SELYO: Philippine History in Postage Stamps
Reynaldo G. Alejandro, Rosa M. Vallejo, Arminda V. Santiago
I love history, and I read history books for pleasure, so when Anvil
Publishing, Inc. gave my book club, Flips Flipping Pages, the
opportunity to sample their books for free in return for a review, I
decided to take the opportunity to indulge in one of my favorite
pastimes. One would think my default choice would have been any work by
Ambeth Ocampo, but when I saw "Selyo" on the publisher's online
inventory, I could not resist it (although I did also get Ocampo's
"Makamisa"). Not only did the book purport to be about history, it would
have pictures too.
"Selyo", as its subtitle states, is about
"Philippine History in Postage Stamps". It is a celebration of
nationalistic stamps from 1854, the first Philippine and Asian adhesive
postage stamp, to 1998, in honor of the centennial not only of
Philippine Independence, but of the Philippine Postal System as well.
book is divided into 4 main chapters - Famous Filipinos, Historical
Events, Dr. Jose P. Rizal, and Philippine Centennial - and shows the
reader an enlarged image of each stamp along with a smaller image of the
stamp in its actual size, with a description of the person or event
commemorated. Although of course it would be impossible to include all
the people & events in Philippine history that have ever been
commemorated on stamp, the authors do a good job in presenting what they
had. Not only would philatelists appreciate it, but history buffs like
me as well.
Do you know who Ambrosio Bautista is? He was the
author of the Declaration of Philippine Independence in 1898,
commemorated in a 1981 stamp. Did you know that Filipino women earned
the right to vote after a plebiscite in 1937, as commemorated in a stamp
50 years later? These are just a couple of historical nuggets, glossed
over in books and classes if discussed at all, that can be discovered
throughout the book.
My only gripe with the book is the lack of
organization in the first chapter. A stamp with a 16th century sultan is
placed next to a 20th century war general next to a 19th century
revolutionary. I wish the heroes were arranged in chronological order to
maintain the history aspect of the book.
For the insatiably
curious, the book also opens further avenues of reading. Who decides who
or what to commemorate on a stamp? Who does the art? Who decides the
value put on each stamp?
Sadly, with the advent of mobile phones
and text messaging and email and chat, the art of letter writing is
dying, and with it, stamps and stamp collecting. Stamps are used to
commemorate the past, but they may be well on their way to becoming
things of the past themselves.