To my cover-exchanging friends, please try as much as possible to
as these give a more personal touch to the cover
the Philippine postal service damages the cover with scribbling that highly devalues the aesthetic value of the cover, which is what I am after
or at least same themes when sending covers, but it is okay if this is not possible or if this would be expensive, and
not too small, but maybe around 4"x6" or something like that; big envelopes are not very attractive unless they have many stamps.
Thank you!


To Africa and Back

Here are two covers that I sent to Africa and were returned to me unclaimed. I'm not surprised because I found these addresses on old covers from my collection (they were from the 70s and 80s) and I had a great big hunch that they really would be returned to me. I just wanted to see how long it would take and, of course, I wanted to see all the frankings that they would apply. I should have known better than to put such large stamps and M/S's that there was not much space for the frankings and stickers and now the covers are a bit messy... Oh well... These are nice pieces nonetheless. :-)

  1. Sent: 23.07.10 Manila CPO
  2. Dispatched: 27.07.10 Manila Processing Center
  3. Transit: 12.08.10 Johannesburg Mail Center (according to online tracking service)
  4. Arrived: 13.09.10 Abidjan Processing Center
  5. Distributed: 14.09.10 Abidjan 03
  6. First Notice: 14.09.10 Abidjan 03
  7. Second Notice: 22.09.10 Abidjan 03
  8. Returned: 19.10.10 Abidjan Processing Center
  9. Arrived: 04.11.10 Manila Processing Center
  10. Distributed: 09.11.10 Quezon City Central P.O.
  11. Distributed: 09.11.10 Araneta Center P.O.
  12. Received: 15.11.10 by me
TRAVEL TIME: 3 months, 23 days (115 days)

  1. Sent: 23.07.10 Manila Central PO
  2. Dispatched: 27.07.10 Manila Processing Center
  3. Arrived: 19.08.10 Ouaga CNT
  4. Second Notice: 14.09.10 Ouagadougou
  5. Arrived: 21.10.10 Manila Processing Center
  6. Distributed: 26.10.10 Quezon City PO
  7. Distributed: 28.10.10 Araneta Center PO
  8. Received: 08.11.10 by me
TRAVEL TIME: 3 months, 16 days (108 days)


SASE's from my Indochina Trip

These are the covers that I managed to send myself when I visited the post office during my trip. I usually send myself covers when I travel (even internally) so that I can gauge the time it takes for transit; it's really amazing when sometimes the letter is already in your mailbox when you get back from a (no-so-long) trip! I also send myself covers for the stamps and the frankings. I usually enjoy receiving these more than I do buying those other souvenirs when I go abroad.

Việt Nam





Wow! It has been months since my last post! I have been so caught up with using facebook and uploading my covers there that I almost completely forgot about my blog! Not good....

So for this "renaissance" post, I exhibit a great cover received from Jose Riveroll of Belize the other day as part of a CCCC ( circuit.
The cover features some nice, large pictorial stamps with clear postmarks. Incredible! This is my first from Belize.

On top of a great-looking cover, I have found the themes of the stamps to my liking. The first two on the left feature one of my favorite themes: archeology! :-)
The stamp on the far left was issued as a definitive in 2009, but has the same design and denomination as the 2005 12v definitive set to which the stamp next to it belongs.

The 25c stamps shows the Attun Ha Archeological Reserve and showcases the very famous Jade Head. More information on the Jade Head from is quoted verbatim below (as per the request of the administrators of, I include only the first paragraph. You may read more about the head by clicking on the link):

Kinich Ahau - the Maya Sun God Jade Head

At right - Kinich Ahau - The Maya Sun God. Ever since its discovery, the jade head has been the subject of much controversy among Belizeans. For years most of us have believed that, shortly after its discovery, this unique Maya masterpiece was spirited out of the country and never returned to its rightful home.

Read more about it by clicking on this link.
The 15c stamp depicts the Lubaantun, a pre-Columbian ruined city of the Maya civilization in Belize's Toledo District. One of the most distinguishing features of Lubaantun is the large collection of miniature ceramic objects found on site; these detailed constructs are thought to have been charmstone s or ritual accompanying acoutrements. Of particular note are the site's three courts for playing the Mesoamerican ballgame, one of which had stone markers with hieroglyphic texts and depictions of the ballgame. (Wikipedia) Below is an image of one such marker:

The other two stamps on the right were apparently issued for Christmas 2003. They are part of a 4v set which features the Scarlet Macaw.

