Posts Tagged ‘photo essays’

art on the move

On the Coastal road to Naic, Cavite, last Saturday, I saw these funky passenger transport vehicles in Imus, Cavite. They were smaller than a bus but larger than a jeepney, and as flamboyantly decorated with folk art. Let us call them “beeps”.

Beeps have the characteristic artwork common to jeeps – the “title” on the signage above the windshield; the names of the owner and his family painted all over the vehicle; and colorful motifs.


The design on the back of this beep reminds me of Hawaiian quilt appliques.


This artwork shows Mickey Mouse as a cruise director – implying, perhaps, that this beep is your own cruise ship to your destination.


The backs of beeps, like taxicabs, often bear the names of the owner’s wife and children and some motif that has special meaning for them. The splashguard at the bottom will often have either the name of a patron saint or some quotation.


This beep’s rear splashguard bears a quote about love. Filipinos are, in general, a romantic folk. Why the matching prawns? No idea. I saw several beeps with the prawns.


The airbrushed art on this beep is eye-catching. Note the color-coordinated passersby. Photography is a serendipitous activity.


Motifs from popular culture are often used. This is an anime-decorated beep. The side panel shows characters from “Kingdom Hearts”.


The bishop’s miter and crook are also common motifs for Cavite beep artwork. The back art of this one – a  guardian angel watching over two children crossing a log footbridge – is beautifully and painstakingly rendered.


Since beeps have more surface area than jeeps, there is more scope for folk artists to let their creativity run free in creating large designs. This kind of art work, executed on a moving canvas, reaches a wider audience than if it were just hung on the wall.

taste more:

bend it like wahl and moore.

Vintage fountain pens are highly-prized by many collectors not just for their unusual materials and designs. For those connoisseurs who actually use these pens, not merely keep them tucked away in protective cases, the nibs are the biggest draw of these oldies but goodies.

Older nibs, those manufactured up to the 1930s with higher gold content, tend to be more flexible than steel nibs. They are also resistant to the corrosion that may be a side effect of some types of inks.

These pens hail from the 1920s. One is a gold-filled Wahl, the other a celluloid Moore vest pen.


The Wahl has a Greek-key design. It is slim and perfect for ladies’ smaller hands. The notebook is a Ruled Pocket Moleskine.


Its 14k gold nib looks like a stub with most of the iridium worn off. A heart-shaped breather hole in the nib helps with the exchange of air for ink the pen’s reservoir. It’s a lever-fill.


A beautiful monogram on the cap tassie.

Moore is a lesser-known brand, yet the quality of this particular pen is admirable.


Celluloid body, lever-fill, 14k gold nib.


The name engraved on the barrel may be that of the first owner.


The Moore also has a heart-shaped breather hole.

No matter how agile and lithe David Beckham is, he can’t bend it like the nibs of these vintage pens can.


Writing samples – top, the Wahl in Private Reserve Shell Pink; center, the Moore in a plum color, a mixture of Shell Pink and Tropical Blue. The Moore’s nib gives more line variation.

Flexibility was an important characteristic for early 20th century pens because they suited the handwriting styles of the period – Copperplate and Spencerian.

Having used flexible pens, modern pens feel stiff and rigid. “Like a nail”, is how some collectors describe them. Many FP users have both a vintage flexible and a stiff modern writer in their everyday pen case for different purposes.

Photos taken with a Nikon D60.

taste more:

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!

taste more:

inspired invention: ideastyle laptop sleeve

With gadgets necessary for work and play getting smaller and easier to carry around, the next thing to consider is how to transport them safely.

Laptops and their sensitive LCD screens especially need to be well-protected. Having recently acquired an 8.9″ Acer Aspire One, I was looking for a cushiony case that would stand up to the diverse hard contents of my handbag – hairbrush, hardcover Moleskine notebooks, and whatnot.

At a recent trip to Glorietta 3 mall at the Ayala Center in Makati, my sister the shopping maven came upon a small kiosk stocked with cases and sleeves of all sizes.

