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Junk

I discovered that many of these vendors have moved online, and you can view their whole inventory with just a mouse click or a swipe of the finger.

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Years before the pandemic, I would find myself walking down streets in Bangkal, Makati and Quiapo, Manila, searching for finds — used compact discs (CD), vintage vinyl records, old books and whatnot. Sometimes friends would ask me to find them something — a second-hand wok, a chandelier, stuffed toys — and I would gladly oblige. Such requests challenged me to deliver since I always considered myself a competent junk aficionado.

When friends found out I was going out of the country, I would get requests to find them something, too. No matter where I was flying to, I’d get a call to buy shoes and sandals, books and magazines, and once, even a specialized makeup brush. These requests definitely spiced up my trips.

Books are an easy browse. Most major bookstores hold annual sales to get rid of their old inventory. Some sellers specializing in used books are even on sale the whole year round. So, there really is no need to panic-shop.

From books, I moved on to vinyl and CD when I acquired a stereo component in the early ’90s. With a new CD costing about P320 then, it could easily deplete what meager budget I had. So, that’s how I discovered the second-hand stalls in Quiapo.

These vendors lined the northbound sidewalk of Quezon Boulevard, their goods mixed up with old watches and broken cameras. I guess that’s how I learned how to haggle, a talent I never did get to master. If something costs P150, I would ask for a P25 discount. If the seller hasn’t had a sale yet, I could get lucky.

Vinyl could be found at thrift shops in Bangkal and Makati Cinema (now Central) Square. In Bangkal, the stores line the side streets of Evangelista Street, starting at Cailles Street and right before the wet market. You could lose yourself walking up and down the small alleys, since there are so much to see aside from LP records, CD and books. There are furniture stores that make chairs and lounges following your design and auto supply stores. Some thrift shops specialize in homeware, from dainty china, lamps, wall hangings and what-have-you.

At the old Makati Square, I struck friendships with the stall owners at the basement tiangge (flea market), perusing not just LP records but so many other things. Often, I would get a phone call to go there posthaste because a shipment of balikbayan boxes had just come from the States. I would get my choice of the lot, and paid for them on installment. I also developed short-lived friendships with other collectors I met there, sharing dubs of record finds among ourselves.

Of course, if I chance upon an eye-catching thrift shop, I am sure to step in. Once, on a jeepney ride along Kamuning Road, a couple of stores near the corner of EDSA caught my attention. I went down the vehicle and checked them out. I don’t expect people will understand the compulsion to browse. But hey, walang basagan ng trip (don’t slay my vibe) as some folks would say.

Since the pandemic started last year, I haven’t been out on my junk crawl. Since it requires me to go to out-of-the-way places, I’ve been wary of picking up the virus as I haggle for a find.

However, that hasn’t stopped me one bit. I discovered that many of these vendors have moved online, and you can view their whole inventory with just a mouse click or a swipe of the finger.

The problem though is I won’t be able to carefully peruse possible purchases. Part of the fun of going through thrift stores is discovering a find. LP records have to be carefully studied for scratches; the same with CD. Over time, you develop a threshold for these details. How much damage can you go for?

When the dust of Covid settles down, I just might find myself at my old haunts to browse. If there’s something special that you are looking for, just drop me a line.

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