From Wikipedia:

The Scarlet Macaw (Ara macao) is a large, colorful macaw. It is native to humid evergreen forests in the American tropics. It has suffered from local extinction through habitat destruction and capture for the parrot trade, but locally it remains fairly common. The Scarlet Macaw can live up to 75 years in captivity, although, a more typical lifespan is 40 to 50 years. They eat mostly fruits and seeds, including large, hard seeds. They like nuts and fruits. They also feed on nectar and buds. A typical sighting is of a single bird or a pair flying above the forest canopy, though in some areas flocks can be seen.


Cover Collector's Nightmare

I have complained and ranted many times in the past about the crazy practices of the Philippine Postal Service, and here I present you with an exhibit of proof of how they can destroy covers.

Already prone to damage because of its large size, this cover was "taped" and postmarked for "security purposes" to prove that the letter arrived at the mail processing center in bad order. Ironically, they made the matter worse by putting tape and applying strange markings.....

Thankfully, the cover was not particularly philatelic, or I'd be wailing the loss due to strange Philippine postal practices....


Here is a personal FDC from China sent from Shanghai on 03.07.2010.
The cover has the 2v set issued to showcase the ruins of the Loulan Ancient City (楼兰古城遗 址).

Loulan or Kroran is an ancient oasis town on the north-eastern edge of the Lop Desert. Loulan, known to Russian archaeologists as Krorayina, was an ancient kingdom along the Silk Road. In 108 BCE, the Han Dynasty defeated the armies of the Loulan kingdom and made it into a puppet/allied state. The kingdom became integrated into the Han Dynasty and was given the Chinese name of Shanshan, though the town at the northwestern corner of the brackish desert lake Lop Nur retained the name of Loulan. The ruins of the town of Loulan are on what were the western banks of Lop Nur, now dessicated, in the Bayin'gholin Mongol Autonomous Prefecture, Xinjiang. The site is now completely submerged in the desert

The stamp on the left shows the 佛塔 or Pagoda, and the stamp to the right shows the 间房 or the three walled sections.


Principat d'Andorra

Here's another cover from Andorra which I like very much because of the concept behind the stamp design.... It is not so evident in the scan, but the stamp has a reflective surface (although the reflection is not at all clear) in the shape of a mirror. This stamp was issued for the Europa 2010 issues, and the common theme this year is Children's Books, so I am guessing that this stamp is a reference to the story of Snow White. The inscription around the "mirror" is Catalan for, "Mirror, magic mirror, tell me who is..." which I guess is the first half the famous line in English: "Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who's the fairest of them all?"


Wallis et Futuna

Here us a cover from another exotic part of the world: Wallis and Futuna! W&F is an Overseas French Collectivity of three larger, volcanic islands and many smaller islets around those. Here is a map to show exactly where (and exactly how remote) this place is.

I will not dwell too much on the stamps as they are not really my topic, but I will say that we also have many varieties of Bougainvillea here in the Philippines, so it is interesting to see that they also have that in Wallis and Futuna!


ශ්‍රී ලංකා

Sri Lankan script, called Sinhala, is an offsrping of Indian Brahmi script and, to an untrained eye like mine, it can easily pass for some type of decorative border designs.

At any rate, here are two covers I have received from this nation. I received another one before through the CCCC, but I decided to just save the stamps since the envelope used was of extremely poor quality, resulting in the deterioration of the envelope on its way to me in Macau (where I was staying at the time).

At any rate, this first one with the meter postage is the first I received way back in 2007!
While I generally do not like meter postage, I sort of like the design on the Sri Lankan one, and the imprint is not bad, either, especially considering that most meter postage in third world countries like India and the Philippines are often unintelligible!

This second cover is not in very good condition as it is actually a large bubble wrap envelope, but I like the design on the side and the overall look of the cover nonetheless. It's just such a pity that the envelope was damaged on its way to me, probably because it was a bubble wrap envelope prone to piercing.....

