Archive of ‘try this’ category

the alex and the ik

Meet Alex and Ik – accomplished video game players, computer geeks, manga readers, and writers.  They are beautiful, brilliant, kind, good, well-behaved, and toilet-trained.

As a matter of fact, they have every positive trait known to mankind – and animalkind, if animals concerned themselves with such things – and in short, are paragons of virtue in every way, if I do say so myself. And I do say so myself; as their mother, I have unlimited bragging rights. So there.

Ohana collage: From top left, clockwise – Alex and Ik on our front steps; Ik in her preschool graduation regalia some years ago; Alex, Ik, and nommage at Chili’s last July 6; me, peeking; Alex on a “Ducati” at TimeZone, and little does she know that it’s the closest she’ll ever get to riding a motorbike; Alex and Ik at the Union Church of Manila Sala.

Alex is nearly 17, a frosh at De La Salle-Manila, in for BS Psychology with the end goal of being a “pee-sychiatrist”, as the Animaniacs call ‘em. She can make Windows Moviemaker walk and talk and Patapon cry and beg for mercy, but dissolves into a puddle of jelly each time she recalls Johnny Depp’s drunken swagger in the Pirates of the Caribbean movies. Her favorite comeback: “Riiiiiiiighhht…”

Me: “How would you raise your children?”

Ik: “I was thinking I wouldn’t be a typical mom myself.”

Alex: “I was thinking – with a crane…”

Ik turned a decade old last month, and is in fourth grade at Colegio de Santa Rosa-Makati. Multi-school spelling bee champ last year, emerging artist, talented storyteller, collector of puns, palindromes, and optical illusions, she has a gift for coming up with witty one-liners that explode in your head like the jelly from inside a donut. For instance:

Me: (singing off-key to the tune of whatever song is playing in my head at the moment) “Go to sleeeep…! It’s time for sleeeep…! Switch off your laptops right nooow…! Don’t make me come over there and do it for yoooou…!”

Ik: (stares) “Mama could be her own Disney movie.”

Or take this exchange – please! – from when she was five years old:

Me: (watching a concert DVD) “That’s Frank Sinatra.”

Ik: “He’s old.”

Me: “He’s dead.”

Ik: “Dead? As in, ‘used to be alive’?” (ponders) “That’s what I mean by ‘old’.”

Every night is comedy night over at our house. With the wisecracks these kids come up with, they could beat the trousers off any improv artist when they come of age. Heck, they’re funnier than a lot of those wannabes that go on reality TV.

I am thankful for the privilege of their company each day. As I watch them grow up, I realize that among all their gifts, that of laughter will sustain their spirits and help them cope with the myriad vicissitudes of life.

Okay, now we’re getting too serious. Jelly donut, anyone?

taste more:

ink in the blood

It was the first-ever, as far as we knew, meeting of fountain pen collectors in the Philippines – at least, of this batch of friends belonging to the online communities Fountain Pen Network and PhilMUG. For years, several of them had contact only by email or on online forums discussing their particular mania. On July 5, Saturday, in a peaceful home in UP Campus, they gathered with their pens and ink to meet and share.

Fountain pens are virtually unknown now in the Philippines – ask any person below the age of twenty and you’ll get a glazed stare – but before ballpoints came into being, in the 1940s to mid-1950s, FPs ruled.

I belong to this peculiar tribe for whom the process is as important as the end result. It is easier to write with a ballpoint, but nothing compares to the feel of a pointed steel or gold fountain pen nib sliding over the paper, laying down ink almost like a brush. The words seem painted on, elevating the mundane activity of scribbling notes into an art.

Older collectors remember using FPs in their youth, mostly Parkers and Sheaffers; for them, it’s often a matter of nostalgia and reliving the past. Younger enthusiasts are drawn to vintage artifacts redolent of a history they never experienced; for them, old is new and for that reason, desirable. Using FPs in this age of gel pens sets one apart. How many people do you know still use FPs everyday?

One of them is University of the Philippines professor Jose “Butch” Y. Dalisay Jr., PhD. Host of this penmeet, he is a multi-awarded writer of fiction, non-fiction, poetry, drama, and screenplays. He has won, at last count, 16 Palanca literary awards. Perhaps a hundred or more pens reside in his pen cases and “junk box” (a red felt-lined wooden chest).

