2021 is over, and we have 12 fresh months of convincing ourselves that our next fountain pen purchase will be our last for the year (no it won’t be). But before we start making our wallets weep as we find our inner pen peace disturbed anew, here is a roundup of some local and global fountain pen-related news that got us Filipino penthusiasts talking last year.
(Jika and Ryan of The Pen Noobs Podcast contributed to this list.)
Tomoe River Paper changes owners
The Tomoe River Paper scare sent lovers of the thin Japanese paper scrambling for stocks. Amidst uncertainty, Hobonichi assured buyers that they had enough supply for their 2022 lineup. Sakae, which distributes products made with Tomoe River Paper, launched its own fountain pen-friendly line Iroful Paper
But TRP is still alive after manufacturer Sanzen bought the brand rights from Tomoegawa in a $2.64m deal in October, giving birth to what is currently dubbed as Tomoe River successor. Initial reviews even indicate that it could be better than the original.
After hearing little from the first homegrown fountain pen ink brand for most of 2020, the Kaiser-Gabriel duo is back. Troublemaker Inks had two limited edition ink releases in late 2020 and early 2021, followed by a quickly-sold-out rerelease of their shading inks and classic colors,
The Cebu-based team also shifted from direct-to-consumer operations to focusing on producing stocks to retailers locally and globally.
“We understand that pre-pandemic, the absurdly short buy windows were a pain to time and might have left a sour taste in some of our prospective customers, so I hope that this new way will alleviate some of that,” Gabriel Arnado, Troublemaker Ink co-founder, told Pen Noob for a special report. “Even still, our inks are relatively hard to acquire due to our small size.”
There’s a new podcast in town
Pandemic listening became a thing with the rise of listening apps and features. Twitter has Spaces. Clubhouse invites were also hot for a time. And some interesting podcasts
The Pen Noobs Podcast is not here because they co-wrote this list (I’m writing this part- Ronin). But it is refreshing to finally listen to a fountain pen podcast with a Filipino perspective. Educators Jika and Ryan started the pod in March and the duo has since released 19 episodes for the year. It features light, structured discussions about the hobby, perfect to listen to while catching up on your journaling.
Stationery streaming is a thing here too
The past year also proved that anything can be live-streamed outside the usual gaming, selling, and notorious hot tub broadcasts. Journal streaming picked up more, with Unisse of Sushi Plans being one of the consistent streamers from the Philippines matching the capacities of Western counterparts.
Plus, there’s an occasional Genshin Impact playthrough stream.
Fountain Pen Network-Philippines’ (FPN-P) community engagement thrived despite having no big virtual events this year. It hosted another round of giveaways and fundraisers for different causes. We like how balanced the community is, permitting service-oriented and creative avenues. The only thing left is for them to find a way to get us to be physically active.
Here’s a quick rundown of FPN-P’s engagements this year
- The Banjo Box challenge – a make-your-own budget version of luxury Stationery Box challenge (where we lost count of the entries)
- Scare Micah 2021– a short horror story writing contest that got 77 entries. Ronin of Pen Noob won third place here.
- Pen auctions for Typhoon Odette relief ops – More than 20 pens were auctioned late in December for the benefit of Save the Children’s relief campaign for areas hit by Typhoon Odette.
Olympic gold high
After weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz bagged the Philippines’ first ever Olympic gold, commemorative items for the games’ Tokyo edition became a hot topic, including fountain pens. Naturally, some of the prices were jacked up, and it was not immediately clear that there were two versions distributed: the boxed version is not the same as the one found in blister packs, despite some resellers’ claims.
2021’s most hated pen
The new version of the iconic Parker 51 was released this year, but the hefty price tag quickly drew comparisons with the vintage counterpart. Price aside, however, the pen is not actually that bad. But yes, pull cap beat
Jowo, glass nibs, Montblancgate, and Moonman/Mahjohn change
Users found an issue with some Jowo nib housings, prompting a statement from the manufacturer.
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Glass pens and metal-tipped versions were big in Japan in 2021 and the Philippine market sure felt it, but they’re not exactly wallet-friendly. Might be worth giving a try if the budget allows for it this year.
As for Montblanc, it allegedly released a “new” color that is actually a renamed classic.
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Then there’s Moonman changing its name to Majohn in an intellectual property feud with Kaweco. It is quite a long read.
Reco: Year of the Local
We cap off this list with some local finds that you should try, if you haven’t yet. Since our pen needs are often outsourced and difficult to get, the local community has stepped up in providing stationery, inks, cases, and pens that are quite competitive
First, there’s Abbey Sy and Paper Society, More options are always good as they say! Vinta also released limited edition inks in time for the holidays. Then there were collaborations between Kasama and nib meister John Lim and Endless Pens and Micah Robles for exclusively-designed fountain pens, and Endless Pens with Lekz Umali for washi tapes.
If Discord is also your thing, there is Plumang Pinoy, a server where, well, we all talk about pens a lot that it can be quite easy to get lost in the conversation. There’s also an internal giveaway channel that you can join, as long as you have something to let go of in return.
But as always, keep an eye on new local producers for notebooks, leather cases, and even inks. 2021 for example saw New Brew for inks, Kolhabi for pen cases, and Kumo Papel for notebooks. Who knows what local budol will come this year?
And that’s it from our end! Here’s to keeping our inner peace this year. It is also election season, so maybe there’s a way to put our hobby to good use.