As requested, my friend Clarence George used the 4v Olympics set and the 60 years of independence stamp (which I like very much since Independence issues are among my favorite themes). Thank you very much for that, Clarence!



Here's what could have been a nice cover, but there are so many things wrong with it:

1. The envelope size is huge!
2. The makeshift "Carta Priotaria" label is of low quality
3. The postal workers in the Philippines decided to write their storage number "02700" in big, bold permanent marker
4. The address is not handwritten

Well, what can you expect from a non-collector, right? This was sent by an eBay member.

Just thought I might share it anyway.

About the stamps, besides the two Olympics stamps on the right (which were carelessly affixed crookedly and with no seeming care for aesthetic spacing), there are some stamps that show Uruguayan festivals.

Three of the stamps feature Fermina Gularte (known better as Martha), who was a well-known Black Uruguayan dancer and showgirl in the Montevideo Carnivals.

The vignette features the "Desfile de Llamadas," (lit. Sp. "Parade of the Calls"), which is a festival held every year in February. Part of the festivities is a competition, for which contending groups rehearse during much of the year to participate in one of the most popular fiestas in Uruguay.

The name "Llamadas" has its origins in the nineteenth century when the slaves of black used drums to communicate. After abolition of slavery in Uruguay, this practice continued as a tradition between different families. who would come out and share time together. It is one of the purest manifestations of Afro-Uruguayan culture.



Just a quick post today of an old cover from Mozambique. Honestly, I initially thought the athlete on the left stamp was a male. The athlete is Maria de Lurdes Mutola, an athlete from Mozambique who has specialized in the 800 m. She was born in Maputo. She is the fourth Track & Field athlete to compete at six Olympic Games.

The S/S, as it reads on the stamp, celebrates the fiftieth anniversary of EUROPA stamps, one of my themes!

Thank to Carlo Pinto for this!


Covers from a good Belgian friend

Here is a selection of covers from a far-from-me-yet-not-so-exotic country today: Belgium!
I have been delaying this post for quite some time now since I haven't had the time to sit down and scan the covers and research on them, but here they are.

These first three FDCs are courtesy of good friend, Thomas Vandaele. He has been very kind and consistent in sending me Belgian FDCs and special cancellations, and I hope that he isn't disappointed that it has taken me such a long time to post his wonderful covers!

This first cover has two stamps from the 5v set issued 08.06.09 to celebrate milestones in the history of aviation and space navigation. The two in this set show the round-the-world trip of the Zeppelin in 1929 and the first Channel crossing by Blériot in 1909.

Here is a photograph of the actual craft that Blériot used to cross the Channel. It's no wonder that he was awarded GBP1000 for the achievement. I certainly wouldn't ride that thing over any surface, water or land!

Here is the complete set of stamps:

The designs of the other stamps:

2009 : Frank De Winne visits the ISS and is the second Belgian in space)
1969: first steps on the Moon
1969: 1st Concorde flight

The next cover has the 2v set that shows two personalities of the Belgian feminist movement Martha Boël (more about her here) and Lily Boeykens (more about her here).

This third cover I really like because the stamp on it has a plane design in the background (it's a shallow reason, but shallow reasons make life more interesting, don't they?)

This issue showcases Largo Winch, a Belgian comic book series by Philippe Francq and Jean Van Hamme, published by Dupuis. The principal character is Largo Winch whose birth name is Largo Winczlav.

In the first two volumes of the series, L'héritier and Le Groupe W, Largo, a young and handsome orphan, is propelled to the head of a business empire, Group W, after his adoptive father Nerio is murdered, and goes through a lot of troubles to preserve his inheritance and avenge Nerio. The following albums are more or less based on the same basic plot: someone is trying to harm Largo's company or to take control of it from him, and he has to fight that someone to ensure the survival of his holdings.

Below are three more covers that I've had for quite some time. I particularly like the second-to-last one for some reason. Perhaps it's the handwriting and the lively design of the S/S as well as the layout of the cover. Thanks to Bertrand D'Hooge for that one!

Isle of Man

Here's a great cover with nice, large stamps from the Isle of Man!

