medusa-01My 6yo niece has a very vivid imagination.  She’s wanted to be Medusa  for the longest time.  Last October 22 she had her fantasy realized – thanks to Mommy Joy’s crochet skills.  Joy found the free crocheted yarn snakes pattern by Lucy Ravenscar at

medusa-02The 14 snakes are made up of combinations of yarn colors, crocheted over four days.  The eyes and tongue are sewn on.  They are attached to a plastic headband, along with black yarn “hair”.  The “black” lipstick is eyebrow pencil rubbed over lip gloss.  The rest of the costume was a black sleeveless dress.

Lilo was even more thrilled when she won a special award for her costume!  Even now she’s thinking of a new costume for next year…


chitofpn-07Our group of pen lovers, Fountain Pen Network – Philippines, is three years old and keeps growing.  We’re also on Facebook! It started with a handful of enthusiasts in a thread on analog writing instruments at (oddly enough) a local tech forum.  It now has about 20-30 active members, many of whom are also members of the Fountain Pen Network forums.  Our yahoogroup moderator, Prof. Jose Dalisay (“Butch” to his friends, aka “penmanila” on FPN), has written about fountain pen collecting, and the group, several times in the Philippine Star.  Anyone who enjoys writing with fountain pens, wants to try them out, or collects them, may join.  We meet about once a month, for lunch or coffee and pen talk.

fpnp-caloyWhat do we do at our pen meets?  Eat.  Talk.  Make new friends.  Doodle (that’s Caloy Abad Santos doodling on the Amici restaurant placemat above). Show and tell.  Try out each other’s pens.  Hold raffles of pen, ink and paper products.  Buy.  Sell.  Trade.  Exchange information – where to buy pens and inks, care and maintenance of pens, pen repair, info on collectible models, where to find quality stationery, etc.  In short, we are a bunch of enablers!

A friend of mine in the US said, “I love looking at your pen meet pictures on Facebook.  It’s all so geeky.”  Yes, geeky and we love it.

anniv-06Some members’ collections focus on a certain brand and model.  On the table in the photo are Parker Vacumatics.

anniv-15In this photo, teddy bears Ivan and Trekker guard pen cases containing Pelikan M800 limited editions, Toledo models and “Originals of Their Time”.

pelikanoriginalstimeHere are some beautiful celluloid, ebonite and silver overlay pens.

anniv-50A number of members have special frankenpens created by honorary US member Tom Overfield.  These are pens that are cobbled together with usable parts of other pens of the same model, even if the colors don’t match.  They each have special names – there’s Frankensnork, Bride of Frankensnork, the Bridesmaid Pencil, Tuckenstein, Frankenthein, Thinenstein, Rafflestein, Pencigor, etc.  Mine is the grey, blue and maroon Parker 51 Demi known as “Demistein”.  It’s second from right – I love it because its parts have been rescued from somebody’s cabinets and it writes a nice, broad, wet line.  If ever there’s a token of deep friendship and love of pens, it is that.

anniv-95Colorful pen wraps!  These were made for me by May Zayco (fuschia and aqua) and Hazel Gazmen (olive green).

jennyfpn-12We like to hold raffles at Christmas, and during anniversaries.  Keeps the attendance up!

roxasfpn-10Here’s Leigh Reyes, doodling.

regfpn-05And more doodling, this time by Jenny Ortuoste.  Featured is my Swan fountain pen with the semiflex Eversharp nib.  Isn’t it inspiring to be able to write in all those gorgeous ink colors?  If you wanted read a good ink and paper review, then visit Clem Dionglay‘s blog, Rants of the Archer.

jennyfpn-08I even got a lesson on how to resac a Waterman 0852 1/2 BCHR ringtop from the 1920s, from Butch Palma, at the first anniversary pen meet.

anniv-55Here we are at the second anniversary pen meet.  And that’s not even the entire group…

roxasfpn-01Photos by Chito Limson, Leigh Reyes, Jenny Ortuoste, and Mona Caccam.


I’ve bought Theo & Philo artisan chocolates three times in the last month alone.  My family and I end up enjoying it before I even think of taking photographs.  The Green Mango & Salt bar above is the remaining bar in my stash.  It’s my favorite flavor:  unique and very Filipino in taste.  The pretty packaging proclaims: “By the Philippines, For the Philippines, Of the Philippines.”  What’s not to like?