“Welcome to the first Philippine Fountain Pen Collector’s meeting!” Seated: Beng Dalisay, Carlos Abad Santos. Standing: George, Robert, Butch Dalisay, Leigh Reyes, Eliza, Pep, Jay, Chito, Butch, and Iñigo.

Another enthusiast is Leigh Reyes, creative director of  a prominent advertising agency. Her collection is unrivaled, containing premier brands Nakaya, Oldwin, Visconti, and Omas, to mention just a few.

I had met Leigh several times before, to acquire ink and vintage pens from her stash. The last time I saw Butch was in 1985, when I was a student of his English 5 class at UP Diliman. (He was one of my three favorite professors – the others were Dr. Michael Tan, anthropologist and columnist; and the late Rene O. Villanueva, also a Palanca-award winning writer and literary icon.) I received my invitation to this gathering from Butch. It seems he had Googled “fountain pen Philippines” or something similar and was led to this blog.

It was my first time to meet the others. After the initial frost had thawed, they welcomed me with genuine warmth into their circle, pressing pens into my hand to try, passing bottles of ink for my inspection.


Pep says something to Caloy that makes him smile: Leigh examines a pen’s nib; others “test-drive” the pens lying around.

Beng Dalisay (Butch’s wife) is not an FP collector, but remembers using them as a young student. “We used Parkers and Sheaffers,” she recalls. An accomplished artist, she prefers watercolors as her medium. Beng also restores and maintains artworks in museums and private collections. “We will soon be working on the Botong Francisco mural in Manila City Hall,” she says. A collector too – of tins and bottles – she knows the fierce and often uncontrollable craving that can overcome a  true enthusiast, and nods indulgently as we debate stiff versus flexible nibs, bulletproof against water-based inks.


Leigh answers a question while Butch roots through his mahiwagang junk box.

There is a particular etiquette in this culture that we instinctively practice, or it could be a result of years of “good manners and right conduct” teaching about respect for another’s property. It is this – that pens are passed to another person almost reverently,as if they were religious objects. If the pen is heavy, like Jay’s silver and tan herringbone patterned Faber-Castell, two hands are used to present it to another. Infinite care is taken when removing the cap – it could be the kind that screws on, and fie on the one who tugs! Pens removed from a case are, after careful use, returned to their proper slot or passed back to the owner. They are not left lying around unless by the owner himself. Ink bottles, too, are painstakingly opened; ink has a tendency to pool in the cap, and no one wants to spill a difficult-to-obtain twenty-dollar bottle of French-made J. Herbin.


Iñigo watches Leigh write in her flowing calligraphy; Caloy surveys a feast of fountain pens.

At some point during the festivities, several of us pull out our Moleskines. Caloy asks Leigh to customize his with her elegant lettering. Elai and I clamor, “Mine too!” Leigh good-naturedly picks up a fountain pen loaded with light brown ink, and writes quickly, without hesitation. Our names, embellished with swirls and flourishes, float from the italic nib and lie like butterflies on the creamy yellow paper.


Leigh’s pens, notebook, and inks; Butch smiles as he uncovers more pens.

“Jenny.” I hear Butch’s voice and snap to attention. “Sir?” My response is reflexive; he will have my respect as my professor no matter how many years have elapsed since we were in a classroom. He hands me a pen. “For you, since you were my former student.” It is a black vintage Sheaffer Balance dating back to the 1940s, he says. I melt. My hands close around the pen and I stammer my thanks.

Butch does not realize, I think, how special the gift is, how his sudden impulse has profoundly stirred me. Not only because he is famous, and it will be a treasured souvenir from a literary lion; but because he was my teacher, the gift is significant as a reminder of a shared past and a mentoring that deeply influenced my writing.

One blue-book exercise he gave us was to describe a peso coin. “Be more specific and imaginative when you describe something! Look carefully at both sides and write down all you can discern.” His instructions forced me to use not just my eyes but also the vision of the mind to explore objects and concepts, employing uncommon words to provide the reader a fresh experience. “Resist cliches!” he said, so since then I have avoided them like the plague.