This cover has a bit of a war theme to it as the stamps were issued to commemorate wars, battles, and those lost in the line of duty.

The first, leftmost stamp shows a depiction of the rescue of the Lusitania by the wanderer, a fishing boat. The RMS Lusitania was an ocean liner owned by the Cunard Line and built by John Brown and Company on 7 May 1915 and sank in eighteen minutes, eight miles off the of Clydebank, Scotland. She was torpedoed by German U-boat U-20Old Head of Kinsale, Ireland, killing 1,198 of the 1,959 people aboard. The sinking turned public opinion in many countries against Germany, and was instrumental in bringing the United States into World War I. The sinking of the Lusitania was a coup for anti-German sentiment and caused great controversy.

More information on the Lusitania and its terrible fate here and here.

The next two stamps to the right are from a 4v set issued in 1981 to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Royal British Legion.

The upper stamp pays homage to Major Robert Henry Cain VC (2 January 1909 – 2 May 1974), a Manx recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces.

Cain grew up on the Isle of Man and joined the Territorial Army in 1928. After working overseas he was given an emergency commission into the Army in 1940. He saw action during the Invasion of Sicily in 1943 and again during the Battle of Arnhem the following year. During the battle Major Cain's company was closely engaged with enemy tanks, self-propelled guns and infantry. Cain continually exposed himself to danger while leading his men and personally dispatched as much enemy armour as possible. Despite sustaining several injuries he refused medical attention and for his gallantry he was awarded the Victoria Cross.

The lower stamp shows the Festival of Remembrance. This annual Festival, held at the Royal Albert Hall, commemorates and honours all those who have lost their lives in conflicts, and is both a moving and enjoyable evening. There is a matinee (2pm) and an evening performance - both are exactly the same except that the Royal Family attend only the evening performance.

The stamp on the far right shows one of six stamps issued to to commemorate the 90th anniversary of the end of World War 1 and the personal contributions of a selection of local soldiers.

This particular stamps features Pte Joseph Killey was born in Ramsey, the son of a carpenter. In 1915 he enlisted in the Lancashire Fusiliers. He was posted to the 2nd Battalion and was soon serving with them in Belgium. He was killed in action on July 8, 1915 during the Battle of Boesinghe where British troops had taken over a stretch of front line from the French.

See the entire set here.



Here are two covers from the French overseas collectivity of Mayotte.

An interesting thing to note about "Mayotte" is that it is the corrupted French version of "Jazirat al-Mawt", which means "Island of the Dead/Death" in Arabic.

The two covers below have basically the same stamps, except for the first one, which has an extra stamp (did the sender pay extra postage for the first one or did he pay insufficient postage for the second one?)

At any rate, the stamps show basket weaving (la vannerie) as well as embroidery (la broderie), which I guess are either an industrial activity or a pastime (or both) of the locals. There is also a stamp showing the jasmine flower. I wasn't able to find out if they are native to Mayotte or if they were introduced by the French during the colonial period, or if they even actually grow in Mayotte at all!

This second cover has a nice special cancellation with the map of Mayotte. Mayotte is made up of two islands, Grande-Terre (or Mahoré), and a smaller island, Petite-Terre (or Pamanzi).


The other day I posted a cover from St. Kitts. Here's a cover from the other state in that federation: Nevis: This one, I think, has more philatelic value, and more value in my view if the address was handwritten....


Bailliage de Jersey

Here's a treat from Jersey. It's not every day you get mail from that part of the world, is it?

Happy Collecting!


A letter from HELL

I'm guessing you are a bit taken aback by my post title, which is quite understandable.
I was surprised, too, when I hear of a town called Hell in the Cayman Islands!

Here's an interesting write-up from Wikipedia:

Hell, Grand Cayman is a group of short, black, limestone formations in the northwest Grand Cayman town of West Bay. It is roughly the size of half a soccer field. People are not allowed in amongst the limestone formations but two viewing platforms exist for tourists. There are numerous versions of how Hell received its name, but they are generally variations on "a local official exclaimed, 'This is what Hell must look like.'"

It is also claimed that the name "Hell" is derived from the fact that if a pebble is thrown out into the formation, it echoes amongst the limestone peaks and valleys and sounds as if the pebble is falling all the way down to "Hell."

