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High fidelity

“Gradually, CD took over. The thrift stores no longer carried items that I wanted.

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I find it interesting that some people I know have picked up the habit of collecting vinyl. Many of them recently bought portable turntables; hence, the need to have records.

I would see posts of their latest acquisitions, and be surprised at how much long-playing (LP) records now cost.

At almost P3,000 a pop, the prices exceed the most expensive album in my collection.

That honor goes to a box set of Beethoven symphonies conducted by the legendary Herbert von Karajan leading the Berliner Philharmoniker in 1977.

(The year is important because Karajan recorded thrice the complete Beethoven symphonies.) It is one of the few LP I have that I bought first-hand. It cost me P4,500 for a five-record set.

You see, when I started collecting records, I regularly browsed flea markets and thrift stores.

That was the only way to source records then. The local recording industry was slowly moving from vinyl to cassette tapes, and eventually to compact discs.

This was during the late Eighties. Record stores then were carrying albums, but mostly of pop and rock acts. I have a handful of LP from that time, usually extended play albums.

I didn’t see the need then to collect pop and rock records because I could easily get them on tape.

Remember the tape recorder?
I had an eclectic taste in music. I listened to everything, but as collectors go, you buy what you want and need.

(I still have a pile of cassettes at home, mostly dubs of my favorite albums and music I was familiarizing myself with, from records borrowed from the British Council and the Goethe Institut.)
My first acquisitions were borrowed albums from a high school chum.

He knew I had been gifted by my aunt with a component (Remember that word?) that came with a record player. On a visit to their house, he took me to their living room and opened a cabinet.

And there they were — a couple of classical music LP. Some of them had never been opened, still wrapped in plastic.

I borrowed a couple and when I had listened to them like crazy, I went back and borrowed some more. Shortly after that, my friend passed away.

When I went to return what I had borrowed, his mom told me to keep them. This is the reason why I’m partial to the recording of Puccini’s Tosca by Maria Callas.

It was one of the still unopened LP in my friend’s stash of records.

Eventually, I would discover specialty shops that sold records, mostly second-hand ones.

I bought Orff’s Carmina Burana from Erehwon at the Maranao Arcade at Ayala Center. From Rastro in Virra Mall, I acquired my copy of Madama Butterfly with Callas.

That copy was so beat up it had deep scratches on parts of it. The few times I played it. I wished the stylus would survive the ordeal.

When I had committed to memory the whole opera, I stopped playing it. By that time, I had already bought a CD copy.

I had also discovered the thrift shops at Makati Cinema Square (MCS). I would go there once a week to see if there was anything new.

I developed a friendship with one store owner, Ate Puring, who would call me up whenever a new balikbayan box came from the United States.

She would go to the States a couple of times a year to scour the garage sales, bringing home boxes of goodies — books, records, accessories, collectibles and other stuff.

I met Aling Mars at her store one time, and she had a thrift shop in Bangkal, Makati.

It was a like a weekly pilgrimage going from MCS to Bangkal. At the end of the day, I would have a couple of records to bring home to clean that night and listen to the next morning.

Gradually, CD took over. The thrift stores no longer carried items that I wanted.

I instead rummaged at Tower Records here and oversees and a number of specialty shops during trips abroad. Nowadays, I have gone digital.

My collection now fills portable hard drives and no longer shelf space.

A few years ago, I found myself in Bangkal, and I revisited my haunts.

Aling Mars’ place is no longer there, but there were other stores in side streets carrying vinyl and CD. On the other hand, Ate Puring’s store folded up years before when MCS renovated its basement into a bingo plaza and specialty shops.

I will revisit my record collection again one of these days when I have updated my turntable and sound system. I will also be visiting Bangkal again. But for now, Spotify will suffice.

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