Pen and pouch envy

Lamy Pico (

Lamy Pico (

When Lamy, the German pen company, designed the Pico, it didn’t have me in mind. I didn’t fit the demographic.
The Pico, Lamy’s clipless pocket pen, was simple, functional, and expensive; I was complicated (occasionally), useless (generally), and cheap (absolutely).
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Everything I learned from the PCIJ, I posted on Twitter

PCIJ books from part of our “graduation” gifts.

Which explains the limited number of tweets I posted.
It only goes to show the amount of important stuff I was able to understand.
But that’s another story.
For four days last week, my bosses at InterAksyon—with minimal nudging from me—allowed me to participate in a training program organized by Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ).
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Uneasy like Sunday morning

(This is a draft of a chapter of a commissioned biography. Permission to publish it in its raw form has been secured on the condition that the names of persons and some companies be changed.)

It wasn’t exactly easy like Sunday morning.

But it was nevertheless the last day of the weekend, a day when people sat back, put their feet up, and relaxed; a day when the world took things slow and shifted to a lower gear, the better to prepare for the accelerated pace of another work week.

For Antonio Valencia (not his real name), June 16, 1974 was a Sunday unlike any other.

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Take Note

The GARN on top of 11-year-old Mac keyboard that's still a pleasure to type on. (Yes, that's Captain Haddock on the right)

Or in my case, notes—lots of them.

This is because I recently bought three black Green Apple Reporter Notebooks from a National Bookstore branch in Pasay City. (That, and another book, Augusten Burroughs’ Magical Thinking for P50, which I promise would be my last book buy for the year. But that’s another story.) [See: Magical Thinking]

It takes me three months to use up a GARN, which means I’m not going to have a shortage for the next three years.

This is because on top of the new three GARNs that I bought, I have eight in storage, bringing the total to 13, one of which I’ve used up—and also in storage—and another one which I’m using now.

I absolutely adore these notebooks (enough to blog about them) more than I do the soft-bound Moleskines I got abroad, some of which I had already given away. The softbound Moleskines also fell apart easily, which is unjustifiable considering its price.*

That’s not the case with the GARN.

It’s tough, durable, low-key, substantially cheaper than the Moleskine, and thanks to its color, unmistakably masculine.

I admit that I ignored the GARN the first time I saw it.

At that time, I was in my DIY notebook phase, a preoccupation that was short-lived because it was foolish, expensive, and time-consuming—just like hanging out with frenemies.

That phase ended when a new fountain pen came along, prompting me to get something decent to write on. [See: Lamy 2000]

The GARN was the natural choice.

In no time, I became addicted and bought them whenever I saw them.

Like the fountain pen, I bring the GARN everywhere.

Except that I am unable to maximize its availability.

People look at you strange if you write in a notebook. But not if you type on a laptop or a tablet.

If you’re seen clutching a notebook and a pen—two pieces of antiquated equipment—you’re considered a throwback of the 19th century, a fop, a dandy, a pretentious, artsy-fartsy pseudo-writer-slash-artist.

Fortunately, I’ve come to terms with my literary pretension and, as a result, have managed to get away with writing on the GARN some of the time.

On various occasions, I’ve written extensively in two different mid-end, mall-based Chinese restaurants, one of which had the temerity to charge me for house tea. (Which, come to think of it, I should have agreed to pay for since I’ve spent time writing there.)

I’ve even checked into a cheap hotel overnight, just to get a change of scenery.

Except that cable television got the better of me and all I could wrangle out of that episode was a page that was arguably worthless. That overnight stay also helped increase my debt whose interest could have paid for someone else’s country club membership.

So, kids, what kind of lesson can we derive from my notebook addiction?

Simple: I may go hungry, incur investment losses, seek bankruptcy protection, live on the streets, and eat off a garbage dump but as far as writing supplies are concerned, I’m A-OK.


*I do have another Moleskine in storage—a hardbound Berlin City Notebook edition given by a journalism instructor who’s been there countless times as a birthday gift. I promise to use it once I get to visit that city.

The Writing Dodge*

The supposed tools of the blogging trade. From left, clockwise: barely-functioning iPod, Blackberry Bold, Lamy 2000 fountain pen, and Green Apple-branded notebook.

Small minds think alike.
This was what I told someone in a past life after we happened to express the same idea at the same time.
The person wasn’t amused.
And I can’t blame her.
She was intellectually — and perhaps even morally — superior.
After all, it was easy being ahead of me in the brains and ethics departments.
I’m not the sharpest tool in the shed. And since I make stuff up and crack jokes, I’m always singled out to be the scapegoat whenever any kind of trouble arises.
In the meantime, this person excelled in, among others, formulating correspondence that requested the recipient to explain his/her supposedly questionable behavior that took place on a day everyone else has forgotten.
In various past lives, I have received my share of these love letters, asking to clarify and address certain actions I have undertaken.
Fortunately, I have been able to resolve these questions, with the help of my charm and good looks.
Anyway, I have been prompted to recount the anecdote because I received email from University of the Philippines English Professor and friend Paolo Manalo.
After failing to buy a Kindle (negotiations with the seller fell apart), he decided to get himself a Lamy 2000 fountain pen a few days before I bought mine, he told me in an email message sent on Good Friday.

He later learned I also had the same pen after reading — Maestro, music please — this blog. [See: The Anti-Bling]

“I thought I’d regret” buying the pen, he said in the same email. “No, this is a good pen and I’m glad I didn’t get the Kindle.”**

“I write more and I recall the good times when I wrote with a fountain pen. I need something to slow me down and to keep me focussed on the writing.”

Paolo had it right on the money.
I felt the same way ever since I got the Lamy 2000.
Does this mean that Paolo, a Palanca Award-winning, foreign-educated poet, and myself, a beer-drinking but nevertheless good-looking ragamuffin, think alike? Does this mean that we both have small minds? Does this mean that I could have a Palanca Award too, if ever I get to finish the novel I’m writing which is entitled The Great Philippine Jungle Energy Cafe?
I don’t know and I don’t intend to find out.
What I do know is that writing stuff by hand, however slow and deliberate, requires another accessory — the appropriate notebook.
For my needs and budget, I have settled on a Chinese-made, Green Apple-branded Reporter Notebook, which I’ve used to scribble notes for a draft of this blog entry.
Sold at National Bookstore for P259.00, the notebook — especially the black-colored ones — are now in short supply.
How do I know this?
My spare time nowadays is spent scouring National Bookstore branches all over the city for this notebook.
And I have been successful in only buying two so far because stocks have run out.
But then again, I’m not that worried.
I still have the Moleskine Berlin City Notebook that Alan Robles gave me as a present recently. [See: Alan Robles, Moleskine Berlin Notebook]
Except that I promised myself to only use that once I set foot on that city, the location of the Bauhaus Museum, which sells items inspired by the art movement, including the Lamy 2000.
Hope that doesn’t take too long.
I’ve been longing to say “I am a jelly donut” in German for years. [See: I am a Jelly Donut]
*From the Give Credit Where It Is Due Dept. The Writing Dodge was a phrase I first read in Coming to Terms, a collection of columns of William Safire for the New York Times. [See: William Safire]

**Kindle and Lamy 2000 ownership is not mutually exclusive. Come on, Prof. Manalo. [See: Five reasons why Filipinos should get Kindle 3]