Moleskine in Manila: Butch Dalisay

By Karla Maquiling

In this Q&A, multi-awarded Filipino writer and English professor Jose "Butch" Dalisay Jr. talks about his romance with the Moleskine and his fountain pens (he has a vast collection; in fact, one of his short stories, "Penmanship," is about a fountain pen) and how he reconciles this pen-and-paper lifestyle with his digital life.

Readers of Dalisay, who writes a Sunday column for the Philippine Star and another for technology magazine T3, know him as a big techie. In fact, he was one of the first in the Philippines to own the MacBook Air, bought by his sister  in the States and couriered to Manila.

Have you always been into technology?

guess so. That probably comes from a childhood dream of becoming a
scientist. As you know I went to the Philippine Science High School.
Unfortunately I couldn’t hack the math, so this is my way of keeping
the flame alive.

As I was telling TJ
Manotoc on TV the other day–he was interviewing me about the new
MacBook Air – for me, technology is a way of cheating
time. This means that I can do and experience today what a lot of
people will be glad to wait a few years for. And the older I get, the
more acute that feeling becomes. I have great faith in technology. Of
course, I know all the stories about technology gone amuck or
technology becoming a god, things like that. That’s not what I mean.
I’m not a worshiper of technology. What I mean is, it’s a fascinating
story of how people and their brains can make things easier for all of
us eventually.

collect fountain pens, and like most writers you’re also into
journaling. How do you reconcile that analog lifestyle with the digital

There is a part of me that’s looking out beyond the horizon–that’s the part that deals with computers and writes for T3.
But also as somebody who was born in the fifties, I have a rather
nostalgic bent or a respect for old things that have always worked, and
pen and paper are two of those. So that ironically, or perhaps not, in
my backpack you will find the Macbook Air and you will also find a
Moleskine and a fountain pen.

I like the
Moleskine because, as I have written about, it’s the easiest thing to
write on. It flips open, it sits flat on the table. I like the strip,
the ribbon, the bookmark, the pocket. I do quite a bit of traveling so
it’s a pretty handy thing to carry. It’s still faster than booting up a

And of course, I like the
fountain pen because it writes very smoothly on the Moleskine page. I
don’t like ballpoints very much. If I don’t have the pen, then I will bring
a rollerball with me, because it kind of approximates the smoothness of
the pen.
I like the fountain pen best because of the way the ink flows and
you can achieve gradations from dark to light, and even the thickness
of the line. These are crazy things that don’t matter to nonwriters,
but they do to me, because i can almost remember the feeling that went
into a line if I see the shadings of it, the words that you wrote with a
lot of energy or anger and the ones that you lingered on.

my office you’ll find a whole container of fountain pens and I kind of
like to see which one I’m going to be taking for the day. But in my
backpack there’ll always be a laptop and my Moleskine. Those are fairly
fixed. The pens I like to choose from depending on my mood or the
occasion. Every day I just carry one in my pocket and a spare one in
the backpack, again because fountain pens notoriously run dry.

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