PEN AND INK LOVERS

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If you’ve backread this blog, you’ll realize that many of my old posts center on fountain pens and on my friends who use and collect them. The Facebook group I help moderate, Fountain Pen Network-Philippines, has grown exponentially over the last few years and now has about 3,300+ members. What’s the culture like, in this group?

Much has been written about the demise of cursive handwriting. They no longer teach it in many schools around the world, in favor of learning how to operate digital keyboards. Some people tend to think of using fountain pens as a hipster-ish affectation. In fact, while most fountain pen lovers dig analog stuff, many just like the way fountain pens write – smoothly, and under their own weight. For many it’s to escape the aching, death grip they use on ballpoint pens. It’s no surprise that many of the users and collectors are of a certain age. Here in the Philippines many of the traditional users are professionals like lawyers (or law students) and artists. Nowadays FPN-P members are from all walks of life, and the number of younger people using fountain pens (high school and college students) is growing.

Many new members come to us interested in calligraphy. They start with dip pens and calligraphy ink, and branch out into fountain pens with flex or italic nibs. Some of the more adventurous members learn to hack some fountain pens (usually the inexpensive Jinhao or the Ranga) by installing dip nibs like the Zebra G nib in them. Some people stick to the inexpensive, daily carry budget pens, like the Platinum Preppy and the Pilot Metropolitan, while others confine themselves to vintage pens, or have upgraded to well-known fine writing instruments with gold nibs and better build quality. There are those who claim they’re only users, not collectors, and are later surprised to find themselves amassing an accumulation of pens in the journey to find “the perfect pen”. Some collect pens in a single color, or different colors of the same model, or a single brand. Some joke that they collect only “Axis Powers” pens (from Japan, Italy and Germany). There are arguments over whether to ink a pen or not (the usual comment is, you might as well use it as it depreciates, as rarely does it increase in value over time). We geek out over pens, the same way others do over anime or guns or other hobbies.

I’ll admit, one of the things that keeps me interested in fountain pens is the possibility of using the myriad ink colors now available. Back in 2008, when FPN-P was first founded, the only place you could buy fountain pens (Parker and Sheaffer) was National Bookstore and (other brands) on eBay. The only ink colors you could buy back then were black, blue-black, blue and red. Fast-forward to 2016, and you have different brands and colors of fountain pen inks being offered by a number of brick-and-mortar and online stores. My friends amass ink collections, not just pen collections. Some hoard their favorite colors, some trade different colors. Some are obsessed with inks that sheen or shimmer. And then there’s the continuous hunt for the best quality paper for one’s budget, from Bevania Splendorgel to Tomoe River. There are brands of journals for everything! (And the perennial question: Is next year’s planner paper fountain pen-friendly?)

There’s never been such a good time for fountain pen users as now.

Daily Prompt: Culture

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GOODBYE, WALNUT

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Walnut the guinea pig crossed the Rainbow Bridge last Sunday. She was with us for 4 years and 9 months. She died peacefully, of old age. By then she could barely see; her eyes looked like they had cataracts, and we suspect she found her food and water by smell, in her last days.

She had been a very pretty long-haired guinea pig, a Sheltie. She wasn’t very affectionate, unlike our previous guinea pig Moonball. She was territorial, for one thing, and for the while they were living together we had to place them in different, but neighboring, enclosures. She was skittish and wary of strangers. She also liked to chew up the newspaper lining her space. As pets went, she was pretty low-maintenance – she was an eating machine that we would admire and try to pet occasionally.

Guinea pigs live for an average of 4-5 years. Moonball, our American short-hair, lasted for 4 years, but she contracted a kind of pneumonia and did not survive it. I still miss her greeting me very enthusiastically in the mornings, and nuzzling against me when I had her on my lap.

My eleven-year-old niece then asked hopefully if we could get a dog next. My sister was not prepared to take on a more vigorous pet that required the attention one would give to a growing child. So instead she got an albino budgie-parakeet, named Snowball. He requires a lot of attention, but is not as rambunctious as a dog would be, and is quite entertaining to boot. Budgies tend to live for about 5 to 8 years, so we expect to enjoy him that long.

Daily Prompt: Vigor

FISH SAUCE

[I’ve been remiss in blogging. In the last 3 years I’ve blogged only once each year. I’m trying something new, using a daily prompt. Hopefully that will keep me writing again.]

I was in graduate school in Australia and was living in the international students’ dorm. To save money, we would cook all our own meals, and so we bought the condiments we were used to, back in our home countries.

One of the most prized condiments was Thai fish sauce, the one with the squid pictured in the label. It was of very high quality, better than what I could get back in the Philippines. The only thing about fish sauce is that when you are cooking with it, the entire building begins to smell of it – there’s a pungent smell hinting of salty, fermenting, decaying fish that’s so overwhelming you’ll need to open the windows. This would awaken the salivary glands of those who grew up in cultures where the smell of cooking with fish sauce was commonplace. But it would most commonly drive Westerners out of the building, choking and gagging. Knowing this, I never cooked with it, just served it on the side, with lemon. It did not smell when used as a dipping sauce. Despite the trauma of the cooking smell, our Western friends would return and happily partake of the dish, whose flavors had been transformed and melded into an umami-rich delicacy.

