Penmanship and Other Stories by Butch Dalisay

“He opened his book and stared at the margins and his forefinger traced the squiggle of her laughter there.”
-from the short story At the Booklaunch by Jose  Y. Dalisay.

There are no introductions needed for a writer of Butch Dalisay’s stature.



I held a copy of this book at the bedside table the dawn after our 1st wedding anniversary while playing an acoustic Spotify playlist. I think I played the “Your Favorite Coffee Shop” playlist with 1.2 million followers.

Like the refreshing and happy day that came before it, this book did not disappoint. I devoured each page hungrily and wondered why it was priced at 80 pesos in an SM Taytay book sale.

Have I gone ancient or did I somehow find the elixir of bookstores that showcase award winning Filipino authors at such proletarian rates? I mean, it was on that same pile that I found an anthology of one-act plays that are Palanca-awarded priced at less than 80 pesos!

This book is worth so much more than the price tag on it. I marveled at the innuendoes that never happened yet happened in Matilda’s Dessert, the impending doom and danger that beheld Protacio in Delivery, the sort of perverted betrayal in Ybarra, and the very delectable stupor that the Author faced in At the Booklaunch which had a humor that will not be lost to grammar nazis. Of course, there’s the landmark story Penmanship which really indicated the writer’s deep interest for fountain pens. He practically romanticized the pen and surrounded it with people.

“He caught a blob of ink on the tip of the nib with his thumb. Old pens did that, when they were nearly empty, or when you took them up in airplanes, not having been designed to fly… The Parker Vacumatic glinted in the room light, poised to strike. It was ringed with bands of gold, and promised a wealth of words. The merest pressure on its nib could deepen an emotion.”

My breath caught in each line. I was in deep awe of how solidly it was written. There was so much respect after I finished reading it. One and a half sitting (and I can’t tell you what brought about the half sitting here!)… It was simple, but one would know the painstaking expertise it took to craft the words in such a manner, to paint landscapes without going technical over the details, and to just evoke emotions out of something as unobtrusive as an ancient fountain pen.

You don’t usually find beautiful words like that lying around. They’re usually sought in hidden independent bookstores or at the obscure shelves that are reserved for the curious.

And this book slowly eased me back to my reading habit. It’s not the one I picked up in college for completing requirements. It’s the one I had as a little girl when I had the flashlight in my hand in the middle of the night while my mom thought I was sleeping. Those were the days when you don’t label things you enjoy.

They always knew how I’d sneak past my bedtime with my books. And at this point, my husband of one year has gotten used to me sleeping with him on one side and around five books on the other. These days, I added the DSLR camera for my daily practice– a piece of advice from a nice person named Arasacha who takes such good photos.

I wrote about the book first but of course, it does not eclipse the beauty of having hit the first year with my husband last Friday. Our first wedding anniversary was an amazing experience. It’s a good and beautifully marked punctuation to the love story that’s still ongoing. Wish I had the skill of the fountain pen to articulate how beautiful he is to me. He does not seem to be aware of how many wonderful things he has done for me and what discoveries we’ve had in exploring each other up close even if we basically did not travel beyond the country. There will be a time for that.

There’s this book review, and then there are other things I need to do so let this be it for now. I plan to update this blog a bit more frequently but like being in a playground, there’s a set timer to how much you can indulge without feeling the bulge of unproductive guilt. 🙂


Identity by Milan Kundera

Since I was on bed rest since last week and prevented from doing any form of work, I reverted to my old indoor past time of reading novels. This was the first love story written by Kundera that I have read. And as always, it did not disappoint. It took me to another place and made me relate to the text at the same time. The story is about this really interesting and quirky couple who grappled with the immensity of their love for each other and the fears that ensue out of this love.

Kundera painted this couple as an interesting pair. Frequently, married life is associated with negative terms like boredom or settling for a less superior quality of life. I have been laughed at, ridiculed even, for my choice to get married by certain people. Even among married people, there is an abundant source of hate for marriage as an institution. It’s really sad and I find it very understandable why there are strong sentiments against marriage. It really is challenging. Some days, I even wonder if I can get through it. There are things that you will discover as a married woman and they are not always easy.

Kundera’s writing in here is more light compared to the other novels I have read like Unbearable Lightness of Being. This is one of his later novels, written at the sunset of his writing life. And it owns this mellowed down quality that I do not find in his earlier works. He is still brilliant as always. But this novel is not as aggressive as the previous ones. It does not diminish the beauty of it despite that. There is still the magic. I kind of half-expected that Kundera will go on a semantic discussion about certain words but he did not. Instead, he actualized a deeply internal human experience in the height of passionate love along with its ebbs and flows.

Apart from the tiny gratitude for regaining back my reading time, I really feel like there are new challenges for me this year and it’s up to me which one to tackle first and how I should face them. Whatever choice I make, the option to win is always palpable for as long as I do not give up.

Prior to specific setbacks of life, I planned like crazy, even up to the minutest details of life. And not all of those plans fell into place. I had to cross out numerous things on my planner after most of my plans were wiped out. Still, I continue to refine my old plans into new plans and hope for the best. Because in the middle of all that orderly planning is the grace of God to breathe more opportunities, opportunities that are quite exclusively provided to a life that multiplies its time with efficiency.

I still believe in efficiency and processes even when life is a huge chaotic mess. I still believe that even if you can only control a minuscule subset of this planet, you can still make some sense of what you have in your hands for as long as you do your best, that rest will only really happen ultimately in death.

So… having said all that, I continue to peruse through interesting reads and turn the pages of my life into a new chapter, a chapter that I explicitly did not want to embark into out of fear. But it is a chapter into which I was forcefully thrown into because of my current health circumstances. And hopefully, when I reach the sunset of my life, I will have a life stitched by diverse but interesting chapters that actualize the fire that burns and resonates from inside of me. I am really optimistic and hopeful about the future. Today’s decisions will affect them profoundly, and hopefully for the better.