breakable things in)
  • Boxes or huge plastic bins for corraling all the stuff you’re keeping or transporting
  • An extra set of clean clothes and Wet Ones for a post-clearing cleanup

As I am always gung-ho about clearing and cleaning and getting my hands on vintage stuff for free, I only had about half of the items on this list. Ha. Ha. Ha. I will be the first to admit that I don’t always follow rules. The downside to being a rule-breaker is that you don’t get the right to complain when dealing with the consequences of your rule-breaking. So yeah, I did get a rash and a mild cold-cough allergy from our platera-clearing operation.
Below are photos of cool stuff that I found, most of which I am happy to say I we have inherited. They just need to take a long dip in a hot tub of soapy suds (as did I, after this day) and I’m free to decorate and use them as we please!

I have my own little tea set collection, and I know this dainty set would look right at home in it. Unfortunately, I don’t have my own china cabinet to display it in, and as it is, our ceiling-hung cabinet for breakable stuff is nearing its weight limit. But I’m still on the fence about whether I should just sell these online or keep for myself. What do you think?

A sexy pair of crystal candleholders, which is going to my sister in law

I don’t know anyone else who is drawn to those old-style, hand-painted, and Philippine-made glazed plateware (which most households in the ’60s and ’70s used to have) as much as I am. I think no one likes them because they’re heavy and look outdated, but to me, they possess a certain charm from that era that I can’t find in many of today’s plates: homey, comforting, and (dare I say it) artisanal. (There, I said it, most overused buzzword of 2014-15). This set is already missing quite a few pieces, but I’m happy to report they will stay within the family (again, with my sister in law).

Whimsical and fun, this pair of rabbit and mouse cookie jars from the ’40s used to belong to my husband’s grandmother. Not sure if the wily bunny candleholder in front is part of this set, but they all look good together. This one’s more of my bro- and sis-in-law’s quirky style, so they’re inheriting this one.  I envision it would look great on a shelf, or maybe used uniquely, like a catchall in an entryway.

This is my The One That Walked Away. I regret ever letting this set go. It’s a punch bowl with matching cups. I’m not sure what they’re made of, though they do look a lot like white jadeite dinnerware. Did I mention white and metallics are big these days? Did I also mention that I let this set go? *sniff sniff*

Remember those St. Michael socks from Marks & Spencer that used to be so trendy in the ’80s? I don’t see the resemblance with this one (haha), but this soap dish still has the St. Michael sticker brand on its underside. I’m using it as a coaster in my work desk—because I can never seem to function properly without a drink on my table—and partly as a reminder of those halcyon days when my mom would not buy me and my sisters a pair of St. Michael socks. Nope, I definitely wasn’t a cool kid back then.

“Pyrex” is one of those words that Filipinos have acculturated into local vocab by using it as the all-encompassing noun for most servingware. Like “Colgate” for toothpaste, or “Coke” for soda. Or the ultimate your-lola-still-uses-this-word throwback, “Frigidaire.”

From Noritake's Sampaguita collection
From Noritake’s Sampaguita collection—best enjoyed with a Sampaguita hit in the background

Oh, look. More tea sets. I might let go of the pink one, but the blue and green Noritake set (still complete, with dessert plates too!) is going straight to my baul. And shall be used once in a while, when I’m feeling a bit British and want to enjoy my afternoon tea, pinky up.

A terribly tarnished gold (or is it brass?) planter (nothing a little rag and some polish can’t fix). Didn’t you notice the planter trend slowly invading hip (and hipster) cafes and restaurants, home brands, and crafty markets? This is the reason why there has been a reported significant increase in dying or dead plants—suckers like yours truly fall for the latest trend and buy those poor green (or blooming) creatures for their homes and inevitably forget to care (or just truly suck at caring) for the greenlings. Which is why one of these vintage planters (there were three of them) is going to me. Because I really do want more green things around, though I am thisclose to going faux. Hooray.

Small-family-sized serving bowls with lids—it says oven-proof underneath, so I guess it’s also microwave-proof, right? Let’s see if our house doesn’t go up in smoke with this one—will keep you updated….

Awww, will you lookit that? My husband’s former baby self used this set of Snoopy baby utensils, so we’re assigning them to house duty for our own #babycat. All her gum- and teething-friendly rubber ones will be relegated to travel status.

My favorites from my share of the hoard. This isn’t actually a set, but they’re all white ceramics with interesting, and rather contemporary shapes, that they all look good together. The two in the foreground are lotus-shaped candleholders, but one of them has actually broken in two. It won’t hold with super-glue, so have yet to research on the best kind of adhesive to repair it. Oh, and lookie lookie, another planter.

That’s about it! I can’t wait to use what we got at home—contrary to popular belief, I am not a fan of letting beautiful things languish in a cabinet—for parties, for daily use, and even for decorating and styling projects. Whoop-tee-doo!