Media/Quest/Marketing kiosk at G3 (near Dad’s and Powerbooks)

They carry the Ideastyle range from Taiwan. They’re made of Memory Foam, a material that’s soft and spongy and “remembers” the shape of things that are placed upon it Press the surface and a dent forms that slowly and gradually springs back to its original shape. There are many colors and styles to choose from.


The case fits snugly. Since it’s stretchy, it was able to accommodate my netbook with its oversize six-hour battery with just a little fudging.

Other cases are available on the market that are made of neoprene. It’s soft, but lacks the superior protection that Memory Foam affords.


The laptop can be inserted in to the sleeve normally and removed entirely for use…


…or it can be used as a cover/case by using straps to insert the monitor into. The wallpaper is original photography by artist and advertising executive Leigh Reyes; get it, and other fountain-pen themed wallpaper, here.

It’s terrific when you find a product that fits your needs and works with you, instead of you having to work with it.

My all-time favorite inspired invention though, is and always will be, the banana guard. In pink.

taste more:

just flew in

A Pelikan from Germany, by way of Leigh, flew into my pencase a few days ago.

It’s a handsome bird in green, black, and gold plumage.


A window in the barrel – see the bubble? – lets you know how much ink is left.

Inked with some of Leigh’s Pilot asa-gao (morning glory) ink from the Iroshizuku line, it lays a wide wet line. It’s my first broad nib.


Before I got it, I wasn’t sure I’d like it, as I’m a fine and extra fine nib girl. But now that I’ve tried it out, I think, “Where have you been all my life, broad nibs?” It’s a lesson to me to be more open to trying new things and stepping out of my comfort zone.

The Peli’s beak serves as a clip.


The clip has eyes…

The top of the cap bears a portrait of this noble bird.


The nib is splendiferously handsome.


Together my Peli and I shall fly on wings of fancy in clouds of words, trailing playful colors of ink as we streak across skies of paper.

taste more:

cosplay? anime con? hunh.

With anime conventions now a regular part of the teen scene in Manila in recent years, I went with Alex and Ik to one to see for myself what all the fuss was all about.

This con was held today at the Megatrade Hall of SM Megamall, Ortigas, Pasig City. Entering the mall at ground level, one sees groups or pairs of teenagers dressed in otherwordly costumes familiar to TV viewers and manga readers, flaunting outlandish makeup, prancing around in killer shoes. It’s called “cosplay” or “costume play”. While they might have attracted gawkers following them around before, now only the strangest costumes turn heads.

The event venue is located at the top floor of the mall. Up there, the place was packed with dressed-up teens and the occasional parent. All were well-behaved; chattering was kept to comfortable noise levels, and there was no pushing or shoving to get in.

The Megatrade Hall at SM Megamall was packed with cosplayers, events people, vendors, and performers.


Cosplayers as Anakin Skywalker and a Stormtrooper


Toys abounded, from these huge and expensive action figures protected inside lucite cases…


…to these teeny ones on bases that allowed them to be displayed…


…to these colorful stuffed cuties.


Cosplayers and fashionistas, including Ik, cram into the tiny stall of Baby Moon Lifestyle, purveyor of Goth, anime, and Lolita clothes and accessories. (


Ik tries on a Baby Moon mini-top hat…


…but ended up buying these polymer clay cupcake earrings from Mush Pomato.


I call this stall “The Wiggery”. I rather fancy the light pink one with ponytails.


The space in front of the stage was packed.


The cosplayers are the most interesting feature of cons. They love to have their picture taken. Just tap them on the shoulder and they will promptly pose, like this group of accommodating elves.


Costumes are usually homemade or “patahi” at friendly neighborhood mananahis and sastres.


A lot of resources, ingenuity, and planning goes into making these costumes.


Makeup and accessories play an important part in recreating a particular anime character.


Interesting staff. Weapon, or magical item?


“The Mask” comes to life. The dapper suit was mostly likely custom-created by a tailor. The mask is cleverly and painstakingly constructed from sponge foam material. This cosplayer kept patting it before being photographed to make sure all the different bits were still in place.


