Wednesday, November 2, 2011


So there I was, a closet Barbie collector, thinking I was a nut. That I was strange. Because I still loved Barbies at my age.

Then, early this year, I discovered there were other nuts like me. A lot of them even crazier, more rabid, more obsessed with collecting Barbies and other vinyl creatures than I was.

I got a peek at the world of adult collectors. It was a strange world, its citizens with quirks, norms, traditions. And they even have their own language.

One of the new terms I learned was NRFB. Outside the Barbie world, those who collect action figures and other iconic toys also know this term.

It means Never Removed From Box. A collector buys an item for the simple pleasure of owning it, displaying or storing it, staring at it behind a wall of plastic, and occasionally, lovingly wiping the dust off its box

Never Removing From the Box (NRFBing) is meant to preserve the doll, keep it in its pristine condition, so that it will always look as great as it did on the day it came out of the factory, usually somewhere in China.

NRFBing is also meant to give it a premium when the time comes to sell or swap. I heard that a car loses 75% of its value once it's driven from the showroom. A doll that has been deboxed goes through pretty much the same kind of devaluation. An NRFB doll, vintage or otherwise, can fetch you a better price in ebay and elsewhere than one that has already been deboxed, even if the deboxed doll is in good condition or has not been played with at all.

As for me, I don't get it.

I buy dolls to play with them, to dress them up, to assign personalities and even back stories and secret lives to them. The concept of reselling them hurts my heart. They're not investments. They're, uhm, well, they're dolls. Pretty dolls. And they're mine! And forever will be.

Aside from the above reasons, my ability to delay gratification is practically nil. I have the will power of a doorknob. And the EQ of a well, a person with very low EQ. ;) (Forgive my sorry attempt at simile.)

Yes, it took me more than 5 years before I finally deboxed my Kate Spade Barbie, but that's only because it was not covered in plastic, so I could still touch it even while it was tethered to the packaging.

Though I have a few dolls that are still NRFB, it will be a matter of time before I get them out of the confines of the box. They are only in their boxes because I am still too busy to play with them. Opening every box brings a little bit of that Christmas eve feeling. And I enjoy the process slowly. I take pictures of every new doll. So I need to make sure I allocate time for the deboxing. 

I also have a few dolls which have been deboxed just for the pleasure of it, but because they're collectors' items, fancier and fussier than other playtime dolls, I have put them back in boxes. But the attachments have been removed, so they are no longer technically NRFB.

Anyway, here's Sari (I name some of my dolls, but I haven't gotten round to naming them all.), a Barbie Basics doll from the Metallics collection. I bought her more than a month ago from Kid's Depot in Market Market. So many things happened with life and work right after the purchase, so it took me a while to get to deboxing it.

Join me in the step-by-step process of liberating Sari from the confines of that plastic and paper jail.

Don't be fooled by her feisty appearance. Deep inside, she's very sad to be stuck in this box, untouched, immobile, loved only from afar. She's aching to be free. To be played with, to be touched, to be refashioned, to interact with other dolls.

All you need is a pair of scissors. This is optional, though. You can use your bare hands to rip through the packaging. I am civilized (or I try to be) so I use scissors.

Once you've pulled this from the box, technically, it's no longer NRFB. However, it's still fairly easy at this point to put it back in and just seal the cover with a bit of tape.

This is the point of no return. Once you start snipping at the tethers that hold Barbie in place.

Be careful as you snip to ensure the scissor edge does not damage the doll skin.

Sari can't wait to get out of there. Just a few more snips.   

I only have to remove your feet, Sari.

She's free! She's free!

We just have to remove the stitched plastic that protects the doll's hair while it's in transit and on the shelves.

Alleluia! Alleluia!

Collectors' items usually come with a stand. It's sometimes disguised with the packaging, so make sure you don't throw it away with the box.

Sari relishes her freedom.

Well, whatever freedom an inanimate doll may have. She still needs me to achieve her poses.

Even cheesy poses like this one. 

Sari says goodbye to her plastic and paper prison. 

She breathes in the fresh air and says in a sultry voice lightly tinged with an Eastern Asian accent, "Thanks for liberating me, Gege." 

Tuesday, November 1, 2011



This comes a little late, but I think I'm still in time for the season. These are pictures for an album I created to participate in my Barbie collector's group's Halloween challenge. 

 The witch is original Mattel. If my memory serves me right, this is Caligirl Christie.
 The dress is from a thrift store called Vente. It cost 20 pesos (app 50 US cent).
I bought the hat and shoes from an online seller of pre-owned Barbie accessories. I have no idea if they're authentic Mattel. The skull and cauldron are from National Book Store. The broom is from Divisoria. (If you're from the Philippines, you'll know which places I'm referring to. 

And now, for the classic white lady. 

I had big plans for this photo shoot. Like I wanted to place a rocking chair and other furniture. But I got very busy last month and before I knew it, Halloween season was almost over. And my camera was busted, so I had to ask my brother to take the photos for me. Since this was on location, I did not get to bring all the accessories and tools I needed to make this more authentic and interesting.

For the first few shots, I held one of the doll's feet and hid my hand with faux cobweb. On the next shots, we tried to make it appear that the lady was floating. Can you can see the nylon cord?

