Since she was hired to work as a stamp designer at the Manila Central Post Office (MCPO) over a year ago, Aggie Rarangol would often delight herself in taking photographs of the nearly 100-year-old historical landmark.
'Coming to work almost every day, she was always “in awe of how magnificent this structure was,” the Philippine Postal Corporation employee wrote on her Facebook page a day after fire razed the heritage building. “The vacant rooms which looked like dungeons to me, the huge parcel areas, the old stairs and doors... I am lucky and blessed to work in this great building. And the best part of being in it is I get to design stamps... para sa Pilipinas,” her note continued.
Rarangol used to work as an interior designer but the firm where she used to work closed down during the pandemic. In late 2021, a friend who works at Philpost told her the government-owned agency was looking for a stamp designer and encouraged Rarangol to apply. Since she also has experience in graphic design and creating logos, Rarangol gave it a shot.
“I didn’t get a call from [Philpost] right away,” she recalls. “But when I did, it was already for a panel interview. Then after a month, I got a call that I was hired.” She started to report onsite at MCPO in February 2022.
“Not in a million years did I imagine [that I could become one of the country’s stamp designers]. It’s not even in my bucket list,” she tells ANCX, recalling her excitement when she found out she was hired.
To be given the opportunity to have an iconic heritage structure as her workplace—declared an important cultural property by the National Museum in 2018—was a joy for her. “It was actually a beautiful structure kahit lumang-luma na siya. It always felt like revisiting our country’s history.”
During her free time, Rarangol would roam the building and marvel at the neoclassical architecture designed by renowned architects Tomas Mapua, Juan Marcos Arellano, and Ralph Doane, admiring its stately pillars and façade. “Even inside, naaalagaan naman siya, in fairness,” the stamp designer offers.
Rarangol was at the MCPO five days a week, or six when there were postal heritage tours scheduled on a Saturday. The Philately department occupied the third floor mezzanine area where most of the office operations were held.
“It was a very old office,” she says. “The tables, which were huge and heavy, looked like they were from the 50s. The chairs were a mix of old and new. There were rows of old steel cabinets. The only modern equipment in there were the printers.”
There are four in-house artists that designs stamps at Philpost. Aside from the regular stamps, they also design commemorative ones for occasions like Christmas, Valentine’s Day, National Teacher’s Month and National Stamp Collecting Month. They design the stamps both by hand and digitally.
Since she joined the Philpost’s philately team, Rarangol has launched seven stamps. She also just finished designing definitive stamps that will be a part of the regular issue of the country's stamps. “Thankful na lang ako na hindi pa siya na-print ahead, otherwise kasama siya sa nasunog,” she says.
Like the rest of the employees at Philpost and many Filipinos, she was heartbroken to hear the shocking news about the fire Monday. Two months ago, she thought of strolling along the newly installed walkway at the Sta. Cruz Bridge to take a snapshot of the Post Office Building's reflection on the river. But the rain stopped her.
She was hoping to do it anytime this month so she had the shock of her life when she found out the five-story edifice had suffered a massive fire. The inferno started before midnight Sunday at the building’s basement which provides postal services and operates a museum. It took more than seven hours before the fire was reported under control.
“Some people are saying that they haven’t been to the MCPO. Nanghinayang lang ako na ngayon lang naalala or na-appreciate ng tao ang MCPO kung kailan nasunog na,” says Rarangol.
Photos courtesy of Aggie Rarangol