Posts Tagged ‘escolta’

pens in manila

Are there still fountain pens to be found in the wild – in Manila?

Fountain Pen Network-Philippines members went to find that out last February 21, with a field trip to Escolta.

Escolta is part of “old Manila” and used to be the main shopping district from pre-war times until around the 1960s. Luis Store, a fountain pen sales-and-repair shop, has been located there since the 1940s. The plan was to meet up at Savory Restaurant at the corner of Escolta – another local landmark – then visit Luis and any other places that happened to catch our fancy.

On my way there in a cab, I saw many things. The sight of a Philippine flag flying in the warm breeze stirred me to near-tears. It was so beautiful.

A monument to heroes, near Manila City Hall.

It was, I felt, a good start to the day.

When I got to Savory, quite a few FPN-P’ers were already there, scribbling away. While waiting for the others – and for lunch – to arrive, we celebrated our passions of pen, ink, and paper.

The entrance to the FPN-P function room.

Early birds play with pens, paper, and ink – the triumvirate of our obsession.

A peek at some of writer-University of the Philippines professor Dr. Butch Dalisay’s Parker Vacumatics.

Lunch was another celebration, this time of gastronomic delights not often relished. The Savory  flavor is like no other. It is Chinese cuisine, yes. But it is also has a unique identity that sets it apart. Especially the fried chicken, which is famous.

Bird’s nest soup, pansit Canton, Yang Chow fried rice, pork something, fried chicken, and lumpiang Shanghai.

After lunch, it was back to pens.

Raffle items – pens, nibs, a loupe (for peering closely at nibs), and ink.

A leaf from Leigh’s notebook.

The attendance sheet – for pens, not humans.

Spot the Sailor, Danitrio, Pelikan, and Bossert and Erhard.

From Savory, the next stop was Luis Store. The fifteen or so of us crammed into the tiny piece of paradise, ogling the beautiful pens on display. Many of them are NOS (new old stock), some dating back to the 1950s, if not earlier.

Carretelas are still a common form of transportation within the area.

Walking down Escolta to Luis Store. The dome of Sta. Cruz Church can be seen in the distance.

FPN-P’ers crowd into Luis Store.

Dr. Butch Dalisay, Mrs. Pua, and Terrie Pua, who runs the pen store.

Pens on parade.

Plates for the engraving machine.

Class picture!

The Puas pressed boxes of warm and delicious chicken empanada on us, and we ate as we walked. Our next stop was Binondo.

The Starbucks – and the Pancake House beside it, and most other establishments in the area – have signage in Chinese.

Leigh holds up the Frankensnork representing TAO, fellow FPN member. In the background, life in Binondo continues its busy hustle, oblivious to the posse of pen collectors chatting and drinking coffee.

Binondo Square still sports the red and gold lanterns left over from the Lunar New Year celebration.

The penmeets celebrate not only the shared interest in pens and ink, but also friendship, love, life – as do all gatherings. That which binds is important and significant, but when people get together and interact, there is so much more that is shared. Enjoy that. Enjoy each other. Let life be a series of celebrations!

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well-balanced sheaffers

Back from the talyer (AKA Luis Store, 375 Escolta, Manila) are two Sheaffer Balance fountain pens from Leigh. Various Internet sources say that these particular models – the Jet Black Lady (or Junior) and the Golden-Brown Striated - were released in 1936-1939.

Upon the nib of the Jet Black pen are engraved the words “Sheaffer’s 3 Made in USA”; it is a very fine nib, perhaps an extra-fine. The Golden Brown Striated Balance bears a Sheaffer’s Lifetime nib with its own serial number; I’d say it’s a fine nib.

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The nibs of both pens are in good condition;; I just brought them to Terrie and Rose Pua of Luis Store for sac replacement as these pens are lever-fills and the rubber sacs had expired over time.

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Manufacturer’s information on the barrels

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Not all pens bore the trademark white dot

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“Visulator” windows are close to the nibs; threads are for the caps, which screw on

At seventy years old, these beautiful pens still function, and are a marvel of classic and timeless design with their tapered caps and tails. As links to the past, they evoke images of ladies in bob haircuts or marcelled hair and gowns with low-cut backs, lounging in Art Deco settings, smoking cigarettes in holders, or penning love letters to their swains.

Women, perhaps, like my own maternal grandmother (Beatriz Ledesma Lacson), shown here in a photograph from the 1930s. I can just see her with one of these pens in hand, dashing off acceptance notes to amigas for a supper or carnival ball invitation or inking dedications on the back of photos like this.

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This is why I collect – and use – fountain pens. Would you keep a Bic for seventy years? Could you still use it? Would you want to?

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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.

Polland_in

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

Escolta_carriage

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.

Eating_horse_crop

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.

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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.

Escolta5_crop

It was a sweet day.

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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.

9to6_meal

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!

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