Remembering the Sixties

by Antonio V. Figueroa

The 1960s, at a time when the dollar-peso exchange rose from 1:2 to 2:4, was a decade to remember. This was the period when your P0.10 was enough to purchase a bottle of softdrink, pay the auto calesa fare, or buy three boxes of Rizal-brand matches.


Cigarettes were bought by packs and rice sold by ganta, the equivalent of more than two kilos. Cost of rice per ganta was P0.80 while corn was P0.60 per ganta.


Marlboro 20s cigarettes in fliptops cost P0.60 a pack, while the longer ones in soft packs could be bought for P0.80 a pack. Other equally popular smoker’s choices were Chesterfield, Camel, Stuyvesant, Parrot, Bataan, Balintawak, and Philip Morris.


The then famous repacked Marca Princesa vetsin (monosodium glutamate or MSG) was five packets for P0.10. Early morning coffee was the repacked Good Morning found in nearly every home; it cost P0.10 for five packets.


The most popular rubber shoe at that time was the Elpo, a brand that competed with another equally popular shoe name, Marcelo. Only few know what the name stands for; actually, it’s short for El Porvenir Rubber Products, Inc., the shoe manufacturer. Among the leather shoes, everybody was dreaming of owning the ever-durable Ang Tibay.
And who would forget the famous products of Procter & Gamble, which included the durable Colgate toothpaste? And when you have rheumatic pain, Sloan’s Liniment was top seller.


At home, the most popular US-made television and radio brand was Zenith. And so was the grandfather’s pendulum clock, a symbol of affluence in residences. The brand’s TV competitor was the Filipino-produced Radiowealth and the most popular transistor radio was Avegon.


The most popular wristwatch was Tugaris, which was authentically Swiss made.


When someone talked of milk, it most likely refered to Darigold, in the same way that lard was known by its brand, Purico. The top-selling margarine was Star, and for soft drink, aside from Coca-Cola and Tru-Orange, there was Royal Lem-o-Lime.


For beerhouse habitués, San Miguel Beer, before the era of Beer na Beer, had its very stiff competitor in Halili Beer (which San Miguel Corporation later bought). Hard drinkers were familiar with Panay Rhum, Mallorca, and Sio Hoc Tong, a tonic wine.


The best-selling canned sardines and cuttlefish then was the imported Morjon in tomato sauce or Spanish style. The Spam, world’s No. 1 corned beef, was the top-selling canned beef. The famous cocoa was the Ricoa. Chocolate was Serg’s. All were American products.


Even government offices carried different names. For instance, today’s National Food Administration (NFA) was Rice and Corn Administration (RICOA), successor of the pre-war National Rice and Corn Authority (NARIC). There was also National Marketing Corporation (NAMARCO), which dissolved the Price Stabilization Corporation (PSC).
But it was in the tin pan alley, i.e., the music scene, that a kind of revolution erupted.


In Visayan charts, names like Pilita Corrales (Rosas Pandan), Elizabeth Ramsay (Waray, Waray), Jimmy Salazar (Inday, Pinangga Ko Ikaw), Al Comendador (Pangandoy). Before Yoyoy Villame and Max Surban took over the airlanes by storm, Salazar was unassailably the king of Visayan novelty songs, his naughty lyrics were the favorite of early risers.


Meanwhile, the jukebox churned out popular Tagalog hits sang by Eddie Peregrina (My Pledge of Love), Helen Gamboa (Together Again), Vilma Santos (Sweet Sixteen), Manny de Leon (Dear Someone), Eddie Peregrina (Mardy), Edgar Mortiz (My Pledge of Love), Tirso Cruz III (Maria Leonora Teresa), and Nora Aunor (Help Yourself), to name a few.


Taking the Philippine music world were foreign singers whose songs remain the center for nostalgia among senior citizens. Who would have forgotten the musical icons like the Papas and the Mamas, Celia Black, Lulu, Connie Francis, Beatles, Cliff Richard, Pointer Sisters, The Hollies, Righteous Brothers, The Everly Brothers, Isaac Hayes, Tony Bennett, Frank Sinatra, Perry Como, Sue Thompson, Brazil 66, Commodores, and Elvis Presley?


Ask any car enthusiast, chances are he will tell you the best cars, not the muscle type, were also from that era: Road Runner, Camaro, and Mustang. Joining the list of models are the Ford Falcon, Chevrolet Corvair, Plymouth Valiant, Lincoln-Mercury, Comet, and Dart.
And then there was Buick Special, Oldsmobile F-85, Pontiac Tempest, Rambler American, Cadillac Eldorado Brougham, Chevy Corvair, Chrysler, Pontiac Tempest, Oldsmobile Toronado, Lincoln-Mercury Cougar, and Barracuda.


Against this ostentatious backdrop, the streets of Davao were still dominated, in terms of public transport, by the AC (auto calesa), with the iconic iron horse on its hood. There used to be a handful of horse-drawn rigs, but they eventually gave way to motorized units.


Of course, the Sixties was the time when the world was going agog with straight cut, flat top, twist, foxtrot, and balloon, terms that were either associated with the hair, pants, or dance. Many of the styles popularized during that era were copycats from Hollywood fashions, as if we were not yet drowned in being heavily westernized.