It’s the same with cooking dried fish. The smell can cause landlords overseas to discriminate against Asian tenants. I never cooked dried fish in the dorm in Australia, as it wasn’t sold in the neighborhood, but the craving would occasionally haunt me until I got back home again.

I’ve heard of this phenomenon called the “yum-yuck” contrast, a term used by judges on cooking competition reality shows. You intellectually don’t like the ingredients used in the food someone made, or think they don’t go together well, but in reality, you can’t help but enjoy eating the dish. The smell has something to do with that. Or it’s a culture thing. Smell is memory, they say. I think of fish sauce and dried fish fondly.

Daily Prompt: Pungent

FOUNTAIN PEN DAY PHILIPPINES 2016

International Fountain Pen Day is celebrated every first Friday of November, but this year Fountain Pen Network-Philippines celebrated it the entire weekend of Nov. 5 & 6!  This is the third year we are celebrating with major pen brands and purveyors of fine writing instruments, inks, stationery and writing accessories.  Thanks to the management of SM Aura Premier, we were granted a good space at the third floor atrium opposite Toy Kingdom.  An estimated 300 people visited the event over the weekend.

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Photo by Kailash Ramchandani

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Pengrafik, one of the major sponsors of the event, offered Wahl-Eversharp, Karas Kustoms, Platignum, Ranga, Wink, and Nemosine fountain pens for sale.  They also sold Diamine and KWZ fountain pen inks, Bali leather pen cases and wraps, as well as Tomoe River, Curnow Journals and other brands of stationery. (Photo by Kailash Ramchandani)

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Scribe Writing Essentials, the other major sponsor, offered discounts on all its fountain pens. Available for sale were Pilot, Sailor, Visconti, Montegrappa, Platinum, Edison, Pelikan, TWSBI and Noodler’s pens.  They also had a promo on Rhodia notebooks. (Photo by Ticky Tabujara)

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Photo by Eliza Rehal

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Photo by Kevin Apolonio

Everything Calligraphy sold Pilot Metropolitans and 78Gs, Jinhao and Nemosine fountain pens.  They also had Diamine, Pilot Iroshizuku, Robert Oster and Blaze Wu inks available.  Also available were Elias pads and journals, Field Notes and Rhodia notebooks.  They also offered calligraphy penholders and nibs, and calligraphy inks.

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Faber-Castell offered their full line of fountain pens and other writing instruments at a discount. (Photo by Eliza Rehal)

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Times Trading had Lamy writing instruments on sale, also at a discount. (Photo by Edrie Alcanzare)

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Sheaffer

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Caran d’Ache

National Bookstore offered Sheaffer, Online and Caran d’Ache fountain pens at a discount. (Photos by Pher Mendoza)

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Artwork by Amado Chua. (Photos by Maia Castaneda)

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Artwork by Maia Castaneda. (Photo by Kevin Apolonio)

All around the event venue were artworks by established and amateur artists that used fountain pens and inks.  The exhibit was organized by Claire Armedilla.

There was an introduction to fountain pens workshop for kids aged 7-12, conducted by the young Amani Rehal.

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Photo by Ronin Bautista

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Photo by Eliza Rehal

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Photos by Kailash Ramchandani

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Photo by Eliza Rehal

Fozzy Castro-Dayrit , Lorraine Nepomuceno and Imma Frias conducted successful penmanship workshops on Saturday and Sunday, respectively.

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Josef Lees, Business Development Director for Asia from Platignum Pens Singapore, spoke about the brand and its products. (Photo by Kailash Ramchandani)

There was also a group of local nibmeisters doing pen repair, for donations to FPN-P. These included Angelito “Butch” Palma, John Raymond Lim, Anthony Goquinco, Mark Tiangco, Jonathan Isip, and J.P. Reinoso.

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Photo by Kevin Apolonio

The Fountain Pen Day weekend was enjoyed by all!  Many thanks to the organizers and sponsors!

CHECK OUT FOUNTAIN PEN DAY-PHILIPPINES 2016!

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The Philippines will once again celebrate Fountain Pen Day this November 5 & 6 (Saturday and Sunday), 2016!  It will be held at the 3rd floor atrium of SM Aura Premier in Taguig, opposite Toy Kingdom.  Fountain Pen Day, founded by Cary Yeager in the US, is celebrated internationally on the first Friday of November – this time we are celebrating with a weekend of exciting sales and activities.

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Major sponsors include Parker, Sheaffer, Lamy, Faber-Castell, Scribe Writing Essentials, Pengrafik and Everything Calligraphy.  Each sponsor booth will have attractive promos, so if you’re looking for fine writing instruments, ink and stationery, do drop by!  Other sponsors include Asia Brewery and PNB Savings Bank.

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Fountain Pen Day-Philippines  2016 is organized by Fountain Pen Network-Philippines, which has a forum and a Facebook group page (with now over 3,000 members). This is the third year in a row that it has been promoting the use of fountain pens, and the love of handwriting and calligraphy, to everyone.  Admission is open to the general public.