Posts Tagged ‘leigh reyes’

cheer up pens

Pen friends show each other love with – pens. Leigh and TAO cheered me up with these pink beauties, both unavailable in Manila.

Rotring is a brand familiar to many Filipinos. Countless engineering students buy their drafting pens and related products. This German brand also makes reliable school and workhorse fountain pens commonly used in Europe.

The Rotring Altro (from TAO) was released in the 1980s and came in pink, yellow, burgundy, and other colors. Its ribbed barrel is non-slip and sturdy hard plastic, able to withstand flinging into a rucksack after a day at school. This one has a  medium nib, but writes like a Parker fine, and glides smoothly over paper. The nib is steel, and rigid as a concrete nail.

It can take a small cartridge and have room for a spare. A long Waterman cartridge would fit, for those who want more ink than a short cart can store.

The cap bears “Rotring Altro” and “W. Germany” markings. The clip is metal wire, like a bent paper clip with a tube of plastic on the tip. The pen looks coral in these images because of the low light conditions, but the actual color is Barbie pink.

Herlitz is another German brand. Founded in 1904 and based in Berlin, it manufactures paper and school and office supplies, among them a line of fountain pens. The my*pen line comes in cheerful two-color combinations – fuschia and orange, light and dark blue, light and dark green, and this pink and white baby.

Another friend, Clem, calls her white Lamy Safari her “Stormtrooper” pen. This one (from Leigh), on the other hand, reminds me of Hello Kitty Darth Vader. Like most, if not all, affordable modern pens, the nib is steel without a hint of flex. The pink inset is soft rubber and makes gripping it easy. This one has an M-nib, but lays a  juicier and wetter line than the Rotring Altro, much like the M-nibs of other brands.

The rest of the barrel is ridged hard plastic. The cap has an unusual design that reminds me of, well, Hello Kitty Darth Vader’s helmet.

The Rotring Altro and Herlitz my*pen are dependable road warriors that will complement any pen fancier’s lineup for daily use.

taste more:

yes, i write like a girl

I had my first creative writing workshop experience a couple weeks ago in our non-fiction writing class taught by Dr Jing Hidalgo. I had no idea what she meant by choosing our “workshop slots” or what a session would entail. Before mine began she murmured, “Is this your first time? Try not to be sensitive. It’s a learning experience.” Since I was already herky-jerky nervous, not knowing what to expect, that got me even more anxious.

As it turned out she – and quite a few of my classmates (the women) – enjoyed my piece (about the old Santa Ana Park racetrack). They were swept up in the narrative, interested in the sprinkling of karera terms, curious about the lifestyle of a little-known sport (horseracing) and way of life. The men had much to say, mostly on technique – the introduction, scene transition, and so on.

Which showed me how differently the minds of men and women work. Is it a sex-based wired-in-the-brain thing? A male friend told me just last month, “Your ‘Pop Goes the World’ columns (opinion for the daily Manila Standard-Today) are getting better. As for the other stuff – try not to write like a girl.” I pondered upon that, long and dreary, till I was weak and weary, into the wee hours of the night. Mainly I wondered, has my friend not noticed that I am a girl? As the raven quoth, “Nevermore”, I suppose.

My ‘Pop Goes…” columns come primarily from the brain. They are analyses of cultural phenomena in Philippine society, rooted in social science and literary theory, social commentaries from my viewpoint as a communication practitioner and scholar.

The rest of my written work comes from the heart. I use the tools of my art, weaving words and ideas and emotion into nets of fragile gossamer beauty or fabrics of wild or subtle color and texture and dimension, to craft with much care works that are ephemeral, existing as they do on only as ink on paper or dancing electrons on a screen, but that will have their existence in your mind and remain there, alive, as long as you are, as long as you do not forget.

My heart is a girl’s heart of sixteen summers, warmed by the sunshine of love and tenderness, battered by the storms of rejection and adversity, strong and resilient enough to go on beating with hope and still more glowing hope.

It is from this heart that I offer the essays that get the most pageviews and comments and re-tweets – the “popcorn manifesto”, the column on my sisters and daughters.

It is when I write from my girl’s heart that I reach and touch more.

My male friend said, “Make them think.” Yet do I accomplish more that is humanly significant when I also make them feel?

My male friend said, “We are not teenagers anymore.”

In my heart I am, ever naïve and gullible, with a core of unshaken innocence that believes no matter how evil some people are, how they may hurt you and others, still good is out there, and life is a quest to look for it to preserve and protect our humanity, the condition in which we shall exist in the face of advancing technology and much of world culture’s seeming slide into barbarism and cruelty.

