A family heirloom is anything that has been passed down from an earlier generation. An heirloom is something unique for the family.
For some, an heirloom has monetary value. It is common for elders of rich families to bequeath their loved ones with antique jewelries and artworks from renowned artists. Monetary value of artworks, for instance, are appraised by professionals for inclusion in the estate. Sometimes, an artwork owned by a rich family is donated to the National Museum because of its rarity.
For others like middle class families, an heirloom may not be valuable in peso terms, but it has sentimental value that makes the item priceless. Usually, the item has an accompanying story told from one generation to the next.
Regardless if the heirloom has monetary or sentimental value, these objects are kept in the family to remind us of our loved ones we hold most dear.
This column was inspired by the surge of comments on my Facebook page when I posted my grandmother’s old cabinet. I just randomly asked my FB friends who among them has kept the same cabinet until now, and voila! Many responded.
Here are five of the most common and treasured heirlooms among middle class families.
The 80-year old cabinet I posted was called either aparador or tukador by our elders. The design was common in the ‘30s. It was a wedding gift to my Lolo and Lola. Made of heavy wood, the cabinet is huge and has a round patch at the top to put the name of the owner. Many of my middle class friends have retained the same cabinet in their households, but others had to let go of the same when they transferred homes.
When I was little, whenever my grandmother opened her cabinet, I would squeeze in and rummage through the drawer which kept her accessories. She also had embroidered white handkerchiefs tucked in that cabinet, which I cannot remember she ever used.
We had three of these cabinets in our home in Tondo, Manila but only two were kept when we transferred in Novaliches in the late ‘80s due to space constraints. Now that we are in Quezon City, it is not practical to keep two huge cabinets in our house, but we are still keeping one, and refurbishing it, to last another generation.
Do you remember the plates and glasses displayed in your Lola’s cabinet that were never used even during special occasions in the family? We have kept these white plates adorned with some illustration on the sides and yes, we have not used it until now. Same with the glassware that has etchings.
This means that these glasswares have been on cabinet display for more than 80 years now. Our kids and their kids should continue our tradition of just gazing at these plates and glasses and keep the mystery of why there were never used.
The Gen Zs will surely be surprised with kitchenware-heirlooms like the gilingang bato and flat iron which are kept in Ma’am Lina Sarmiento’s family. The gilingang bato is for grinding rice soaked in water overnight. Dessert like rice cakes is made from the ground rice. Their antique flat iron fueled by charcoal makes a nostalgic conversation piece.
4. Bibles and prayer books
Family bibles and prayer books are some of the most treasured heirlooms especially for majority of us who were born and raised as Catholics. I still remember my grandfather reading the Bible every night at the foot of their bed.
My friend Shirley is still using the Prayer book inherited from her grandmother. During this crisis, the prayer book has been more relevant for her family during their daily prayers.
5. Military memorabilia
We have many Filipino soldiers who fought with the Americans during World War II. They were either killed in action or lived a long, rich life after their service. My friend Ianne Espejo’s family still has mementos of their grandfather’s military service which includes US-Philippine flags.
Family heirlooms symbolize an emotional connection to our relatives who lived before us, a connection to our history or tradition. We are who we are now because of our ancestors and these objects remind us that.