An obsession with toy Transformers

March, 18 2013

MANILA, Philippines – 34-year-old Allan Tanlapco has a cozy Pasig home with 4 bedrooms – one for him and his wife, one for his 2-year-old daughter, one for guests, and one for his special collection.

Tanlapco owns 1,500 Transformers from the robotic toy phenomenon that became a comic book series, blockbuster hit, and cartoon program. As a young boy, he fantasized about having every robot in the toy line at his fingertips. He sat glued to the family television whenever the heroic Autobots battled the evil Decepticons. His dream to have them all followed him into adulthood.

As soon as Tanlapco started his first adult job, he began buying the robotic toys. Today, Tanlapco has spent well over a million pesos on his Transformer collection. His most expensive piece is valued at over P60,000. He willingly calls his compulsion to collect the toys a sickness.

The Transformers stand on glass shelves in what Tanlapco’s wife, Trina, calls the robot room. The walls are alternately Autobot red and Decepticon violet. The room has its own fire extinguisher and a store of American imported garbage bags for emergency evacuations. When the floodwaters of Typhoon Ondoy filled the streets of Manila in 2009, Tanlapco stood on 24-hour watch in the robot room. He was paranoid about leaks.

He realizes people might think he’s strange. That’s why Tanlapco only talks about his toys in passing. He’ll never mention them when asked about his passions in a job interview and certainly not on a first date. It was only after 2 months as boyfriend and girlfriend that Trina saw how deep the obsession ran.

They were shopping together and Tanlapco had to buy a Transformer. Later at dinner, he couldn’t contain himself. He pulled out the package, ripped open the box and played with it right on the restaurant table. Trina tried to talk to him but it was as if he forgot she existed.

Tanlapco is happy that his wife never nags him about his robots and how much he spends on them. She said collecting toys isn’t such a bad vice compared to smoking, drinking and gambling. He said, “Her acceptance was the triggering point that made me pop the question.” The centerpiece of their wedding cake was a Transformer, which Trina put there as a surprise. “I wasn’t looking for someone who would love it as much as I love it. But she gives me space. That’s the important thing.”

She has only one rule. No toys in the bedroom. Tanlapco is allowed to scatter toys in every other room of the house. “I already lost the kitchen,” laughed Trina. Tanlapco doesn’t mind that his wife personally doesn’t play with the Transformers. She thinks they’re too boyish. The 2 of them can at times by found on the living room floor playing with Simpsons figurines, a toy they both like.

“I guess everyone is a kid inside. So every time I buy one or go to my robot room and just check on my collection, it brings me back to the days when I had no problems, when everything was just fun and play. So I think more than anything, I pay for that luxury.”

Tanlapco is a finance manager by profession. He is realistic that the day will come when he must part with some his toys. When his daughter says she wants to go to college, Tanlapco said he may sell one or two. He wants to keep the Transformers as long as possible. He envisions his grandchildren playing with them. Now the robot room has an occasional 2-year-old visitor on days when daddy wants to share.

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