Good is out there and I keep searching. Sometimes I find it.

There will be other workshops in our creative writing class. I will hear Dr Hidalgo and my classmates critique my forthcoming essays, and I will hone my writing skills. Perhaps I will become more technically proficient, adept at the active opening, smooth transition, and insightful ending. My male friend might have more to say on why he prefers my cerebral pieces to the emotional.

But I will always write like a girl.

Do not be afraid of that. My heart is open, even if yours is not. Come then, into mine.

taste more:

vintage and modern pens at the track

On alternate weekends  I sit as anchor of the cable television live coverage of horseracing events at the Philippine Racing Club’s Santa Ana Park in Naic, Cavite.

There are usually 12 races on Saturday, 13 on Sunday. They start at 2:00 pm and are held at 30 to 40-minute intervals. I’m on-cam at the opening and closing of the show. In between, only my voice (and that of my co-host) is heard to introduce the entries at the post parade, give the pre-race and post-race analyses, read announcements, race odds, results, and pay-offs, and crack jokes. There are no scripts, it’s all ad-lib, and it’s pretty free-wheeling as long as you stick to the sequence.

I’m stuck in the studio the entire day, unless there are awarding ceremonies to emcee, which isn’t often. To amuse myself between races and spiels,  I doodle and test fountain pens and ink.

I play!

Last weekend I brought along these babies to the track and put them through their paces.

From the top, a Lamy Purple AL-Star EF; a Lamy Coffee AL-Star EF; a Parker Ringtop; a Sailor Pro Colors 500 in Geranium Red, originally a medium and modified by nibmeister Chito Limson into a stub;  and a Wahl 3 Greek Key.

Along with pens, ink gets tested too. Pilot Iroshizuku has a wonderful line of ink based on colors found in nature, in the earth and plants and trees of the Japanese countryside.

The Sailor running Pilot Iroshizuku tsutsuji (azalea).

Once a fountain pen is altered from its original state, the practice among pen collectors is to mention all changes made to it. In the case of nib modifications, a word is coined that refers to it using the nibmeister’s name. In the case of this Sailor, it is “Chitofied”.

To give a few more examples: “Binderized” (Richard Binder), “Mottishawed” (John Mottishaw). To use in a sentence: “Sorry, kids – your only inheritance is a Pilot Vanishing Point with a Binderized cursive italic nib.”

Most fountain pen nibs in gold and steel are tipped with “iridium”, a term that refers to metal alloys that are long-wearing and protect the softer gold and steel tips. In less expensive pens, the tip of the nib may just be turned back on itself to create the characteristic bump on the tip.

A nibmeister creates a stub nib by patiently grinding away the “iridium”, often by using abrasive pads like Micromesh. He may leave a soft-edged tip, or grind a straight line with rounded edges – a “stub”. If he sharpens the edges a bit more, he comes up with an italic nib. Sharpening even further, he creates a “crisp” italic nib.

Stubs and italics offer more line variation than the usual kinds of nibs (extra-fine, fine, medium, broad). They are more interesting to write with.

To obtain more variation and fancier effects, nothing comes close to vintage flexible nibs. The best, to my mind, are gold flex nibs from the 1930s and earlier. Below is a gold-filled Wahl 3 Art Deco pen from the ’20s.

Wahl 3 inked with Waterman Havana Brown. To see a Wahl (and a Nakaya elastic fine and flexible fine)  in action, watch this video at Leigh Reyes’s blog.

Lamy is a fantastic brand that marries contemporary design with reliability and performance. Here’s their Lamy AL-Star, which looks the same as their popular Safari model, except that the AL-Star’s barrel and cap are made of aluminum while the Safaris are plastic.

Lamy comes out with different colors of their AL-Star and Safari every so often and discontinuing them after each production batch, making each new color a collectible. This one’s called “Coffee”, rendering it irresistible to me. It lays a striking line when paired with gentle-for-pens Waterman ink in Havana Brown.

Modern steel nibs are “nails’ – they are unyielding and sturdy, making them suitable for daily road-warrior work such as note-taking, writing drafts and long letters, and defending yourself against muggers. (That’s a long story. Tell you next time.)

See the difference between the Wahl 3 and the Lamy.

Lamys at the track: Purple AL-Star, Coffee AL-Star, Aluminum AL-Star, Pink Safari. Save for the Aluminum, these are LE (limited edition) colors.

I bring at least four Lamys with me everyday, inked with different colors. But I also bring a flex pen or two to play with, and another vintage favorite is this Parker Duofold Jade ringtop with gold-filled cap trim from 1929 or thereabouts.

