Fountain pens in Manila – a primer.

The cat asked me where to find affordable fountain
pens in Manila, and I decided to be a public servant and make a

I believe Star Paper Corporation
is one of the local distributors for Parker, Rotring, Waterman and Cross. I’ve
noticed it’s their name on the receipt that I carry to the National Bookstore
counter. Since discovering how much easier (and cheaper) it is to purchase pens
online I try to limit myself to window shopping. Paying full retail irks me.
Still, there are good buys around, especially if you’re in try-and-see

I’ve yet to discover a vintage pen
seller. Either we never wrote much or they’re all in some grandmother’s chest of
wonders, sharing mothball fumes with
The antique shops I’ve found that carry pens have a) bad pens and b) bad,
ridiculously expensive pens.

and Schneider make good first-time pens. Inoxcrom is a Spanish brand, and they
manufacture for Agatha Ruiz de la Prada and Jordi Labanda (stationery lines
carried by Fully Booked and its sister shops). They have reliable,
smooth-writing steel nibs, regardless of price, and are all cartridge-fill.
They’ve got cheerful plastic, short pens that extend when the cap’s posted,
lacquer over brass, and even high-end sterling bodies with 14k gold nibs. Their
student pens are around 200 pesos. The more respectable-looking ones range from
700 to a little over a thousand. The Inoxcrom Wall Street can compete in looks
and writing quality with pens four times more expensive. Cartridges are the
short international type; these are interchangeable with Waterman, Cross,
Rotring and Schneider (and many other pen brands not available here).

Schneider has cheap and fun student pens. In
Manila, they’re carried by Office Warehouse. (The branches in Landmark Makati
and Rockwell seem to always carry stock.) The Schneider Zippi has a one-piece
plastic body, a rubber grip and an untipped nib (it’s made by folding over the
tip of the steel nib, like the cheaper fountain pens of yore). The Inx Mechanix
or Inx Marathon has a tipped nib. The Base fountain pen has a clear window so
you can check how much ink you have left, and room for one more cartridge. It’s
the most expensive fountain pen they have, at almost 500 pesos. Schneider
cartridges come in black and blue, and are available in packs of

If you’re not a student, and do not
wish to relive that time of your life through writing products, then you should
take advantage of the never-ending Aurora sale. They are on 50% off and seem to
have been so since 1998. (Kidding.) A few National Bookstore outlets (Megamall,
Shangri-la, Glorietta 1) carry the Aurora Idea and a few Ipsilon leftovers (all
orange). Parker, of course, is everyone’s go-to for corporate Christmas gifts
and you cannot believe the crush at their counters starting November. I do see
people buying rollerballs and ballpoints more often than fountain pens. The
Parker Frontier fountain pen is widely available, and so is the Rialto. All have
medium nibs. I like using the Parker Frontier as an eyedropper (meaning one uses
an eyedropper or a syringe to place ink directly in the body of the pen), but it
does have a steel section that might corrode over time. Parker and Aurora
cartridges are interchangeable.

Rotring Core has many fans here, especially among the geek community. It’s like
the G-shock of fountain pens. It’s a little over a thousand, but it’s money well
spent: the Core can double as a weapon. The Rotring Artpen (not the calligraphy
pen) is iridium-tipped, and if you aren’t bothered by very long pens then it’s
good value too, at around 700 pesos. You can still find extra-fine up to
double-broad nibs, but you have to be extra-patient, and not mind the
salespeople’s stares so much.

Waterman Phileas is one of the best fountain pens you can own, and it’s
relatively inexpensive, even at full retail.

Vector, Schneider Inx Marathon, an Inoxcrom with a metal body, rubberized cap,
and almost flexible nib, Parker Frontier in green, Schneider Base.

short pen with metal body, plastic cap and rubber grip; Inoxcrom clear red
plastic pen; Schneider Zippi; Parker Frontier in purple; Inoxcrom “Little Devil”
plastic fountain pen; Agatha Ruiz de la Prada short pen. All are

Solo, Waterman Phileas, Lamy Safari Vista, Aurora Ipsilon, Aurora Idea.

Lamy used to be more widely available,
but the only place I see it now is Quill, the specialty shop at the Eurovilla
building near Palanca Street in Makati. The Lamy Safari is sturdy and reliable,
and writes without a fuss, and should run for public