Part of Leigh’s carefully-selected collection includes fountain pens by Nakaya, Sailor, Platinum, Pelikan, Oldwin, Danitrio, Stipula, Visconti, Omas, and the ubiquitous Parker and Sheaffer. She also owns ink in a vast array of colors, with brands like Caran d’Ache, J. Herbin, Private Reserve, Noodler’s, and Diamine.

George talks about his other passion – collecting and restoring vintage typewriters. I lean forward to listen; anything that makes alphabet marks on paper is interesting. George speaks: “Royal, Blickensderfer, Underwood,” and Butch nods sagely.

I look around and see that everyone has ink marks – on their hands, forehead, temples. Leigh rubs my chin. “Ink?” I ask, and she smiles. Caloy has a streak of green on the right temple; George, on the forehead. Butch’s fingers are a riot of color, as are Jay’s and Iñigo’s. We are true FP fanatics, I think, the stains worn as an emblem of pride. No one tries very hard to remove the marks.


Front: Leigh, Butch, Jenny; Back: Iñigo, Jay, Eliza, George, Caloy.

One by one the penfriends depart. Chito is first to go. Butch from Baguio follows, saying, “I have a long drive. See you again soon.” “When is our next meeting?” George asks, almost plaintively. “Next month?” Butch says, “How about in six months, or when we have something new to show?”

I ride to Katipunan with Caloy. A well-traveled intellectual who is a PhD Economics candidate at UP, he offers to share shipping costs from PenGallery if I order. We have just met; but the ink in his veins calls to mine and thus we are no longer strangers.

We all look forward to the next meeting, the next sharing of custom-ground nibs and the latest colors of ink that are “not black!” as Leigh says. Anyone who is enamoured of the same is welcome to join. May the tribe increase!

taste more:

tarzan bubblegum, or growing up in the ’70s part 2

I was born in the late ‘60s and all I remember of that era is my maternal uncle (Eugenio “Boy” Ledesma Lacson) playing The Carpenters over and over again on his humongous turntable-stereo setup that took up the entire back wall of their apartment.

The ‘70s were my stomping grounds as a child. We lived on the third floor of a building in Manila (Apt 3-B, Villanueva Apartments, 2653 Conchu St., Vito Cruz, to be exact). At the ground floor, in a little unit under the stairs, lived the katiwala, Addy, who only looked curmudgeonly but had the proverbial heart of gold. She was always kind to me and my sister Aileen and was a good friend of our yaya, Violeta Vinuya.  Addy remained a spinster the six years we lived there, and she crocheted incessantly – doilies, bedspreads, skirts.

It was a middle-class neighborhood. There was a sari-sari store at the corner where I bought Manor House chocolate-and-peanut bars for sixty centavos. They also had Sergs chocolate, Choc-Nut, Ricoa Curly tops, Chippy, and “family-size” Pepsi in glass bottles for ninety centavos. My father (Valentino Araneta Ortuoste) was seriously annoyed the day he sent me there with one peso and I came back with the empty bottle – the price of the beverage had been raised to P1.15.

Sibs Richard and Karen Carpenter had a successful singing career well into the ’70s; Chippy used to be packaged in plastic bottles, while the packaging of Choc-Nut and Curly Tops don’t seem to have changed.

That store had glass showcases and it was run by the man who owned the entire building, which had the store on the ground floor and their living quarters on the second. I forget his name now, but sometimes his daughter would mind the store.

Nearby was a humbler hole-in-the-wall that sold chalk for five centavos (for marking piko and patintero lines), plastic balloons, striped green-and-white paper balls that you blew up through a hole in the bottom, and Tarzan bubblegum. I can still taste the sugary burst of flavor released with just one chew. They were wrapped in purple, green, and other colors, which is why I liked them – I am easily attracted by color – and the fact that they cost only twenty-five centavos each.

Across the street lived “the Thailanders” – students who came and went, were very quiet, smiled a lot, and kept to themselves. Sometimes my dad would have lunch or dinner with them. He never told us what they talked about.

We spent most of our time playing with the neighborhood kids. Next door was a sizeable property that boasted a large, albeit old, home with many rooms, and a swing set. The bespectacled Alan and his kid sister lived there, and being the owners of the playground, he was the ringleader of our games.

