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Abubot culture and why it matters

by Gaby Agbulos

SONNY Angels, Smiskis, blind box figurines – all these are just some things that Gen Zs have been going crazy about as of late. In our opinion, though, this trend is nothing new.

If you’ve ever been to a Filipino household, you can tell that they are a people that are maximalists at heart. Religious figurines, picture frames, mirrors, and pasalubongs from relatives living overseas, are all things you often see in any typical house in the country.

Even outside of your household, perhaps you’ve noticed stuffed toys hanging off of tricycles and truck mirrors, or decorations lined all over the front of the jeepney you’re riding. 

In seemingly every aspect of a Filipino’s life, the existence of abubots is something that can always be found, and we at republicasia think that that is beautiful.

Why we buy

In English, the Filipino word abubot roughly translates to “knickknack,” which the Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines to be a small, trivial object typically found within one’s household.

Small? Yes. Trivial? Many argue that it is anything but. 

For 25-year-old Sam Everingham, for example, gathering these trinkets is the same as gathering bits or essences of the places he’s visited – the preservation of the physical form of a memory. 

Meanwhile, 24-year-old Alison Fronda sees abubots as a way to escape from stress. Whenever she’s stressed or feels like she wants to reward herself, she treats herself to adding different little knickknacks to her collection. 

“It just makes me happy, especially when I see the collection growing,” she said, referring to the items she’s accumulated over the years, consisting of books, plushies, jewelry, figurines, and the like. 

She estimates that she’s probably spent thousands of pesos on just her plushies and books alone, but for her, her collection is priceless given the number of years it’s taken to build it.

“Me buying things is my comfort and life, [and] I love buying things. It’s like a problem… but sometimes being the problem is fun!”

A collection of happy memories

During the first-ever Sonny Angel Swap Meet, I interviewed event organizer 22-year-old Kyra Gomez. 

At this event, many sellers had on display what many would consider abubots: jewelry, figurines, and many more cute items that others – those with no joy in their hearts – may see as trivial.

What these people don’t know, though, is that these little trinkets mean so much more than what may meet the eye. No matter the cost, these little trinkets fill a hole in people’s hearts that others just won’t understand.

One seller at this event, 30-year-old Lucy Somes, wisely stated: “Pa’no [nagiging] sayang sa pera kung masaya ka naman, just as much as [pag] kumakain ka ng masarap tapos natutuwa kang masarap yung kinakain mo. Kahit mahal siya, it fills you with joy, so okay lang.”

And she’s not alone in her thoughts. 

Fronda recounts how back in high school, she’d reward herself after finishing a difficult test by buying a plushie, or new earrings. Other times, her friends would give her gifts, which she would keep in her room alongside all her other knickknacks. 

All these items combined fill with her happiness because they remind her of certain times in her life when she experienced that very emotion. 

For people like Fronda, living in maximalism, surrounded by these trinkets, means being surrounded by love and happiness, too. 

What Fronda finds crazy is that she used to want to live a minimalist life, like the Marie Kondo ‘Does it spark joy?’ level of minimalism. Later down the line, though, she realized that that kind of aesthetic just wasn’t for her.

“I ended up embracing that naturally, I’m a maximalist, even if there were times where I’ve tried to purge my things,” she shared.

“Being surrounded by the kind of clutter I have in my room, it just gives me a lot of memories and happy moments in life.”

Everingham, who collects a number of items like books and knives, has also experienced difficulty in letting go of his knickknacks. 

He states: “Everyone has their own quirks and collections – it doesn’t even have to be physical – but I think it comes from a place of validation, or wanting to have validation from [your] own interests.” 

Start small

If there ever comes a time wherein you want to start collecting abubots of your own, Fronda gives one solid piece of advice: there’s no problem in starting small.

Take her collection for example. Yes, she may have several items now, but at some point, she started with just one plushie or just one book. A collection isn’t something you just grow abundantly in one night – not unless you’re rich rich.

Fronda realizes that collecting little trinkets and figurines isn’t a luxury everyone can afford. She advises people to start with small things if they don’t have the budget to collect larger, pricier items right away. 

“You can just have one [item] for a long period of time, even if it takes a year, then add another one, then it’ll grow until you have your own collection,” she advised.

“You don’t have to try to collect them all in a short amount of time. I think it’s more special that way, too.” 

To those who still may not understand abubot culture, the simple answer is this: it makes people happy, even if it’s not the most financially sound decision in the world to make. 

Fronda, for example, knows that these are not essential to life. But they bring her joy, and that, to her, is what’s important.

You can rain on people’s parades all you want, lecturing them about how they could spend their money on other things, but what is the point of doing so? Why not just let them be? 

If this is what brings others joy, then who are we to take it away?

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