Jose Y. Dalisay Jr., or Penman, as his blog and  Philippine Star readers, as well as his fellow-fountain pen enthusiasts know him, is quite the collector. His 200-odd carefully selected pens are housed in glass cases, each one turned just so, their bodies, subtle details, and intricate finishing all vying for your attention. Never without a pen or two in his shirt pocket- feeling naked, otherwise- he has developed a habit of taking his pens for walks around UP Diliman campus, or whiling the time away scribbling on clean sheets of paper in between his many book projects.

Dalisay is so in love with the nostalgia and beauty of pens that once, while on a writing fellowship in Edinburgh, Scotland, he bought himself a 1938 Parker Vacumatic worth a month’s salary. Perhaps because it had eluded him all those years of stationary shops searching. Perhaps because he was in another country, honing his craft, living in a castle, and what would better immortalize such an occasion than a nifty new pen? Perhaps, even, because it was quite romantic to throw caution to the wind and spend one’s wages on something as expensive or as invaluable─depending on how one views it─as a fountain pen.

He would go on and write Penmanship, a story fueled by this purchase, because what else would one do when one is so in love with the written word, but take pen to paper?

Jose Butch Dalisay

“It was the only thing I thought I could do well enough to live on. I’d wanted to be an engineer or a scientist, but couldn’t hack the math.”

Jose Y. Dalisay Jr., a Filipino writer with numerous accolades for writing including 16 Palanca awards, has written everything from fiction to creative nonfiction, short stories to novels, film scripts to biographies, poetry to speeches. All the while, he maintains a newspaper column at the Philippine Star, teaches at the College of Arts and Letters at the University of the Philippines-Diliman, panels in workshops and literary festivals, heads the Fountain Pen Network – Philippines, and manages to squeeze in late night poker tournaments. In a short but sweet interview, he shares his views on life, his works and inspirations:

What made you decide to pursue writing as a career?

It was the only thing I thought I could do well enough to live on. I’d wanted to be an engineer or a scientist, but couldn’t hack the math.

Among all your works, which one is your most memorable, Why?

Probably the story “Penmanship,” because of how and where it was written (after I found and bought a very expensive fountain pen in Scotland).

Can you name some of your favorite books and authors?

“The Forest” by William Pomeroy; “Nine Stories” by JD Salinger; “”Ironwood” by William Kennedy; favorite authors include Bienvenido Santos and Gregorio Brillantes.

Please describe your writing process.

I start by thinking of a thing, a concrete object, or perhaps a place, and ask myself “What’s the story here?” I don’t necessarily start at the beginning. I write in long, intense stretches. I can finish my newspaper columns in a few hours, but stories typically take a week.

What are the readers like today? Are we still interested in reading?

There are a few people who are truly interested in reading, and are worth writing for.

What is something you have learned about life as a writer?

Writing is just one way to happiness. marker


Interview – Jenette Vizcocho and Dane Raymundo

Videography – Lisandro Molina and M Espeña

Editing – M Espeña

Text – Jenette Vizcocho

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Murphy Report is an independent online magazine that aims to inspire you to look up from the glare of your screens and get out into the real world.