Pilot Iroshizuku momiji (autumn leaves) gives gradated effects when used in a flex-nib pen.

The Parker Duofold’s nib is glorious; I can do calligraphic tricks with it, creating thick and thin lines and all kinds in between by altering the pressure on the nib.

Doodling in between races with pens old and new, using inks of rainbow hues, relaxes me after each task and clears my head, so I approach the commentating of each race with undiminished energy.

“Aaaaand they’re off…!”

taste more:

best tricks with favorite things

I spent a couple of hours at Starbucks (Yupangco Makati branch) waiting for my sister to finish lunch with friends. It was her last day in Manila; I was to take her to the airport in the late afternoon so she could catch a flight back to Dubai, where she has been based for the past ten years.

I had some of my favorite things with me to pass the time productively.

The coffee is a Double Tall Dark Cherry Mocha nonfat, no whip, one Splenda. (“Are you sure you still want the Splenda, ma’am? The syrup is very sweet…” I always add one Splenda when I take an extra espresso shot.) The caffeine jolt is necessary to jump-start my brain.

The book is the ninth edition of Theories of Human Communication by Stephen Littlejohn and Karen Foss. It is one of the bibles of the University of the Philippines College of Mass Communication. It explains around 126 theories, give or take a few. I read and re-read chapters when I have free time.

The mobile phone is a year-old Nokia 5310 XpressMusic. They didn’t have the pink one when I got this one, which I would have bought for the color. I prefer skinny candy-bar phones, which I can easily hold in one hand for texting. I dislike clamshell and slider types, because the more moving parts there are in a gadget, the more parts there are that are likely to break.

The fountain pens are my daily road warriors. Lacking a proper pen case that can accommodate the six or eight pens that I rotate on a monthly basis, I use a plastic Waterman case that the red Hemisphere came in. Yes, I know, it’s not the best thing for the pens, they’ll scratch each other, but it’s only temporary, I promise.

The purple leather two-pen case is a Christmas gift from my friend Leigh.It’s adorable, just as she is.

Armed with these things and in between downing gulps of coffee, I wrote entries in my ”communication diary”, a large Scribe (Moleskine knock-off) notebook covered with olive silk. The diary is homework for our Communication Research 201 class with Dr. Joey Lacson and must be entirely handwritten. I used a different pen for each entry, so the words pop off the pages in a whirl of colorful inks – Private Reserve Naples Blue, Caran d’Ache Sunset, J. Herbin Cyclamen Rose, Pilot Iroshizuku asa-gao (morning glory blue).

I also texted the entire Board of Directors of the company I work for, telling them that it was a year since they hired me and thanking them for giving me the opportunity to work with them. After that I cleared my messages and deleted unnecessary files, freeing up valuable storage space for data.

I snapped photos of my pens using my mobile phone camera to use as my phone screen wallpaper.

From time to time I would jot down meetings and other reminders in my planner, while at the same time listening to too-loud conversations of other patrons rather than tuning them out. It’s not eavesdropping because they are talking loud enough for others to hear. As a communication student, it’s one way of observing communication behavior in the field.

One young woman, a self-proclaimed frequent traveler, complained to her friend in the colegiala accent of privileged female private Catholic high school students about losing her baggage on a flight to Paris. “It was the first time, and I never though such a thing would happen to me,” she said. “Don’t take anything for granted.”

At another table, an elderly man sitting with eight friends was telling them about a recent golf tournament he played in. “I played eight holes then almost collapsed,” he said. “I wasn’t feeling ill or anything. It just shows that anything can happen, even the least expected.”

My two hours at the coffee shop were well-spent. I completed several important tasks, relaxed in soothing surroundings, and was reminded by others of an important bit of wisdom – “Never take anything for granted.”

Multi-tasking with things that are chosen carefully with functionality foremost in mind helps you be more productive. Find out what things work best for you given your own particular way of doing things. What’s good for someone else might not be what’s right for you.

Once you’ve found out what kind of tools you’re comfortable with and make you more effective, stick with them, while still keeping an open mind on new things. It’s not a case of old dog, old tricks, but rather old dog, best tricks.

When my sister texted that her lunch was over and she was on her way to meet me, I packed up my favorite things, drained my coffee cup, and walked out the door with a sense of accomplishment. Now that felt good.

taste more:

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.

Scan0016

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?

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.

Caloy_smile

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.

Junkbox

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.

Leigh_caloy_duo

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.

Pens_butch

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.

Pens_galore

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.

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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: