If you’re lucky, your first machine will be free. Inherited from your parents or grandparents, or maybe given to you by a friend. Not everyone will be so blessed. For the latter, I do not recommend you go to the nearest bookstore (National?) and see what they have for sale. In all likelihood the machines there will be modern Chinese products that will be made of flimsy metal and a lot of plastic. Worse, they will cost around 11,000 Pesos apiece. That’s a lot of money for what I consider a rather poorly made machine.
A better option is for you to visit the typewriter shops at Quiapo. Where? Okay, let me lay out out for you. You know the LRT2? That’s the LRT line that moves from East to West and vice versa, the one that goes from Cainta, and Cubao to the Recto Station in Manila. That’s the one you want to take. You take that to the Recto station from Cubao. When you get down to the ground floor, you’ll quietly be shocked at the mass of humanity milling about just outside iron-gated premises of the station whose entrances are manned by nearly overwhelmed guards. Yes you have to step out there.
The LRT station is at the corner of two streets, the bigger being Recto Avenue and the smaller which is Evangelista Street. Right across Evangelista Street from the LRT station is the orange Isetann department store. Got your bearings? I hope you’ve dressed down to jeans, t-shirt, and sneakers because this is one part of town where you do not want to be attracting undue attention to yourself. Your wallet or purse should also be securely stashed deep in a sturdy bag. Get on Evangelista and turn right (South) in the direction of Quiapo. A few steps down, you will encounter your first typewriter refurbisher store. You will notice that there is a predominance of Olympia typewriters. Chances are they will be the Olympia SG3, a sturdy machine, and the most common in all of Manila.
Before you buy, though, allow me to take you on a little side trip.
This first purchase you want to make is something that you ought to reflect on a little. What did you have in mind as your first typewriter. There are, essentially, two kinds of typewriters: the portable and the standard. The former is the kind you can carry around. It was the grandfather of your laptop. Naturally, concepts about portable weight were a little different in that past compared to today. The latter, the standard, corresponds to the modern-day desktop. They are heavyweights. The Olympia SG3 is a standard. Note: Somewhere along the line they decided to make the semi-standards. These are supposed to be portable in that they’re not as heavy as standards although they’re somewhat heavier than the average portable.
What is the difference? Portables are aimed at being portable and usually have a carrying case while standard typewriters are aimed at heavy office use and tabular work as well. Personally, I find the standards to be a little more precise and softer in their keystrokes than portables. But here’s the thing: portables tend to be sexier than the standards. Sexy? Well, yeah. Their design lines are more visually appealing than the boxier standards. Sexy and portable is a powerful combination so portables are more popular acquisitions, even if there is no lack for lovers of the standards. Which do you imagine owning first?
Oh, the store owner is asking what you want. That’s ok. Tell him you’re just canvassing at what typewriters there are at the moment. Average prices as of July 2018 are at 5500 Pesos for a 13 inch carriage standard. The longer the carriage, the higher the price. Oh, and these are not new machines. Their mechanisms have been cleaned up and overhauled, the body repainted, brought back to working order. It is commonplace for these vendors to offer a year’s guarantee for their products as well.
There are more shops down the road, friend, but let’s leave that for another day.
Picture at top: Royal De Luxe portable
Grotty white typewriter: Olympia SG3 standard
Faded Glory: Royal Futura 800 portable (not yet refurbished)
Bottom: Olympia Traveller de Luxe portable