I found out about Theo & Philo from my friend and neighbor Karlo, via Google+.  He recommended I get it from Echo Store in Podium, which sells sustainable, eco-friendly, proudly-Filipino products.  Now I am a sucker for quality local products – I comb trade fairs for products like this.  The website says the cacao is from Davao and the sugar, from Bacolod.  I just HAD to try it.

On my first purchase, I chose Dark Chocolate and Labuyo (chili) flavors.  The Dark Chocolate was of very high quality.  It had depth, and a delicious, bittersweet flavor.  The following day we tried the Labuyo.  It was Dark Chocolate with an appealing, spicy end note which everyone (with the exception of my 6yo niece) enjoyed.  Apparently it’s one of the bestsellers in the Theo & Philo lineup of flavors.  On my second purchase a week later, I got Milk Chocolate and Green Mango & Salt.  I’m not a very big fan of generic milk chocolates per se, but was glad that this version had a high cacao content and wasn’t very sweet.  The Green Mango & Salt was a happy surprise.  There were dried bits of green mango interspersed with occasional rock salt crystals in a Dark Chocolate matrix.  I loved the contrast in flavors and textures!  On my third purchase a couple of weeks later, I bought TWO Green Mango & Salt bars, and one flavored with Barako coffee.  Embedded in the Dark Chocolate were crushed bits of roasted Barako (Liberica) coffee beans.  Crunchy-gritty, with the full flavor of coffee.  Another winner!

They make wonderful gifts, don’t they?  Christmas is coming and I’m already thinking of who to give them to.  I’ve posted about them on Facebook and by now a number of my friends have tried them too.  I’ve already given some balikbayan friends a selection of flavors.  In fact, I’m looking for Calamansi and Ginger for my next purchase.  Echo Store doesn’t always carry all the flavors (it depends on the delivery, and of course some flavors are more popular than others), but you will be able to find them in these stores.  Each bar is PhP 95, and so worth it.

I’m so happy with such a quality product – it’s definitely worth our support.


I’m not affiliated with Echo Store, but am a regular customer.


It’s been a couple of years since I did any bookbinding projects.  My last one was full-on hardcover bookbinding (with glue). Here are some books I made earlier:


Last weekend I decided to try Coptic binding, which is a sewn binding that does not require any adhesives.

I once attended a seminar on bookbinding, but it didn’t include coptic binding.  I knew how to do kettle stitch, but not how to attach the cover boards correctly.  So I browsed tutorials on Youtube.  I found DaphLife’s tutorial friendly and easily followed.

I did two practice books, a “pocket-size” book (a page is half a legal-size sheet folded into two) and a “standard” (letter-size sheet folded into two) one.  They’re quite minimalist; I didn’t cover the illustration board covers with fancy paper anymore since I was impatient.  Besides, I was only going to use them for ordinary note-taking and not for journalling.  I’m frustrated that I can’t find in the bookstores quality bulk paper whose surface can take fountain pen ink properly enough that I can write on both sides of the page.  At least my book block paper is acid-free.  Next time I’ll do the fancy cover wrapping and all.

Coptic binding usually requires a thicker thread, usually of a color that contrasts with the paper and the cover board.  This makes sure the decorative aspect of the sewing comes through to the viewer/user.  I just used what I had at home, a 100% cotton crochet thread. I used the single-needle version (yes, there is a two-needle version, but I only had one needle big enough for the crochet thread).

What I like about this method is that the book opens flat, is stackable (compared to my comb ringbound notebooks) and is 100% biodegradable.

Yes, yes, I know, next time I’ll make prettier wrapped cover boards.


Last October 6th, I woke up to the announcement that the Nobel Committee had awarded the 2011 Nobel Prize for Literature to Swedish poet Tomas Transtromer.  He bested other luminaries in the running such as Syrian poet Adonis and Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami (even long shot Bob Dylan).  Considered Sweden’s greatest living poet, Transtromer’s work has been translated into 50 languages.  Ironically, despite being a best-seller in Sweden, Transtromer is not as well-known in other parts of the world.  He recently turned 80, and continues to write poetry.