A block or so away was the dentist’s clinic, run by Dra. Teresita Feliciano. Even back then, she was formidable but kind. We saw her whenever we had toothaches and often she would fill our cavities or do extractions without payment, just listing our debts on a tab. To this day I believe we owe her money. Whenever we moaned during a procedure, she would calmly say, “Are you singing again?” Because she did potentially nerve-wracking and painful procedures with complete matter-of-factness, I grew up unafraid of the dentists’ chair, unlike some contemporaries who were terrorized by insensitive dentists.

It was a simpler, quieter time for children. We played in streets that were safe, child molesters unknown, blissfully unaware of how the Marcoses ruled from Malacañang Palace with iron fists, committing human rights’ violations under his martial law and triggering  the First Quarter Storm.


Intramuros, symbol of Manila;  the Marcos family – you either loved ‘em or hated ‘em; vintage LP album

Flooded streets were the norm; we often waded home through waist-deep waters with schoolbags held aloft. Potholes pocked the streets but hey, that was okay, as not a lot of people owned cars anyway. A jeepney ride was thirty centavos, but my sister and I took the taxi to school – four pesos from Vito Cruz to Pasay City Academy at Donada Street, near the Manila Sanitarium.

From the radio blared The Hotdogs, Sampaguita, and Tom Jones. On his turntable, my dad played classical music – Tsaichovsky’s “1812 Overture”, Debussy’s “Clair de Lune”, Ravel’s “Bolero”. He loved  Sinatra and Nat King Cole. I never saw any rock or dance music in his collection, which I found odd, considering that he began his broadcasting career as a radio disc jockey.

My sister and I had more pedestrian tastes – 45′s of The Panda People warbling “Chirpa-Cheep-Cheep” , “Read-Alongs” with their accompanying storybooks (“This is the story of Aladdin. Turn the page when you hear <chimes>. Let’s begin now…”), Voltes V and Daimos soundtrack singles.


Name these ’70s icons…

I had a childhood that was more sheltered than most. My educated parents, from socially-prominent families that had lost their fortunes over the years (land-owning politicos and Muslim royalty in Cotabato on my dad’s side, sugarcane-raising hacienderos on my mom’s side), raised us to read voraciously, enjoy music and art, and speak English at home. Neither of them being Tagalog speakers, they decided on English as a lingua franca for us children.

But my sister and I did learn to speak Ilonggo through osmosis, listening to my mom and yaya chatter away about relatives whose identities were shrouded in code: “si Agurang,”  (the old one), or “si Agi” (the gay man), as my mom, seated on a miniature chair in the kitchen, painted her toenails pink while Nanay Viol cooked champorado or arroz caldo for merienda.

Memoirs are hard to write. Sometimes the memories are vague and indistinct; writing about them, I wonder how much actually happened and how many of the blanks were filled in by my imagination. I have four decades of memories; it will be a while before I’m done dredging them up and exposing them, not only to you readers but to myself, bringing them up out of the dark recesses into the light for close examination.

taste more:

muffin day; or, growing up in the late ’70s part 1

UPDATE: This piece was published in slightly modified form on 8 July 2012 in the first issue of the Sunday Manila Standard-Today, revived after an eight-year hiatus.

There’s this old Betty Crocker Picture Cookbook that’s been in the family for years. It belonged to my mother, Malu Ledesma Lacson Alonso, who received it from her nanny, Phoebe Elustrisimo. Lola Phoebe migrated to the US when my mom was a teenager, but she did bring many warm memories of baking cookies and muffins, and brushing my mother’s long brown hair in the mornings.

My mother and I, 1968.

As a child I preferred to stay indoors and read, rather than go out and play. On my great-aunt Bennett’s sugar cane hacienda in Bacolod,  where I lived for a year, there were no other children my age and I was not allowed to play with the children “nga halin sa uma” (“from the farm”).

When I was brought back to Manila and our little apartment near Vito Cruz, the neighbor kids were mostly boys and played rough. Not that I minded the knockabout games. I was a little tomboy, and the best on the swing, going as high up as I could and jumping off at the very peak of the arc. “Dangerous” games proved your bravery; any kid who didn’t join in was a sissy. Girls were exempted from this, but a girl who was as tough as the boys got extra points in street cred. My rep was “small but terrible”.

