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That Old Flatiron in Your Home Is Now a Sought-After Antique

This Philippine-made flatiron is a work of art. 
IMAGE Mario Alvaro Limos
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Not everything that is rusty is worthless. 

In the 1800s, Filipinos used to iron their clothes using a wooden roller and a flat board, as seen in this rare photo owned by John C. Tewell. 

The contraption is called prensa de paa or foot press. As you can imagine, this method of ironing clothes was problematic: You needed to work your muscles for some minutes before you achieved a decently pressed fabric. To make work easier, Filipinos used almirol or starch soaked in water with their clothes to make them crisp. 

It was sometime in the 1900s when the charcoal flatiron from Europe found its way to the Philippines. One of the companies that manufactured them was Philimco, short for Philippine Iron Manufacturing Corporation. This type of clothespress is the reason why we call these things “iron” and also use the phrase “to iron clothes.”

From prensa de paa, Filipinos began calling the new charcoal-fired iron prensa de corona or crown press because of the design on the lid which looks like a crown. 

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Photo by Mario Alvaro Limos.
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This particular charcoal flatiron was made by Philimco. You can see its logo and trademark on the inner side of its lid, which reads “PHILIMCO Trade Mark”. 

Photo by Mario Alvaro Limos.
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Fine metalwork is seen on its handle, which features two scaly fish and a letter P enclosed in a star, representing the company’s logo. Originally, the handle was coated in gold. 

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Attached to the top lid is a lock that prevents the lid from opening when you lift the iron. It has a hook that attaches to a metal nut when you turn the red handle.  

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Up close, you can see details on the “teeth” of the lid, which is kept open for ventilation to keep the charcoal inside the flatiron burning.

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On the back of the iron is a metal tag, which is similar to tags today's brands attach to their products. Although it is faded, this tag originally had the words “Philimco Made in the Philippines” etched on its surface. 

Photo by Mario Alvaro Limos.

Antique Flatiron Price

Depending on the quality and brand, these antique flatirons could fetch for up to P3,000 online. 

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Collectors prefer models featuring a chicken or a bird figure attached to the lock. That type of model could fetch much higher prices. One of the most expensive ones posted online costs P5,000. 

Today, only a few Philimco irons exist in homes, but they are commonly seen in private museums and in some houses in Vigan. They were widely used up until the mid-20th century until the electric iron was introduced in the country.

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Mario Alvaro Limos
Features Editor, Esquire Philippines
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