I had to use a cheap, fake doll so I can wipe off its face and make the doll featureless and creepier. I used acetone to wipe off the paint. 

When I bought the lace gown from an online seller, I knew right away I was going to use it for a white lady shoot. 

And lastly, we have a creature from Philippine folklore--the manananggal. The literal translation of the word comes from the root word "remove." It refers to its habit of removing its upper body from its lower body. It usually starts as a regular looking person, oftentimes, a pretty barrio lass.

Then, it transforms into a vampire like creature. The Filipino twist is that it breaks into two parts. The torso severs from the lower body, sprouts wings, and flies to look for prey.
Legend has it that if you put salt on the stump of the body left behind, the manananggal's parts can no longer reunite with each other, and the creature dies in a manner similar to a vampire's death. You can learn more about this fearsome creature here.

Of course, I also had to use a cheap doll for this, so I can fearlessly dismember it. This was a Filipiniana doll, originally wearing an Igorot (Northern Philippine tribe) costume.
So, there! I hope the photos gave you the creeps. 

Thanks to my brother Luis for managing the photography. I know zilch about photography lighting and would not have been able to achieve these effects without him taking the photos and directing us. And we did this with just flashlights and other makeshift tools. I think we didn't too badly despite my poor planning and lack of materials.  

Until the next holiday shoot!

Have a dollicious week!

Sunday, October 30, 2011


I had one Barbie doll growing up. I don't have a visual memory of it. I suppose it was blonde. And pretty. And I loved it. I remember I also had a book about Barbie. Barbie, the Stewardess. Of course, today, that would be renamed Barbie, the Flight Attendant.

I guess I was pretty happy with one Barbie. But some people (I don't want to name names but clue: It's my mom and my godmother Ninang Linda) promised me a doll house if I were a good girl. I guess I was never a good girl because I never got that doll house. And probably, that is when the discontent, the craving, the feeling of deprivation began.

My next Barbie came when I was 15. My first boyfriend gave it to me. It was blonde. And it was that long ago, that I can't remember much about it either. Except that I loved it.

No Barbies during college and the early part of my career. None either when I got married. I was more intent on having real babies. The fact that real babies didn't come did not exempt us from the birthday party circuit, and I found myself buying toys for other people's children.

One time, I was buying Barbie clothes, and I felt a pang of envy. I wanted some for myself too. So, I bought myself a Barbie and some clothes. Through a period of say, seven years, I started buying a doll at a time, especially when it was on sale. Started collecting clothes and shoes. My whole collection of six dolls plus a generous wardrobe fit into one little Barbie case. A Barbie case that stayed on a high shelf, where it was barely touched. Once in rare while, I would let nieces and guests play with them. Afterwards, they would immediately go back to the shelf.

Until early this year. February, to be more precise. We had some guests over, including a lovely girl named Mica. We tried to entertain her and her brother with paper and colored pens and an assortment of toys. Then, I remembered my Barbies and let her play with them.

Afterwards, I did not immediately put the case on the shelf. It was on the floor of my room when my nieces Daniela and Sonya arrived. We were watching Tyra's Next Stop Model Cycle 15, and we were really annoyed that that gawky, mega-awkward Ann won the cycle. Out of frustration, we started playing with the Barbies, which were conveniently on the floor. We started taking photos, which I immediately posted on my Facebook wall. I called the album Gege's (my name) Next Top Model.

I was surprised at the "audience reaction." Friends of mine started liking photos and giving comments, some even using Tyranese vocab. Some expressed vehement critiques, and some took on favorites. As a result, Chelsea was sent home.

And Lena won the first episode, winning a lifetime supply of shoes from Sole Music Emporium in the process.

And because I'm an approval whore, the audience reaction drove me to create another episode and another, and another. And because I'm a hoarding freak, I started collecting more Barbies, more clothes, more shoes and accessories. And I've added furniture and other props as well.

Today, my room looks like a warehouse, and my husband is afraid to walk in the dark lest he steps on a something plastic that would hurt his foot.

This blog will continue to narrate my obsession with these lovable, plastic creatures.


One of the things they ask you immediately upon entering a toy store is, "Mam, pang-ilang taon?" (What age are you shopping for?) Sometimes, I just raise my eyebrows at them and ignore them. Or sometimes, I blurt out, 44 years old, just to look at their reaction. More often, I do the former. Because it is with more than a bit of embarrassment that I have to admit I'm shopping for myself.

So, why is a 44-year old woman in a toy store buying Barbie dolls? It is, to most people, a social aberration. At some point when a girl moves from childhood to adolescent, they shift their interest from toys to boys, and their once-loved dolls get stored, handed down, or sold in garage sales. That's what is considered normal. Because we mature and shed the need for toys.

But, I guess I'm not normal. So, the question is, why? What's this obsession all about?

Is it because I have no kids, and I need to indulge my maternal instinct to dress up little people?

Is it because as a kid, I was deprived of Barbies?

Is it because I'm overweight, and the only way I can live the fashionista life, is vicariously through inanimate, perfectly-formed, 11-inch creatures?

 Is it because I'm a frustrated artist with only a modicum of talent and this is the only kind of art I can be crafty enough to pursue?

I guess it's all of the above. Plus because Barbies are really purty, and they make me happy.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011


Is this carrying the doll obsession too far? Well, at least, I hope, it will get me blogging again.