To this day I’m amazed I didn’t crack a leg or some other useful body part. I wonder how nearly all of us went through our childhood practically unscathed. The only casualties I recall were Alan next door (his family owned the swing) who broke his arm, and Mars across the street who snapped something in his chest when rough-housing with his German Shepherd. The break never healed properly and he developed a “pigeon chest”, a sort of protusion that shocked us all into a wary respect for dogs.

It was boring and meaningless, keeping up the street rep among my playmates, and increasingly, I retreated into the other worlds of books. One of my favorites was this same 1956 edition Betty Crocker cookbook of my mom’s. I’d pore over it for hours, flipping through the slick pages, ogling the glossy color pictures of classic American dishes – apple pie, strawberry shortcake, Eggs ala Goldenrod.


Written in the politically-incorrect ’50s, before organic foods and vegetarianism became fashionable, many recipes call for lard (an ingredient banned from today’s enlightened kitchens, where “lowfat” cooking is de riguer), meal suggestions are built around red meat and carbohydrates, and vegetable recipes occupy less than ten pages – most of them variations on deep-fried this or that. Phrases such as “low-calorie” and “artificial sweetener” are nowhere to be found; “cookie” is spelled with a “y”.  The illustrations are quaint and oh-so Fifties: women in flaring skirts and aprons lean over ovens, brandish ladles.

The chapters on baking were closest to my heart. The “Quick Breads” (pancakes, muffins, and waffles), “Cakes”, “Pies”, and “Cookies” pages became the most dog-eared and creased. An instructional manual, the book contains step-by-step pictures on how to sift flour, knead dough, roll out pastry. Sort of like a primitive “Baking for Dummies”, but with photos.This proved a godsend to me when I actually started cooking on my own after I got married in 1990. Though a beginner at cooking, it was like my hands already knew what to do, thanks to those instructions.

When my mom moved to the US in the early 80s and took that beloved cookbook with her, I was bereft, like I had lost a close friend.

There’s a happy ending to this, though. Maybe ten years later, I coaxed my mom to send that cookbook to me in a balikbayan box. She was reluctant to let it go; as for me, it had much sentimental value for her. I suggested that it was time for the next generation (my children Alex and Erika) to enjoy that heirloom. That argument proved to be persuasive. Once in my hands, I placed that half-a-century old book in a place of honor on the shelf.

Ik is the most interested in this old book. As I did, she studies the pictures and reads the recipes. Over the past several months this year, the inspiration built up to such a crescendo that yesterday, she convinced her ate Alex to help her bake muffins.

Here they are. Golden brown, fluffy, and perfect smothered with butter. Great with coffee? You bet. Congratulations, Ik and Alex!


The 52-year-old heirloom cookbook; the “how to bake muffins” page; Alex, Ik and muffins

For me, this particular cycle has come full circle, in terms of my children’s participation in the mythos of family traditions and rituals that shape so much of who we are and what we influence our children to become. Yet time in the real world is linear, not circular. I stretch my mind to the future, where I see my grandchildren reading that Betty Crocker cookbook (now 70, 80 years old), baking buttery golden muffins for their lola, tita, and mom.

Thus the cookbook is not merely a book, a construct of paper and ink, but a vessel of familial rites, a repository of histories, and a catalyst for the creation of fresh, life-shaping memories.

taste more:

rod mckuen: looking for a friend

Shared with me in 1989 by sportswriter Joel Atencio.

looking for a friend


if one thousand men

walking through this world

room to room to room

then home again

ask the favor of your friendship

know that i am one

within the thousand.

if one hundred men

making do within this world

in city places or the kindest country

fall down fighting for your friendship

know that i am on the battlefield

amid the hundred.

if twenty men

who know and knew this world

from crested hills to uncrowned valley

send letters breathing friendship

expect my letter soon

among the twenty.