I am posting three of his poems that I like here, and am as of now actively looking for any of his poetry collections. The New York Observer says a number of Transtromer’s poem collections in English will certainly be reprinted following his win.  Wikipedia also lists his published books in English translation.  As a layman I find it easier to approach Nobel Prizewinning works in poetry since short but complete samples are available online for immediate appreciation.  I hope you enjoy the three I’ve selected:

(translated by Robin Fulton)

There’s a tree walking around in the rain,
it rushes past us in the pouring grey.
It has an errand.  It gathers life
out of the rain like a blackbird in an orchard.

When the rain stops, so does the tree.
There it is, quiet on clear nights
waiting as we do for the moment
when the snowflakes blossom in space.

(translated by Robin Fulton)

Spring lies desolate.
The velvet-dark ditch
crawls by my side
without reflections.

The only thing that shines
is yellow flowers.

I am carried in my shadow
like a violin
in its black case.

The only thing I want to say
glitters out of reach
like the silver
in a pawnbroker’s.

(translated by Robert Bly)

They switch off the light and its white shade
glimmers for a moment before dissolving
Like a tablet in a glass of darkness.  Then up.
The hotel walls rise into the black sky.
The movements of love have settled, and they sleep
but their most secret thought meet as when
two colors meet and flow into each other
on the wet paper of a schoolboy’s painting.
It is dark and silent.  But the town has pulled closer
tonight.  With quenched windows.  The houses have approached.
They stand close up in a throng, waiting,
a crowd whose faces have no expressions.

All poems copyright Tomas Transtromer.  Many thanks to John Baker, Bloodaxe Blogs, and for texts of these poems.



This is my mother’s EPP herbal balcony garden:  organic sweet basil, bok choy, Himalayan spinach, tarragon, rosemary and chives.  Yes, the planters are converted plastic Coca-cola liter bottles.

EPP stands for Enriched Potting Preparation, which uses a “nutrient-rich compost soil extract, in a watering and aeration-efficient container”.  It’s award-winning urban garden technology developed by Dr. Eduardo P. Paningbatan, a professor of soil science at the University of the Philippines in Los Banos.

My mom attended one of his seminars and decided to start her own garden.  She even organized a seminar at our Metro Manila condo complex so that other unit owners could grow their own organic and pesticide-free herbs and vegetables, even ornamental plants.

EPP is distributed by:

Makiling Plant and Products Exchange (MPPI)
10001 Mt. Halcon St., Umali Subd., Los Banos, Laguna
Tel No. +6349-536-0054
Fax No. +6349-536-5536
Mobile +63919-804-7169



midori-06The Midori Traveler’s Notebook is one of those things you end up coveting when you’re into fountain pens, typewriters and other analog means of organizing your thoughts.  I first saw the standard size version reviewed on Black Cover.  Pictured above is the passport-sized one, in brown.  It’s small and handy enough to fit into any handbag.  I found the larger version to be rather long and narrow for my taste.

midori-02It came in its own cheesecloth bag, with some information in Japanese and in English.  There was also an extra elastic strap included, in case you wanted to add some refills to the existing one.
midori-03The leather cover is made in Thailand.  It’s the kind of finish that looks better and better the more used and distressed it gets.  The roughly 9cm x 12.5cm refill notebook paper is thin, but fountain pen friendly (if your pen is not an overly wet writer).  The orange refill in the photo is a DIY one I made out of 220gsm cardstock and 100gsm copy paper.

I tested my pens and inks on a back page.  While you can see the writing on the other side, there is absolutely no feathering or bleedthrough of ink.

You can fit two refills on the existing elastic.  To fit more refills/accessories in the Midori Traveler’s Notebook, check out the tips on the Scription blog.

I bought the Midori Traveler’s Notebook from Scribe Writing Essentials (3/F Eastwood Mall, Quezon City).  I believe they are the exclusive distributors of Midori products (including refills and accessories) in the Philippines.  It’s a little pricey, but I think it’s worth it, being real leather and handsome-looking.


I am not affiliated with Scribe Writing Essentials except as a customer.