Friday, October 27, 2006


One of the exhibitors at the 21st Negros Trade Fair held in Rockwell last September was Casa Mercedes, makers of folding fans (featured in this top photo). These fans of various designs and colors have been exquisitely created with fine quality materials; giving those made in Spain a run for their money.

Casa Mercedes also produces a line of folding fans for men, which are larger than those for women. The saleslady informed me that they do a brisk business with their men’s collection, especially for export to Europe. I bought one in black for myself, and before heading out of the fair, I decided to go back to the Casa Mercedes booth to get a couple of more fans for men to send to my brothers in New York. Unfortunately, they were all sold out. The saleslady told me that a group of Chinese women bought the rest of their stock for their husbands and friends.

The folding fans in the picture at the very bottom are of the cheapest kind; usually sold near the churches for no more than twenty pesos. Made with less than durable materials, they don’t last that long. They’re about as good as those cheap folding umbrellas from China.

Since I moved to Manila, I always carry an anahaw fan (similar to the ones in the photo on the left, but in plain color). It’s not only good for what it is, but it’s effective as well as a shield against the hot sun or a light drizzle. Just ask Sidney. I’m sure he got a kick when he saw me pull out my large anahaw fan from my bag during our Binondo walking tour with Ivan.

About four years ago, the only ones who use a folding fan besides the women were gay teens and gay men. However, nowadays, a lot of straight guys — from high school students to businessmen — can be seen with a folding fan in public instead of using a notebook or a manila envelope. And since folding fans can be easily stashed in brief bags or back packs, they have since gained further public acceptance as a necessary accessory for both men and women, especially during the hot summer months.

Personally, I’d rather stay dry and comfortable than get soaked in sweat. Thus, I always carry a fan in my bag — either the large anahaw fan or a folding fan — to use when needed despite how others might perceive or discount my masculinity. Same as with an umbrella; I never ventured outside without one whenever it was raining or about to rain.

Speaking of conveyed messages through one’s accessories, during the more prudish era under the Spanish regime, the folding fan and another must-have accessory, the handkerchief, were also effective means of communication for women in the affairs of courtship. The entire vocabulary was simple, silent, and discreet.

As Ambeth Ocampo cited, in the nineteenth-century, courtship was extremely an arduous undertaking, because women were born and raised to be one of only three things: nun (to serve God), housewife (to serve a man) or spinster (to serve her family). It was also difficult for a man to meet a woman, unless he was fully accepted and welcomed by the woman’s parents.

At social gatherings, the women were usually seated at one side and the men on the other. The most a man would get from a woman he desired were shy smiles or monosyllabic responses, lest she seemed too “easy.” If the man was lucky enough to know someone close enough to the woman, then he would be used as a “bridge;” without which, a fan or handkerchief would be the next best thing.

Here’s a sampling of the signals and their corresponding meaning according to The Prewar Lovers’ Guide by Ambeth Ocampo:

Through a handkerchief:

Brush against the lips = I’d like to exchange letters
Brush against one eye = I feel a sense of sadness
Brush against the left hand = I think I like you
Brush against both cheeks = I love you
Let if fall = Let’s get to know one another
Press against the right cheek = Yes
Press against the left cheek = No
Brush against the shoulder = Follow me
Fold = I’d like to speak with you
Fold the ends = Wait for me
Twist with both hands = It matters not
Twist with right hand = I love someone else
Twist with left hand = I don’t want to meddle in your affairs
Tie against the index finger = I have another sweetheart
Tie against the ring finger = I am married
Tie against entire hand = I am yours
Play with the handkerchief = I care not for you

Through a fan:

Carry it dangling from the right hand = I’d like to have a boyfriend
Carry it dangling from the left hand = I already have a boyfriend
Fan constantly = I love you a lot
Fan slowly = You don’t mean anything to me
Fold suddenly = I like you
Let it fall = My aim is true
Cover half the face = Follow me
To not carry or hide in one’s pocket = I am not interested in your courtship

Nowadays, courtship is much easier, especially since the advent of cellphones and text messaging. There’s also the Internet (emails, chat rooms, instant messages, Friendster and My Space). It is now also an acceptable norm for a woman to initiate and pursue a man she desires. And for those intrepid lovers unable to curtail their urges, the fans and handkerchiefs have become even more necessary accessories — but this time for their original purpose — especially after a torrid rendezvous in one of those cheap motels without air-conditioning that abound in Manila’s university belt area.

Additional sources:
Breakfast with Aguinaldo - And More Looking Back Essays
By Ambeth Ocampo
Anvil Publishing

Casa Mercedes, Inc.
148 G. Reyes Street, San Juan, Metro Manila
Telephone: 724-3846

posted by Señor Enrique at 11:39 AM


Blogger ipanema said...

Interesting post! Ah, I love fans and I still carry one till today. It's a black Spanish fan I had way back. When I first came here, I taught for three years and the first time I took my fan out the students were smiling and were curious. They were even amazed at how I open it ala Flamenco dancer (just to give you an idea). They've never seen a fan like it and besides people here don't fan as they are used to airconditioners. Nowadays, I see locals buy fans like that in your first and last photos from a store that sells Filipino products. It's quite expensive here. Or they are pasalubong from their aunties - their Filipina househelp.

Fan constantly = I love you a lot

When I was still living in Manila, this has another meaning to me.

Fan constantly = I hate you Meralco for the constant brown out. :)

Ah, your last paragraph made me smile.