Photo taken in Los Angeles, 11 July 2009.

if one man living in this too-grey world

running crooked paths or pacing pavements

comes in need of friendship

be not amazed or disbelieve,

i am that one man.

if no one comes to you

carrying a new world in his arms

or at his back in a rolling wagon

offering to you out of friendship

know that I have been detained

but even now am on my way

still no one comes to you

within this world

when two dozen years or half of that has passed

come and seek me out

for i’ll be lifeless in a grave and gone.

perhaps you were hiding

or concerned with other things

but know that while I lived

i went on looking.

taste more:

horses and hopia at escolta

Tuesday, Feb. 12, was the big day of this week – the day that I picked up the vintage gold Parker 75 Milleraies from the talyer!

A friend received the pen as a gift in the ‘80s and passed it on to me. It was in very bad shape inside. So we took it to Luis Store along Escolta, hoping they could fix it.

Terrie Pua, daughter of store founder Luis Pua, assured me that yes, they could replace the entire inner assembly of the pen. She told us to return after ten days.

So we went back to Escolta last Tuesday. Before picking up the pen, we had lunch at Savory Restaurant on the corner. My friend remembers attending banquets there on an upper floor back in the ‘60s and ‘70s. I didn’t see any access to an upper floor; all the diners were seated at round tables on the ground floor. The décor was seedy Chinese-resto, but had the aura of age and history giving it authenticity. The Savory Fried Chicken is delectable and tender.

Right next door to Savory was a lotto outlet, where we stopped to buy tickets. Beside that was an OTB (horse racing off-track betting station), still closed as weekday races don’t start until 6pm. Not too far away, several college students were squatting on the sidewalk; one was reading the Dividendazo. We looked over his shoulder when we spotted the familiar layout of the racing form.

After lunch we dropped by Polland Bakery next door. The façade is the usual concrete box with glass windows, but the doors boast a pleasant surprise – rough old wood with dragon-head brass knockers serve as handles.

Inside, chinoiserie scattered here and there lend the place a special charm. The shelves are filled with tikoy (for the Lunar New Year), hopia (ube, red mongo, pork, other flavors), lowa, peanut cakes, haw flakes, and other baked goods.


Along Escolta Street, past and present exist side by side, with horse-drawn carriages rolling along beside Toyotas.


Being taga-karera, anything to do with horses fascinates me. This one’s a nativo. Put this carriage driver beside a thoroughbred and he’d just come up to its withers.


At Luis Store, Terrie, Rose, and their mother Mrs. Pua proudly presented me with my refurbished Parker. “Blue or black ink?” asked Terrie. “Blue, please,” I said, and watched as she dipped the pen nib-first into an ink bottle and squeezed three times. “Wait five seconds for the ink to rise into the sac,” she instructed. She also advised that any bottled ink I own be filtered through a fine cloth every six months to remove sediment.


When the sac was full, Terrie wiped the nib on a tissue and handed me the pen. With a new 14-karat extra-fine gold nib, clip, top tassie, grip, and aerometric fill system, it writes like a dream. “Use it everyday,” she said. “That way the nib will conform to your writing style.” I promised to do so, and before we left, Mrs. Pua pressed candies upon us.


It was a sweet day.

taste more:

a very fountain pen day

Learning of my new fondness for fountain pens, a friend gave me one of his, acquired in the early ’80s.

The pen is gold-plated with a pattern of closely-spaced parallel lines. It was in horrible shape – no nib (my friend had taken it apart when he had spread the tines pressing too hard), the aerometric-fill system was leaky, and the grip’s threads were loose. No nib. The clip was broken in half. The top and bottom tassies were discolored and showed brassing. No nib!

So today we took it to Luis Store at 375 Escolta. (Call them at (02)241-3484) I first learned of the shop from Leigh’s old blog and immediately wanted to visit. I asked my friend for landmarks; I was surprised when he told me he actually knew the shop founder and used to buy and have pens and lighters repaired there forty years ago. “Nandoon pa ba ‘yon?” he asked.

This friend of mine remembers going to the store when he was in high school (early ’60s) when all Mang Luis Pua had was a stall beside the road. Today, Mang Luis’s widow Mrs. Pua and their daughters Terrie and Rose carry on the business, now housed in a fairly new building; the shop is a haven for local pen connoisseurs in the know.