As performers of a sort, cosplayers are treated rather like celebrities, and fans like Alex here love to have their picture taken with them.


One of the more interesting activities at the con was the impromptu “on-the-spot costume making” contest. This gave participants a chance to show off their wicked creative skills.


This con’s a certified success! With the price of an admission ticket at one hundred pesos, anime cons are big business in Manila.

Being a Gen-Xer, I can say from experience that the anime wave swept Manila during my generation. It was in 1979 that my stepfather, Joseph Sellner, a broadcast blocktimer, brought in “Voltes V” and “Daimos” from Japan. He loved cartoons, and when he went to Tokyo to view these, he was smitten. He aired them on GMA-7 and launched the “robot shows” craze in the country.

I was in fifth grade at the time, and I remember being asked to watch each show to log the commercials and the gaps during which they aired. Not that I had to be forced; they were my favorite shows, along with the other shows Uncle Joe brought in later.

Let’s see – Mondays was “Mekanda”, Tuesdays “Daimos”, Wednesdays “Mazinger-Z”, Thursdays “Grendaizer”, and Fridays “Voltes V”. Filipino voice actors dubbed the shows in English. This was the age of “mecha”, and its unexpected popularity spurred other blocktimers to bring in Balatack, Danguard Ace, and other forerunners of modern anime.

But then-president Ferdinand Marcos saw a good thing and found he wasn’t in it. So he banned these shows, claiming that they were “violent” and a bad example for children. Today, the children who grew up brandishing laser swords and trading rocket punches in their games are now leaders like Francis Pangilinan (senator) and Chiz Escudero (congressman). They turned out okay, didn’t they?

Back then, we didn’t cosplay, but we did wear the shirts and buy the vinyl LPs of the soundtrack, singing along without understanding the lyrics, but having a fine time anyway.

The ban on robot shows disappointed Uncle Joe, but he rebounded. He returned to Japan and came back with “Candy Candy” and “Paul in Fantasyland”, also animes but in different genres. They also became hits, but never reached the height of popularity of Voltes V. “Knight Rider” was also his import, but that one he got from Hollywood.

Today’s generation has brought up the game several notches with the advances in technology and the changes in cultural taste. Yet when I see these cosplayers and anime fans, I see the reflections of myself and my classmates. Through the years, the shows may be different yet the enjoyment remains the same.

taste more:

my manila: santa ana park

Santa Ana Park is the racetrack facility of the Philippine Racing Club and was built in 1937. PRC was founded by American and Filipino horsemen and entrepreneurs in the late 1920s as a counterpart to the Manila Jockey Club, enclave of Spanish and Filipino aristocrats at its foundation in 1867 until its heyday in the ’50s.

There are three main structures on the twenty-five hectare property, all in a simple Art Deco style – two grandstands and an office building. There is a single dirt (sand) track surrounded by many stables that, over time, have mushroomed to far more than the area can comfortably hold. Stalls are built right up against the cinder-block walls that line the track.

The facade of Santa Ana Park on AP Reyes Avenue on an early morning last April

Races have been held continuously at Santa Ana Park since it was built, with a brief hiatus during the war. It is named for St. Anne, patron saint of nearby Sta. Ana town, Manila, although the racetrack itself is part of Makati. It has been the scene of countless challenging races and has seen the rise – and fall – of champion racehorses and horsemen.


View of AP Reyes Avenue on the other side

It is also “home” to me and my children. We have lived on my father-in-law’s compound behind the track since my marriage to a jockey in 1991. A racehorse trainer and veterinarian, my father-in-law maintains his property as a racing stable with stalls for twelve. We live with the sounds of soft neighing and hoofbeats as the horses are hotwalked in the mornings after ensayo (workout), the clanking of the tin labangans as feeding time approaches. The muted thudding of horses’ hooves on the sawdust is like the hammering of my own heart.


