Aniks-aniks, abubots, and the joy of collecting

Anik-aniks rekindles Filipinos’ sentimentality by filling up both the emotional and physical spaces of their lives.

The terms “anik-anik” or “abubot” (knick-knack) found their way to social media with the inescapable trend of collecting Sonny Angels, figurines, keychains, and the like.But for most of their lives, the common Filipino has grown up surrounded by these novelties—albeit in homier forms such as a loaded corner of family portraits, shelves crowded with trinkets, or a drawer flooded with random tickets and souvenirs dating back to who knows when. As one’s eyes rove through these articles, akin to being in someone’s spontaneous art exhibit, they uncover sentimental anecdotes behind the different displays.

Visually, the assortment appears rather unappealing and practically useless, but these anik-aniks are not merely “clutter.” The impulse to fill an entire space with icons, trinkets, and ornaments is the very impetus of maximalism. Such collections ignite a sense of sentimentality, identity, and security that subdues any thought of throwing them away. Yet it is not mere collecting that Filipinos exemplify, but rather a practice of joy and the capacity to preserve sentiments, going beyond organized aesthetic or mere utility.

Perched upon a Filipino household’s shelves are novelties carrying memories made through time.

A gradual yet extravagant birth

Simply, maximalism is understood to be the “opposite of minimalism.” But Department of Literature Professional Lecturer Germilina Santos, who is also a curator and cultural worker, expounds the definition: “It’s about layering—patterns, shapes, colors, design, and other highly intensified matter [in art].” This calls back to its Western context, specifically during the Spanish colonial period in the Philippines, on the origins of maximalism. This includes the concept of space which meant fostering closeness, flashing evidence of wealth and excess, or detonating an explosion of forms and colors. It bore fruit to a “fear of empty spaces”, which continuously prompted Filipinos to turn rooms into galleries of sentimentality, social status, and self-expression.

Asian cultures are known to have a maximalist lifestyle as well; the daily practice of accumulating items “just in case” gives them the stereotype of being hoarders. Although this resonates with Filipinos, their approach to maximalism leans toward the notion of “the more, the merrier”, as Santos describes.
“I believe it is not hoarding, it is how we measure our achievements—financially, emotionally, physically. [There is this] measurement of richness.” 

“Filipino maximalism is ultimately rooted in the idea of measuring happiness and abundance,” Santos points out. She adds that even Filipino houses and jeepneys are filled with religious relics and icons. For many young Filipinos, these objects serve as orphans of memories, melding to represent one’s identity. “Collecting is like a hobby. It brings more personality to ourselves and the place [we] put them in,” multimedia arts student Lorenzo Barrantes posits. True enough, DLSU Cultura President Caitlyn Cue, shares that she struggles to discard the mementos she has put up in her room, “What if I suddenly need it or want to commemorate it? Some of them really just tell you more about me and my personality or the
things I like.” 

Santos explains that Filipinos have always found value in most of their possessions, “We are sentimental people, everything has a value […] we are clingy to what we have.” Maximalism is therefore etched within the Filipino identity. It is within their nature to commemorate achievements or long for nostalgia in the most physical sense.

To revel in medley

Although maximalism has allowed individuals to express themselves through various objects they collect, it however raises a concern about excessive consumerism, especially at a time when online trends are rapidly adopted by people. “[It’s] like a red herring: if something gets spread and people talk about it in a good light [and] they like it, they will most likely get on it,” Barrantes explains, relating it to the quick uptick of Sonny Angels. 

With this cumulative mindset and escalating demand, Cue expresses that hoarding has become a growing concern, “Sometimes people take it to a different level […] buying bundles and then [reselling] them at higher prices.” Hence, it inevitably raises a question of how sustainable these items are and whether people will treat them with the same value and adoration when these trends die down.

This is where minimalism comes into play. Its philosophy lies in simplicity and only owning things that matter most to an individual. There was even a period in 2015 when people online seemed compelled to declutter their things and only choose “what sparks joy” to adhere to minimalist philosophies as preached by a renowned Japanese “tidying coach” and author. 

In retrospect, the gospel of minimalism cannot convert the Filipino soul’s yearning to possess an assortment of novelty items. Because what the very custom of collecting reveals is the anxiety of losing. While there is a lot to own, there is also a lot to lose, and the best way to remind oneself of one’s possessions is to keep them displayed and shown.

“We [Filipinos] want to fill up every square inch of space. We are like muralists, we look and perceive bigger than life things.” Santos remarks. Filipino maximalism does not require someone to choose “what sparks joy.” Any anik-anik or abubot—whether it’s sentimental or superficial—ignites the true passion of a Filipino.

Keeping the practice alive

The pitfall of much like any trend is its short lifespan. Social media has largely played a defining role in the further popularization of anik-aniks and abubots as mementos that have to be visible to the public and one’s social group. In this sense, collecting is a performed act that calls for the need to be perceived by an audience, creating a chain reaction which influences many. While there is a community of collectors who collect the same trinkets,  the concern lies in the eventual decline of the craze. 

But Santos believes it is a concern which will likely not affect Filipinos because collecting and thus, maximalism runs in our blood—it is essentially executed by everyone, everywhere. It is imbibed with our identity and culture that it has become an everyday lived practice spanning generations. Filipino maximalism is the antithesis of anything that lacks life and color, and we take this long tradition from our country’s rich and vibrant islands.

 What is more important today is the preservation and continued appreciation of maximalism as a legitimate way of life for many Filipinos. While Western ideas of consumerism gravitate toward the immediate disposal of any object which appears to be waste, the keeping of anik-aniks and abubots gives significant value to objects and their accompanying stories. For what can a candy wrapper or a bus ticket from many years ago mean, but a marker of one’s past life, once forgotten but remembered through little trinkets? 

This article was published in The LaSallian’s March 2024 issue. To read more, visit

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