Once there, Terrie uncapped the pen, and went, “Where’s the nib?” My friend shrugged. “Lost,” he said. Mrs. Pua then came along, took a look at the pen as well, and said, “Where’s the nib? Gold ‘yun!” By that time he was red in the face and mumbling, “Saan na nga kaya ‘yon?”

The shop is a dream for collectors. They do adjustments and repairs, and have vintage and new stock of Parker, Sheaffer, Montblanc, Waterman, and others. I saw a Parker 51, which I really want, also a vintage Sheaffer ballpoint similar to what my mom has (she says it belonged to her mother, my grandmother Beatriz Ledesma Lacson).

So we left the pen for repair, mainly nib replacement. We asked Rose and Terrie a good place nearby to have lunch. “Turn right at the corner and look for the French windows,” they said. “Order the grilled pork chop.” Same thing they told Leigh. I’m glad I took their advice. The pork chop was great, along with sides of fried egg and potato salad. The place is called 9 to 6 Foodhouse, along Tomas Pinpin corner Escolta.


Back at the office, I checked Lih-Tah Wong’s excellent online reference Parker 75 Fact Book and found out that the pen is a Parker 75 Milleraies, made in France. (Milleraies is French for “a thousand lines”).

My friend has another Parker 75 which he identified as a Grain d’Orge (barleycorn pattern).

He says he used to own a Parker 51 which he found really annoying to use (it was skipping) so he took the nib apart. He couldn’t put it back together again the way it was so he stopped using it. (Rose and I, in unison: “Where is it?!”)

My friend is amazed that the pens he used when he was younger and took for granted as “just pens” are now worth a fortune. Well, a small one anyway. Luis Store’s cheapest Parker 51 is P28,000. ”And to think my classmates and I used to stab our pens nib-first into the tops of our wooden schooldesks,” he said. As I looked at him in horror he said, “Eh matibay naman kasi eh.”

Later that same afternoon, I visited Leigh ‘s office to pick up the Platinum and Sailor “21″ pens. It was our first meeting and I was so happy as Leigh is so sweet and friendly. The pens are in beautiful shape, and she even gave me a black Platinum Preppy and a Platinum pen box.

The highlight of our encounter was when she showed me her lovely pens (Omas, frog Danitrio) and let me try out her Piccolo Nakaya and gold Danitrio with a cursive italic nib, both loaded with lovely light brown ink. Now I feel that I have seen and tried out real pens, and know what I should be collecting.

Yay for pens!

taste more:

my fiction: freek (a drabble)

A drabble is a very short story exactly one hundred words long. Wikipedia says its purpose “is brevity and to test the author’s ability to express interesting and meaningful ideas in an extremely confined space.” Drabble contests set a theme for the participants and a certain amount of time to write.

I set this drabble at the racetrack and finished it in five minutes or so. Try your hand at it; it’s easy, fun, and addictive!


Image here.

The gates sprang back for the year’s biggest race. They were off! Nightshade, the huge chestnut mare, jumped out of the last stall and took the lead. As the nine-horse field galloped down the straight, Nightshade’s jockey, Freek, rode her hard with his callused hands.

At the home stretch, still lengths ahead of the panting opposition and a mere hundred meters from the wire, he reached for his whip and found – nothing. He had left it behind! Cursing mightily, he knew there was only one thing to do – go back for it.

Freek was never given another ride after that.

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lawrence alma-tadema: spring

In 2002 I was in LA and a friend of mine, Marian Domoje, took me to the Getty Museum. It was an utterly beautiful place. I could have stayed there the entire day, wandering the quiet, well-lit halls, admiring the paintings and photographs, sculpture and antique furniture.

In one of the halls I chanced upon this work. It was hung close to the entrance and reached almost floor-to-ceiling. This and all other photos I have seen do the original work no justice. Up close, it is breathtaking. Each brushstroke is pure genius.

“Spring”,  Lawrence Alma-Tadema

I like my art “traditional realist”. Abstract and modern leave me cold – those splotches of color? Ik could do as well, if not better. It requires genuine drawing and painting skills to create works that live and breathe, that are like windows you could step through to enter another world, the artist’s world that he created from his own imagination.

Immerse yourself in art and visit worlds of wonder. You’d be doing your soul a favor.

See more of Alma-Tadema’s works and those of other realist painters at

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