penzy at the cafe

No, that’s not a misspelling. That’s a new word coined by my friend Mona Caccam – “penzy”, a portmanteau combining “pen” and “frenzy”.

It best describes the “pen”demonium unleashed at Shangri-La Plaza’s Dome Cafe in Manila last December 29 at a meeting of Fountain Network Philippines (FPN-P), the only organized group of fountain pen collectors in the country. It was so frantic that existing words were inadequate to portray it, hence the need to invent a new one that was most apt.

FPN-P had its first penmeet in July, at the home of University of the Philippines professor Dr. Jose “Butch” Y. Dalisay Jr. At that time, around ten people showed up, not counting hosts Butch and his wife, artist June “Beng” Poticar-Dalisay. Soon after that, the group was featured on national television. Then, to keep everyone in touch, a Yahoo! Groups list was formed and the group took the name FPN-P, since all were members of the online forum Fountain Pen Network.

Today FPN-P has 44 members, some of whom, like artist Pep Manalang and photographer Dominique James, are based abroad. All are grateful to Dr. Dalisay (also known as “D’OB” or “D’ Original Butch”, while another member, businessman Butch Palma, is “TOB” or “The Other Butch”) for organizing the group and keeping a motley crew of different personalities bonded by the common love of pens, ink, and writing.

This year-end penmeet was the most well-attended so far, with twenty people. D’OB had just returned from Shanghai and had promised a surprise for the first ten people who showed up. The meet was set for 11:30 AM. The early birds were journalists Alcuin Papa (Philippine Daily Inquirer) and Boojie Basilio (GMA Network) who arrived at 10 AM. “We wanted to be among the first ten for the freebies,” they whispered. It was Alcuin’s first time to attend a penmeet, while this was Boojie’s second – he was part of the first one in July.

Mona Caccam, a writer and mining industry executive, was also early. We were good friends in college, both members of the UP Journalism Club, and we hadn’t seen each other in years. It was great to welcome her to the group and catch up on each other’s news. She used to take classroom notes with a fountain pen; this was back in the late ’80s, and she was one of the very few people I knew who used FPs on a regular basis.

D’OB handed round the prizes to the first ten attended – Chinese-made Hero 616 pens that were Parker 51 look-alikes. We gathered around a long table in a small private room and the penzy started. D’OB gave a short talk on Parker Vacumatics as writer Clement Dionglay, entomologist Lourdes Taylo, Cindy Trinidad, law student Raffy Abrina, Ateneo de Manila university chemistry professor Nestor Valero, Mona, and I inspected his vast Vac collection. Corporate czar Chito Limson showed us his colorful pens.

At the other end of the table, research don Caloy Abad Santos, high-schooler John Raymond Lim, creative guy Iñigo de Paula, chef/musician/stockbroker Jay Ignacio, advertising guy Vic Icasas, and new member Kurt were doodling and talking about latest acquisitions.

Dr. Butch Dalisay (standing, dark shirt, left) gave a lecture on Parker Vacumatics; John (standing, black shirt, right) is a teenager who is very knowledgeable on his chosen hobby; Chito (standing, orange shirt, right) smiles as he listens to Cindy (sitting, orange shirt, right) describe a pen she’s holding; while Clem (back to camera), Nestor (sitting, right) and others look on.


Some of Chito’s candylicious pens. Generally, he matches the color of the pen barrel to the ink.


FPN-P members spread across several tables to have lunch. I had mocha coffee, served elegantly in a goblet with a handle. At our table (foreground), talk revolved around pens, how one’s favorites were acquired, where to acquire one’s “holy grails”, mining, explosives, social conditions in the Philippines, and ink.


Mona shows off a huge pen that Boojie acquired at an antique store for only P500 (around US$11). Yes, it’s in working condition. No, it’s not just a display item, it actually writes.

After lunch, the penzy continued. More people had arrived, among them chef Johannes Sia and advertising executive and calligraphy expert Leigh Reyes. Carl Cunanan, C! magazine editor and pen enthusiast (though not yet an FPN-P member) also dropped by to check out the action.


Waving, smiling, doodling, inking, talking, sharing, writing, ogling – all these and more at FPN-P meets.

Generosity is a mark of FPN-P’ers. Leigh shared her recently-acquired Pilot Iroshizuku inks, potent potions in beautiful bottles, and let everyone try out her lovely pens – Nakaya, Danitrio, Visconti, and Omas, to name some. She also gave out vintage plastic pen holders and steel Esterbrook dip nibs. Cindy handed round colorful rubber ice cube trays perfect for holding pens. Baguio-based TOB, who was unable to attend, sent a couple of vintage pens for raffling off, which were won by Boojie and Lourdes.


Leave it to the Japanese to package ink so that it looks like perfume. Wonderful. A “dip” or “well” (the triangle at the center) allows all the ink to be sucked up sans waste.


More pens, ink, nibs, and good-for-the-heart dark chocolate. Can’t have a successful penmeet without chocolate!


Mona, me, Jay, Lourdes, and Raffy. The orange tray holding pens is actually an ice cube tray. Photo by Dr. Butch Dalisay.

Seeing each other’s pens and inks renewed everyone’s desires to keep on collecting and using beautiful writing instruments. The enthusiasm is contagious, and the cult is growing. With all looking forward to the next penmeet – the first for 2009 – it’s sure to be another huge success!

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4 Comments on penzy at the cafe

  1. TAO
    6 January 2009 at 1:52 pm (4201 days ago)

    Wow! Great write up of the ever growing meet. If it keeps getting bigger at that rate I’m not sure where you’ll be able to house it in a year or two. Thanks for the currency conversion for us who live on the other side of the day. Super job! That day is was decided the “L” in Leigh was for late!

  2. Jenny
    7 January 2009 at 7:46 pm (4199 days ago)

    It’s fun to see our group getting bigger and more boisterous! ;)

  3. TAO
    7 January 2009 at 11:44 pm (4199 days ago)

    I think your group is a perfect size to be fun and have a good variety of things to look at. It’s motivating me to go to a pen show myself and its been a while since I have. Those are usually pretty large and lack the atmosphere of a bunch of friends sharing an interest, however.

  4. clem
    8 January 2009 at 12:48 pm (4199 days ago)

    wow! what a review, ate jenny. now i feel sorry i didn’t attend the earlier pen meets. i just realized how much i’ve missed. then again, it’s never too late… hope we’d have another meet soon…

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