Regardless of how it first came to be called Hell, the name stuck and the area has become a tourist attraction, featuring a fire-engine red hell-themed post office from which you can send "postcards from hell", and a gift shop with 'Satan' passing out souvenirs while greeting people with phrases like 'How the hell are you?' and 'Where the hell are you from?'.

Ironically, some of the stores in the area feature prominent quotations from the Bible on their sides. This is due to the pious nature of Caymanian society.

Hell can be quite busy as it is a stop for cruise ship tours.

I got this registered cover by writing to the postmaster at the Hell post office, who was kind enough to accommodate my request for a registered letter from Hell. I wonder if he receives many other requests from collectors for a postmark from his station like the postmaster at the McMurdo Station in Antarctica does.... I have read on the internet that many people on cruises make sure to visit the Hell Post Office to send their friends and relatives correspondences from the place.

The stamps used show scenery of the Caymans, I suppose. It seems that the Caymans would be a very nice and relaxing place to visit.

Thankfully, the postmaster was thoughtful enough to include a chop from his own office that reads "Hell," because the chops used on the stamps do not read "Hell." I guess it is a regulation in the Cayman Postal Service system to cancel registered letters with the generic red cancellation instead of the post office-specific cancellation.

Now, if only the postmaster had handwritten the addresses instead of cutting and pasting the ones from my letter, this cover would truly be a complete gem in my collection!


This is another cover from an exotic location: Aruba!

Aruba is an island in the Lesser Antilles in the southern Caribbean Sea, located 27 kilometres north of the coast of Venezuela. Aruba, which has no administrative subdivisions, is one of the three countries that form the Kingdom of the Netherlands, together with the Netherlands and the Netherlands Antilles. Aruban citizens hold Dutch passports. Unlike much of the Caribbean region, Aruba has a dry climate and an arid, cactus-strewn landscape.

The four definitives with a depiction of a church show the Kapelo Alto Vista, which has a significant place in Aruban history as it was the first church established in the whole of the Caribbean. Also called the Pilgrim's church, it was constructed by Spanish missionaries in 1750 and to this day the Chapel of Alto Vista continues to conduct services between its pale yellow walls.

This chapel is known for being very Spartan and simple. Unlike many other places of Christian worship in the world, this edifice is not elaborately designed nor ornately decorated. In fact, its pews are outside the building! This gives us an idea of how life in the region was for the Europeans who ventured into these unknown tropics in a time when passages across the sea from the Old World took months! Things were very simple (and makeshift, even) because times were hard. I believe this church stands testimony to that. I just wonder why it has not yet been declared a world heritage site (?).

The other stamp to the far left celebrates the 70th birth anniversary of Queen Beatrix, who was born on 31 Jan 1938, the first child of Queen Juliana of the Netherlands and Prince Bernhard of Lippe-Biesterfeld. I take it that the picture shows a family picture taken shortly after her birth.



Here is a cover from the Republic of Albania, one of the lesser known countries in Southeastern Europe, directly north of Greece and south of Montenegro and Kosovo.

I like this cover because its sender thoughtfully included two of my favorite themes: archaeology (which is actually a very rare theme to find on stamps) and the Olympics.

The two archeology stamps are part of a 3v set issued in 2008.

The 50 leke stamps shows the ruins at Oricum, an Ancient Greek city in the northern part of Epirus (modern south Albania). The city, said to have been founded by Euboeans , was originally on an island, but already in ancient times it became connected to the mainland; it covered an area of 5 hectares, but archeological remains are scarce. The 10 leke stamps shows the ruins of Butrint, an ancient Greek city and an archeological site in Sarandë District, Albania, close to the Greek border. It was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1992. An interesting thing to note is that, had the communists not fallen in 1992, this site would probably have been demolished and replaced by a submarine base or an airport since the communists did not care much for its historical value. I think we should be thankful that the communists were dispelled before this connection with the past was destroyed forever! The third stamp in the series shows Antigonia, the chief inland city of ancient Chaonia. The Olympics stamps is part of a set of 4 issued in 2008, of course, to commemorate the Beijing Olympics. Thanks to S. Nushi for this cover!