Private Collections: A Fascinating Alternative to Museums

Copyright Photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
Whenever I trek off the beaten path, I enjoy going to the houses of locals where I can see how they transformed a house into a home.  It’s a double treat when the home turns out to be a museum or sorts featuring the owner’s vast and eclectic collection of paintings, vintage dolls, old perfumes, antiques, cacti, and even snakeskin. And that is precisely what awaits anyone who visits Nonoy Sionosa’s home at the back of Camp Crame in Manila.

Copyright Photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
Everyone, meet Nonoy, avid collector of anything old and interesting, a classical pianist, and painter.

Copyright Photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
This is the entrance to his collection. See those balloon curtains on the ceiling?

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They’re actually snakeskin.

Copyright Photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
After getting over the creepy feeling, here are some books that are way older than your grandmother.


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What the cookbook looks like inside. Still in very good condition.

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Copyright Photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
Copyright Photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
Copyright Photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
Pages torn from an old book on flora.

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If he cannot get the original, Nonoy is also willing to settle for certified true reproductions of old book pages. By certified true reproductions, it means that it’s the official replica of the real thing, much like certified true copies of land titles.

Copyright Photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
Copyright Photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
He stores them inside an acid-free clear book. When showing me the prints, he handed me the clear book but I was too afraid to touch them. I did not want to become an instant owner of damaged prints.

Copyright Photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
Copyright Photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
Copyright Photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
Prints depicting scenes from the Bible adorn the walls of the almost 50-year old house.

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Blue and white (as seen here), earthenware and clay pots from antique shops and souvenir shops abroad.

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One day while browsing through an antique shop, someone approached him asking whether he’d be interested in old pharmaceutical bottles…

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and medical paraphernalia.

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When he saw the label on this bottle, he had no choice but to part with his money.

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One of my favorites. The mirror used to be a prop in an old Sampaguita Pictures film starring Rogelio dela Rosa. To our readers who are more familiar with old Hollywood, that is like owning a piece of a movie set in a Clark Gable film. Too bad no one can recall the title.

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The Rose of Sharon.

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Look closely and you’ll notice that the artwork is made out of tiny shells.

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Copyright Photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
“Pass the chili sauce, please…”

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Tortoise shells. Nonoy has one as big as the shell the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles carry on their back but his family thought it too gruesome to hang on their walls. During my visit, it was tucked away somewhere within the junk storage so I wasn’t able to take a picture.

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Birds of paradise

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Vintage perfume bottles

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Dolls with their own collection.

Copyright Photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
Copyright Photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
I asked Nonoy if he already had in mind what he was going to do with the dolls when he purchased them. “No,” he said. It just so happened that he already had the miniatures in his collection and saw that they accompanied the dolls well. Things just came together fortuitously and oh so beautifully.

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A cross-stitch made by one of his sisters which inspired a young Nonoy to do the same….

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…using butterfly wings.

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And another one.

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And another one.

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While going up the stairs, we saw many relics….

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…like old irons. Nonoy said they used to have a lot of these but his mother was very generous with friends who asked for souvenirs. “Uh, Mrs. Sionosa…?”

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More vintage dolls from Germany although the dresses are not as old.

Copyright Photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
Copyright Photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
Once again, some dolls have their own collection.

Copyright Photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
Copyright Photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
One doll has her own miniature Bible and cosmetic cases.

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As mentioned, Nonoy is also an artist. He uses tiny pebbles and buttons as his canvas.

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Not only does he collect things of beauty, but he also makes them.

Copyright Photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
Copyright Photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
He painted on the buttons to add design to an ordinary outfit on one special occasion.

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This is the only time I have heard of a button upstaging an outfit!

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Copyright Photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
Family vintage toys.

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Copyright Photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
Copyright Photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
Nonoy’s babies---his cactus collection.

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Copyright Photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
Actually, this is his second batch. He sold his first one years ago so he’s starting over.

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As you can see, he’s off to a very good start.

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Copyright Photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
Copyright Photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
Copyright Photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
This is the cacti ICU (intensive care unit)---seriously.

Copyright Photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
I literally saw this last and the experience was a testament to the trite expression, “Saving the best for last.” This captivated me the most that I spent minutes just staring at this photograph of Nonoy’s aunt. As you can see, she was a beauty. I remarked that she probably was a “Miss this” and “Miss that” during her time and I was right.
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But it wasn’t her beauty that captivated me, it was the smile. Almost all pictures from the old days had people just staring back at the camera looking so stoic and yet, here she was---smiling, with her eyes even. Sadly, she died at a young age in her 40's from asthma.

Copyright Photo: The Paranoid Traveler/PFN
When asked what he wants to happen to his collection when he is gone, Nonoy just shrugged his shoulders and said he really doesn’t care. “Let my nieces and nephews have them, I guess.” This attitude might seem bewildering for somebody who has devoted his life to collecting his passion but it is also refreshing. It shows that no matter how much he loves them, they are still “just things” to him. He owns them but they don’t own him.

Nonoy’s collection is open to field trips. For more information, email him at evsionosa@gmail.com.

-THE PARANOID TRAVELER



2 comments:

  1. Thanks for writing this. I serve at an afterschool program near this place :) would be nice to bring some of the kids to appreciate such precious collections.

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