Sunday, February 22, 2009

Over the top

MY SONS’ school just concluded English Week. One of the activities was a book fair.

Now on his second year of purchasing the Geronimo Stilton series, my 10-year-old son casually threw in, along with a suggestion for new titles, a request for permission to purchase a Beyblade.

I was stumped: what was a rebooted, heavily accessorized “kasing,” or spinning top, doing in a book fair? The “Beiburedo” hogged the toy market in mid-2000 when Hasbro, a giant toy company second only to Mattel, was granted a license by a Japanese firm, Takara, to market the toy internationally. The craze for the toy coincided with the release of a TV series pegged on Beyblade showdowns and much later, publication of a comic book series.

Marketing directed at kids (and obviously, their parents, whose purchasing power is the seam of gold connecting all childish desires) intrigues me. Though I dutifully staked out toy stores for the originals and then roamed the deepest recesses of Carbon market and Manalili for their less ridiculously priced imitations, I drew the line at buying accessories like the Beystadium, which looks like our dented wash basin but costs 15 times as much.

According to my son, Beyblade metal fights are held in this Beystadium, with the victor declared after he succeeding in knocking out the loser’s Beyblade from this arena. Though fascinated by Japanese pop culture and American marketing—the latest zeitgeist of neo imperialism—I believe the Filipino “kasing” can more than match this Japanese/American import.

Then a non-government organization gave me a “kasing,” along with “takyan” and other traditional toys, one Christmas. When I brandished this find to my son, he just turned over several times the plain wooden top, as puzzled as I was when I fingered tentatively my first Beyblade and its original four-part blade system, later upgraded to five.

Uncertainly, he untwirled and then retwirled the coil of twine wrapped around the top’s protruding nail. Under several layers of grime and day-old scabs, my cousins and I sweated during long summer days, trying to perfect how to wrap the “tail,” as well as how to “sight,” angle, throw and release the “kasing,” determined to make our top carved from indestructible “kamagong” (ironwood) into a giant killer, not a wimp.

For Juan and his friends, classic launching and spin-winning rests on a power Turbo Winder and clutch lock system, which taps a bewildering arcana of mechanics and engineering I would not have guessed in six-year-olds.

When he asked permission last Monday to buy a Beyblade version (“only P10, Mom”) from the book fair, I looked for my classic “kasing” and couldn’t resurrect it. My guess is the top rests in some toy purgatory, where my kamagong yoyo and prize-winning jackstones should also be.

So hubby and I fixed an afternoon date with my sons at the school book fair. Only one out of four exhibitors sold toys. The bulk of the students were sitting on the floor, leafing through books. Among them was my son, brushing up on the latest misadventure of G. Stilton, publisher of The Rodent’s Gazette, best-selling paper in New Mouse City.

An hour later, we settled amicably. Aside from Geronimo’s illustrated tales, my sons promised to read three classic fantasies, with illustrations limited only to the cover and back. On our way out, I sidestepped the Beyblade my ten-year-old negotiator threw under my feet. 09173226131

* Published in Sun.Star Cebu’s Feb. 22, 2009 issue

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