Republic of the Philippines

      Stamps and Postal History


Philippines Philatelic Personalities





By Carolina B. Clemente

(Philippine Journal of Philately, Nov-Dec 1950)


“Oh! so nice. What beautiful stamps!  Superbly fine souvenirs of this country."


Such remarks from tourists, their eyes sparkling with admiration, were common enough at the stamp windows of the Manila Post Office be­fore the war. Globe trotters who were avid stamp collectors used to stop here expressly to buy Philippine stamps.


The man chiefly responsible for the choice of the designs of these stamps was the then Assistant Director of Posts, Felipe Cuaderno, one of our leading Filipino philatelists who on various occasions represented the Philippines in the Universal Postal Union Conferences in Europe before and after the war, and now the Director of the Bureau of Telecommunications.


Keen, brilliant, versatile and distinguished of taste, Director Cuader­no was eminently suited to take charge of selecting stamp designs. Charming art being his delight, he always sought elegance and grace in every design, inter-relating the aesthetic expressions with the political, social and cultural evolution of the people.


With his taste and temperament and the job he was in, he could not but be a philatelist.


When asked what had attracted him to stamp collecting, he answered that it was his fondness of art and of learning, and added, "Such masterly designs depicting in barely a square inch, in most cases, allegorical sketches of national and international events, national heroes, national flowers and trees, beautiful buildings and monuments, agriculture and industries, and countless number of subjects, will readily attract people ap­preciative of things that are beautiful and as if produced by magic. By collecting stamps, one learns of the history, customs and civilization of each country.”


His interest in postage stamps began way back in 1918 when during the process of the so-called Filipinization of government offices, he was transferred from the Ayuntamiento to the Bureau of Posts. Orders for the printing of postage stamps used to pass through the Administrative Division where he was then assigned.  A little later he took charge of having designs for postage stamps pre­pared and of ordering their printing from the States.


Although he has the complete collection of Philippine stamps since the American Occupation, Director Cuaderno says that he does not specialize on any issue, but just purchase a few of each issue and study them further during his leisure time for his enjoyment.  Some are given to friends abroad, officials of foreign postal administrations, whom he met during various postal congresses.


Recollecting some instances how he had certain stamp designs prepared, he said, "I made it always a point to select renowned Filipino artists for the preparation of stamp designs. They are almost always very busy and one has to study carefully how to approach them and win them to prepare the designs. I remember well the time when I approached the designer of our Republic Commemorative stamp. He was so busy then that he had no time to think of an allegorical design for such proposed stamp. He happened to be carrying several designs intended for some other purposes, among which was that of a Filipina in native dress. I suggested it would do if the flags of the nations would be drawn at the background with the Filipina carrying the Philippine flag. He agreed to revise that sketch of his and presented it to the committee on selection.  It was the winning design.


"Then there was the occasion when the design for the six-centavo stamp, a Filipina carrying a stack of rice, was finished. I made the mistake of openly remarking to the artist that the arms were proportionately big.  He naturally felt offended and asked if I intended teaching a professor how to draw. He was my friend and I simply explained that as the drawing would be reduced to a very small size, about a square inch, it might be well not to emphasize the arms. I learned later that he asked the opinion of a companion of his in the profession, who confirmed my fear about the oversized arms. It turned out later that he was losing his sight."


As to the difficulty of having our postage stamps printed abroad, he remarked, "It is indeed unfortunate that there are still no appropriate machines for printing postage stamps in the Philippines. Before the last war, we could not prepare designs of stamps sufficiently in advance of the time when they were needed, as there were no sufficient funds for the purpose. When the funds were finally obtained, we had to rush up the preparation of designs and forward the order for printing to the Bureau of Engraving in Washington, D.C, passing through several offices here and in the United States. Until now postage stamps are being printed by the American Bank Note of New York. If we had the proper printing machines here, it would be easier and more convenient to manufacture such stamps."


Notwithstanding the fact that Mr. Cuaderno is known to be very sparing with his time, he was in the mood to tell some interesting anecdotes connected with the printing of certain stamps, like the Pagsanjan Falls, Dr. Jose Rizal, and the Sta. Lucia Gate.


"There were in the course of printing new stamps certain incidents which even with meticulous care could not be avoided," he said. "Take the case of the Pagsanjan Falls (Magdapio Falls according to our very good friend Mr. Esperidion). When the order for its printing was received by the Bureau of Insular Affairs, War Department, Washington, D.C., a radiogram was dispatched to the Philippines inquiring if there would be any objection to the use of a better front view of such falls which was found among the files of the Bureau of Insular Affairs. We replied that there was no objection.  It turned out later, after the stamps had been placed on sale, that the view used was that of Vernon Falls, I think, somewhere in California.


"There was the case of the picture of Dr. Jose Rizal which was used in one of the new issues. The picture used was an authentic one, but somebody claimed later that the hair was parted on the wrong side. Whether the photographic plate used in making the die was inverted to give such a result, nobody knows. Somebody claims, however, that Dr. Rizal used to part his hair sometimes the other way. It remains a mystery up to these days.


"Lastly, there was the case of one of the gates of the Walled City, the Sta. Lucia, I think, which was used in one of the designs of new postage stamps after the liberation. We had to order stamps immediately from the States and all we could do was to get hold of certain postal cards of Philippine views printed in the Unit­ed States. I gave the postal card bearing the picture of the gate to Professor Amorsolo who prepared the final design for the stamp. After the stamps had been placed on sale, there was a claim that it did not bear the picture of the Sta. Lucia Gate, but of another gate in Intramuros.  Whether the printers of the postal cards made a mistake in printing the wrong name of the gate, is not known. I remember, however, having seen while playing golf at the Municipal Link, certain masons repairing the gates from time to time without plans to guide them in restoring portions of the gates. This may be the reason for the differences in appearance of the gate from very old pictures of the original gate. However, I am not sure of this."


When asked what suggestions he could give for the dissemination of philately in our country, and awakening of interest in our postage stamps of collectors in foreign countries, he advised that facsimile pictures of certain groups of special issues be posted in schools. Students can be effectively attracted and convinced about stamp collecting when they actually see the designs of stamps and the subjects portrayed therein.


Then he said that most tourists collect stamps of countries visited by them. If one travels, he would see peddlers selling postage stamps to tourists at the docks.


For the convenience of tourists arriving at the Port of Manila, therefore, he suggested the posting of placards at the piers indicating the location of our Branch Post Office in front of Pier 13, where postage stamps may be purchased.



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