The parking lot is used by the community for group calisthenics


That’s the office building on the left



The Art Deco main building. The second level houses the parquet-floored ballroom and murals of champion horses from the ’70s and ’80s, as well as the broadcast studio, owners’ boxes, and VIP lounges



The parade ring with the finish line in the background


The home turn is on the far left


The first bend; Makati office buildings in the background were built many years after the track was


View of the left-side grandstand


The Stewards’ Stand. The Board of Stewards watch the track with eagle eyes (aided by binoculars) from the top floor; below that is the racecallers’ perch; a viewing area; and on the ground level, the jockeys’ weighing scales


View of the grandstand from the parade ring


A horse trots past the finish line during morning workout


Exercise rider Kiko Dilema asks, “Kinukunan mo na naman kami, Tita Jen?”


A groom leans against the rail, waiting for his horse and its ensayador to finish. One trot, two canter, perhaps?


Alex and Ik, tunay na batang karera – apo ni Doc Alcasid at anak ni jockey Oyet at ni Ms. Jen sa TV

As a young mother, I took my babies here nearly every day to catch the morning sun. When they were older, they learned to walk on the grass beside their track as their father rode by, smiling indulgently.

As a beginning broadcaster in this industry, this is where we shot many episodes of various incarnations of horseracing shows. As a former employee of PRC and of a horseowner who had two racing stables here, I know nearly every inch of this place, from the air-conditioned executive offices to the dusty stables that hug the track walls to the cockpit at the corner where the sabungeros were more vociferous in cheering than kareristas.

And all this will be gone next year, to make way for malls, condominiums, and other towers of glass and steel. The racetrack will be moved to a new, and bigger, seventy-hectare facility in Trece Martirez City, Cavite. There it can accomodate the growing number of horses in a sport that is gaining in popularity among players. It’s for the best, really.

Yet a rich part of history will disappear. Have enough photographs been taken? Videos? Interviews of old-timers who remember the place when it was still “Sampiro”, San Pedro de Makati, when the air was cool and you could faintly see blue shadows of the mountains of Rizal in the distance, before the high-rises rose up to obscure them?

But it is the way of things, that the old make way for the new, for old memories to be remembered and cherished even as new ones are created.

Read more about Philippine horseracing at

taste more:

my manila: escolta/binondo

My teenage daughter Alex and I took a trip to Escolta last Friday to pick up my new glasses from Vision Line there. We didn’t go straight to the shop, though; I took Alex around to see a little bit of old Manila.

The Filipino-Chinese Friendship Arch at the bottom of Jones Bridge on Quintin Paredes Street is the gateway to the Binondo area.


The left side of Binondo Church. Also known as the Minor Basilica of San Lorenzo Ruiz, it was built in 1596 and is one of the oldest Roman Catholic places of worship in the country.


The church facade. Much damage was wrought through the years by fire and other natural disasters; of the original architecture, only the octagonal bell tower remains.


A kalesa driver and his pony wait for passengers in front of the church


Alex and I took the kalesa to Escolta; on the way, we shared the road with a tricycle (motorcycle + sidecar), a jeepney, and a new Honda CRV (in front of the horse). Here, old forms of transport move beside the new, and both get you to your destination, although the kalesa imparts an air of antiquity, romance, and novelty.


Our destination – Vision Line Optical beside Luis Store, the fountain pen place


On the banks of the Pasig River, across the Manila Central Post Office, young boys dive into the water to cool – and show – off.


Alex poses on Jones Bridge, with the MCPO building in the background.


On our way home, we passed the ruins of the old Santo Tomas University. The oldest extant university in the country, it was founded by Dominican friars in 1611. The school moved from this site to its much bigger present campus in Sampaloc, Manila, in 1927.

taste more:

food and fountain pens, a perfect combination!

Filipino fountain pen collectors gathered to celebrate pens, ink, and a fellow collector’s birthday at the second meeting of the Fountain Pen Network-Philippines (FPN-P) chapter last Saturday (August 23) at the home of stockbroker/musician Jay Ignacio.