October 27, 2006 6:52 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The fans from Casa Mercedes are so pretty. I haven't seen a really nice fan in a long time and I want one of those ... it would go with my terno and I could have a new way to flirt with my husband. ;)

October 27, 2006 10:41 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The fans made by Casa Mercedes are totally outstanding judging from the way they look in the picture. I'm sure it's nicer if I see it in reality. Hehe. The Prewar Lovers' guide by Ambeth Ocampo really is interesting. I didn't know that there are so many ways for you to give signals, during those days. Heh.

Talking about fans, I do have one at home and it has been such a long time since I last used it. Well, I had it when I was 16 because I had to use it for my Tai Chi steps; one of the styles in Tai Chi you have to use the fan. Ah, sweet memories.


October 27, 2006 11:40 PM  

Blogger Unknown said...

really nice abaniko's. kapag nagpupunta ako abroad, yan ang pasalunbong ko sa mga friends ko, tuwang tuwa sila.

October 28, 2006 2:33 PM  

Blogger Unsugarcoated Reviews said...

i always carry a folding fan too...just the cheap ones sold by sidewalk vendors...

btw, what do those folding fans for men look like? i haven't seen one does it differ from the ordinary fans for girls?

October 29, 2006 1:00 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

But isn't it something, Ipanema? For a mostly Catholic country, this city is teeming with cheap motels.

Air-conditioned everything, huh? I tell you, at least your government does share its wealth to the masses.

BTW, I had an aunt who would use her fan to surprise us unruly kids with a sudden whack on the head with it...grrr :)

I was really impressed with their products, Toe. Next time you come home for a visit, check out Casa Mercedes for some of your pasalubong.

By the way, Kyels, Casa Mercedes also makes those oversized folding fans for martial artists in various solid colors. I had also seen in Discovery Channel a bunch of tai-chi practitioners with their red fans and it was such a sight to see them moving in perfect unison and harmony. Oh, I miss my tai-chi classes :(

Maganda ngang pasalubong ang mga ito, Cruise. Namili na din ako para Christmas gifts, eh.

October 29, 2006 11:37 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I also have a red folding fan which I carry in my purse during the hot summer months here. It's interesting to know that men also carry fans nowadays.

How come I can't view the pictures? :(

October 29, 2006 12:09 PM  

Blogger -= dave =- said...

Six years ago we high school guys had learned to use folding fans too. I also learned how to open one with a flick of the wrist. (So perhaps you may want to push that gender difference thing to ten years ago.) Admittedly, we were influenced by our gay classmates and girl friends. In fact, in one soiree, we gave the visiting girls folding fans as remembrance gift. Haha, we were sarcastic even back then (you see, our classroom was hot, at least next time they visit they come prepared.)

Then in a college sportsfest, I was in a team called Red Dragons. As props to our Chinese-inspired cheerdance routine, the girls used red folding fans instead of the usual pompoms. The fans were also used to cool off during breaks in practice. The team's execution was flawless, too bad we lost to a smiling, stunt-heavy rival by mere fraction of a point.

October 29, 2006 9:27 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yep, I miss my Tai-Chi classes as well. I think I've forgotten most of the steps since I stopped quite long ago.


October 30, 2006 12:12 AM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Now I see the pics. I like the ones in the last picture. They're very colourful.

October 30, 2006 3:30 AM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

The ones for men, Cyberpunk, is larger and mostly of solid color -- black as being the most popular. It may be about two inches longer than the standard folding fans for womens.

I'm glad they came out for mens, Irene, because the regular anahaw one cannot be folded. Ewan ko ba? Madali na din akong makaramdam ny init lalo na sa summer kaya lagi akong may dalang pamaypay. sometimes goes offline which makes some of my pics offline as well. Sorry!

Many thanks, Dave, for backing me up on my claim -- that it's ok for men to carry a folding fan in Manila nowadays!

You're right also with some classrooms being really hot. Some students I've spoken to get very sleepy due to a lack of fresh air in their classes which would make them physically and mentally lethargic sometimes. Lucky are those where Ipanema is -- air-conditioned everything!

That must have been an awesome sight with fans instead of the tired pompoms!

Yup, Kyels, without regular practice, one tends to forget those movements :(

Yes, they're very colorful, Irene, but they don't last as long :(

October 30, 2006 2:24 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow may ganito palang post tungkol sa casa mercedes at ngayon ko lang nabasa.

I collected their fans dati way back in high school pa siguro 2 or 3 years before mo pa i post ito. I would ask mom to buy one for me kaso lang puro pang dona yung naka display kaya medyo dyahe bumili kasi lalake ako. Ngayong may trabaho na ako medyo nakakabili na ako pero in complete moderation. Kaso lang parang bumaba yung quality nung details at finishing. Kasi nitong dumaan ako sa Greenhills nakita ko yung booth nila tapos nakita ko rin yung fans na kamukha nung sa Casa Mercedes parang mas nagustuhan ko yung sa kabila kasi naman yung price medyo may kamahalan tapos yung sa kabila halos kamukha lang tapos murang mura. Yun lang pero i didn't resist the temptation and bought one from Casa Mercedes. Iba pa rin kasi yung pangalan eh.

Thanks sa post mo na ito!

May 10, 2010 8:26 PM  

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Life in Manila as observed by a former New Yorker who with a laptop and camera has reinvented himself as a storyteller. Winner of the PHILIPPINE BLOG AWARDS: Best Photo Blog in 2007 and three Best Single Post awards in 2008.


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