Walking into a time capsule that is National Book Store
Nothing compares to a child’s sense of wonder. When you’re (quite literally) new to the world, endless fascination awaits. There’s just something so special about being a kid that's next to impossible to recreate as you grow up. Take it from Picasso: “It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a child.” They have a talent for bringing the most mundane worlds to life.
As children, we all had our playgrounds. Mine was the ever-classic, ever-reliable National Book Store.
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That statement in and of itself probably says a lot about me. It’s okay, you can put me in a stereotype; you’ll probably be right, anyway. I was the responsible and diligent student, the seatmate you could rely on for a piece of one-fourth pad paper whenever there was spontaneous seatwork. The classmate you could borrow notes from to cram, just five minutes before the exam began. The girl who owned a stuffed pencil case filled with multicolored markers and pens.
These were little pleasures that filled up my days of humdrum as a student. Thankfully, my experiences were screen-free, for the most part. I lived through elementary during the era of blackboards and chalk, permanent markers and manila paper. The highlight of my grade school years was “moving up” from using a pencil to using ballpens. Cellphones were banned, and we had classes to learn how to use the computer; not the other way around.
High school came and so did air-conditioned rooms, whiteboards and PowerPoint presentations. Laptops were permitted, but only when it was necessary, which meant that things were still done by hand. Note-taking, calculating, essay writing, exam taking—we did that.
I may not have known it back then, but it took time and distance (it always does) for me to appreciate what I had. Despite the lack of technology, everything was enough.
Real-life transitions often mean going separate ways with the people we meet. What we don’t realize is that we also bid adieu to the small companions that joined us in the journey. Since I recently graduated, I decided to declutter, and found myself confronted with skeletons of the past—supplies that helped me fulfill my past responsibilities day by day. An empty expanding folder with my school schedule taped to the front. A blue mechanical pencil, its eraser-cap run down. Dried out metallic markers and gel pens. These were the items I slowly grew out of, until I subconsciously let them go and never picked them up again. It’s everyday objects like these that reveal the shifts in our daily lives as we grow older. (Maybe I should be an anthropologist?)
Objectual companions of my school girl days
I love choosing the analog option whenever possible, and I love doing things by hand. I use a manual alarm clock, and I am an avid bullet journal user. With that being said, technology still rules most of my life. It’s hard to imagine writing this article on a sheet of yellow pad. It’s hard to grow out of my dependency towards my phone and my laptop. When was the last time I opened a dictionary? All I have to do is open a pop up on my browser. Heck, I don’t even use a calculator; I simply type out my problem on Google’s search bar. As I’ve been caught up in this version of daily life, I had forgotten what it was like to be a kid again.
I’ve found that visiting National Book Store brings back the same feelings of nostalgia that I get whenever I peruse items of my past. In a world where technology (and soon, AI) dominates, National Book Store is an analog oasis that brings me back to my childhood.
It’s a recent discovery, really. I strolled into a NBS together with my boyfriend on one of our dates, and ended up looking around the store after I didn’t find what I wanted. We ended up sticking around for longer doing some “window shopping,” reminiscing about the objects of our school days. Commence the (quite literal) walk down memory lane.
Growing up, as illustrated by the types of crayons you use as you get older
I’ve noticed that a lot of classic brands have been rebranding, but I’m quite grateful that this era’s children are still using the same Crayola I grew up with. The more colors you had in your crayon set, the cooler you were. If a kid had Twistables, you know they were serious about their love for art.
Crayon’s more mature sibling, the color pencils. (Art students, don’t blast me for this!)
The same goes with color pencils. The more you have, the better. Personally though, I still preferred my crayons.
DONG-A and Paper White were my brands of choice
Correction fluids have a place in my heart. As a perfectionist with careless, often-messy handwriting, my hands would have traces of correction fluid by the end of the school day as I was always impatient waiting for them to dry. There was something slow but satisfying about the whole process: the clack-clack-clack sounds as you shook them before use, and how you could control the pressure of the liquid as it oozed out of the metallic tip. You could use correction fluid to create doodles against black paper, too. Not to mention its forefather, nail polish-shaped bottles with pink caps that contained translucent white fluid that you used to “paint” over your mistakes. The simple act is romantic, if you really think about it.
Top-of-the-line correction tapes that I never got to own
I hardly recall myself owning a Whisper MR, the iconic blue and white correction tape with a refillable cartridge. The Japanese brand Mono by Tombow are the best ones to this day. It would take a while before I converted to correction tape (the older versions broke easily and were virtually irreparable), but when I did, I never turned back.
Ballpens, the supporting character of my school experience
And the ballpens! There were the no-frills, affordable and reliable HBW and Panda pens, the iconic My Gel pens from DONG-A that came in a 12-pack multicolor set, as well as My Metal metallic pens that served artistic purposes. (0.3? 0.5? 0.7? Oh, the options.) There was the It Girl’s G-Tech, which was deserving of only the people with the best handwriting. The tip was fine and it was prone to breakage, and it was a hefty P79 pesos—a true investment for an elementary student. There were also the erasable Frixion pens, soon banned for use in exams to avoid cheating.
If ballpens were my paint, these notebooks were my canvas
Finally, the notebooks. Even before I was stuck on bullet journaling, I always had a notebook—or notebooks, to be specific. These were separate from school notebooks, containing my objects and ideas of whimsy. My notebook of choice was the bright blue A5 Corona notebook, which came with a plastic cover and had buttery smooth pages. A runner up is Green Apple, sleek looking, yes, but the quality was far different.
There are bits and bobs that I haven’t touched on: Watercolors! Poster paint! Scrapbooking material! Scented paper! I could go on forever. Least to say, these items were my definition of “toys” as a kid, and I carried them with me in little ways as I grew older. These were objects that brought in the fun when I was clocking in nine hours of lectures and quizzes. It also brought me fun outside of school—I ended up falling in love with not only stationary but with arts and crafts—and towards my future, because my love for all things creative led me to choose a degree in the liberal arts.
Now that I’m older, I’ve found that old habits have stayed, just in different, perhaps more grown-up forms. I still have my staple notebook, but instead of a blue Corona I use a Muji Ruled Open Flat Notebook (with vertical dots). Instead of a MyGel, I favor the Zebra Sarasa Clip Vintage 0.5 Ballpoint Pen in Camel Yellow. My choice of highlighter is one from Muji in Smoky Mustard. I may have outgrown my stationary-hoarding era, but instead I found favorites that I have grown to love among a hoard of options.
As a 23-year-old teenager, it’s comforting to know that while I have grown up, I’m still the same stationary-loving little girl deep inside.
My NBS haul after an hour of window shopping and reminiscing: Hello Kitty-themed intermediate pad paper!
Photos Gwyneth King and Popular Online
Words Gwyneth King
Art Macky Arquilla