Multi-talented birthday celebrant Jay, who is also a chef specializing in Italian cuisine, whipped up a delectable feast for fellow FPN-P members: grilled chicken salad, Italian meatloaf with creamy mushroom sauce, vegetarian penne (“Eh kasi nga naman ‘pen’ meet ito,” said Jay), and appetizers of cold cuts and chunks of parmigiano meant to be eaten with orange marmalade.

The piece de resistance was the magnificent “Nakaya Rose” cake and matching cupcakes, commissioned by Jay’s family from a bakeshop specializing in bespoke pastry.


No, the pens were not edible. But they were very very pretty and we all wished they were real.

Nakaya1_ayeeignacio_23aug08 Nakaya2_ayeeignacio_23aug08

The inspiration for the cakes came from these print ads in a pen magazine (photos by Ayee Ignacio)

It might have been Butch Palma, who lived in the US for over two decades, who said that penmeets in the US get along fine with just doughnuts and coffee. We all looked at each other and shrugged. In the Filipino culture, all gatherings are marked by an abundance of food. You can no more have a meeting without food than you can have a penmeet without – er – pens.


Penfriends (L-R) Butch Dalisay, Caloy Abad Santos, Jay Ignacio, Chito Limson, Butch Palma, and Leigh Reyes


Leigh shows Chito how to smoothen a scratchy nib with Micromesh

Butch P., who has around 400 pens in his collection, has made a hobby of pen restoration, as has Leigh. Together they made a terrrific tag team – Butch P. to align the tines of nibs, Leigh to smoothen them – for their impromptu fountain pen “lying-in” (not quite a hospital or a clinic). In just a few minutes, they massaged a recalcitrant Recife of Butch D.’s into smooth-as-silk condition.


Pens and inks were the stars of the party. Towards the bottom of the image are big guns such as Arita, Montegrappa, Pelikan, and Visconti. The two gray pen trays in the upper part of the image show Butch P.’s “for sale” pens – among them lovely vintage Sheaffer Snorkels, Balances, and Triumphs, all of which he has fully restored and rendered functional. At the very top, the red felt-lined wooden box stows some of Butch D.’s Pelikans.


The bright orange ink on the left is “Majestic Orange” from Noodler’s Singapore line. Dubbed “bulletproof and eternal” , it will not wash away from paper nor can it be removed with bleach or other chemical means including airplane degreasers. The paper will disintegrate first. Yes, it’s that tough.


Leigh’s bottle of “evil” Noodler’s Baystate Blue – it stains horribly, yet has such a vibrant, eye-popping color. Bravely, Caloy filled a pen with this potent potion.

Like collectors of every stripe, we talked about our obsessions for five enjoyable hours that quickly passed. Pens exchanged hands and were dipped in the inks that we shared with each other – Noodler’s Singapore line was well represented with Spirit of Bamboo, Majestic Orange, Vanda Miss Joaquim, and Singapore Sling.

Also on hand to try were Leigh’s Noodler’s Baystate Blue and Jay’s “vanilla” black Parker Quink, which Leigh used to lubricate the pens for smoothening. My favorite was the Diamine Cerise from Leigh, a happy cheerful hue that satisfies my craving for pink ink. With our nibs soaked in rainbows, we executed swirls and flourishes in copperplate and chicken scratch, as the fancy took us.


Leigh’s calligraphy. This is what FPs can do, in well-trained and artistic hands. The line variations are possible only with semi-flex and flexible nibs, usually stubs and italics. (Photo by Butch Dalisay)


My pens (L-R): late 20′s hard rubber ringtop, ’30s celluloid Wahl-Eversharp, mid-’30s Sheaffer Ebonized Pearl Junior, ’30s Welsharp mini, mid-’30s Sheaffer Black-and-Pearl petite, ’70s Pilot 77, 1944 Parker Vacumatic, ’30s Wearever, ’30s Sheaffer Balance Jet Black Lady, ’30s Sheaffer Balance Golden Brown Striated standard size, ’30s Sheaffer Balance Jet Black Lady (photo by Butch Dalisay)

taste more: