Author: Pao

When It Rains

I’ve been getting help recently for anxiety and depression which was exacerbated by the sickness of our beloved cat and the recent death of one of my best friends. Grief is a strange thing. I’ve been well-acquainted with it in my life, but then I realize that the path to recovery is seldom straightforward and it’s certainly not something that happens quickly. No matter how I sometimes feel that I’ve left behind a difficult chapter, something happens to remind me that these things can linger. When my mom died, I remember clearly how one day I was sitting in her room, carrying the bag that she had with her in the hospital on the day she died. Her eyeglasses were neatly folded up among her things. It was then that I really stopped to look around her room and realize that it’s frozen in time. She had been unceremoniously cut out of the scene, and I’m left with all the things that had been part of her existence.

All the little knick knacks that she found cute and put on her library’s table. All the clothes she meticulously picked and took care of. All of the things that had once amused her or given her joy. All the journals that were her companion when she wanted to pour out her thoughts. Everything that had once mattered to her. Left behind.

I haven’t been writing a lot or making art these past few months because for some reason they trigger my anxiety. I’m being more respectful of how I feel and taking time off. Just the act of recognizing that something’s wrong and that I needed help took a lot of time, as hard-won victories usually do. It’s going to be a long process but I hope that I can make it out of this dark valley soon.

Childhood Reads: The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn

Got a few ink samples of the new collaboration between Robert Oster Signature Inks and Endless Pens – Cozy Comforts Inks! I made a beeline for the Old Book Smell sample because the color reminded me of one of my favorite books when I was a child: The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. The color of the book was exactly this. Dark red with a bit of orange in it. It was my first hard bound book and, to my young eyes, it was incredibly beautiful. My favorite part of the story was the one where Tom basically conned the other neighborhood kids onto whitewashing the fence for him and even paying him little trinkets and bites out of their apples for the dubious favor. I thought it was a naughty thing to do, but still funny. In this post-truth reality, reading this scene would have taken on new meaning for me.

Ink Swab: Vinta Lakambini 1950 (The Maiden)

I’m not a huge pink fan so I decided to test this ink a little later, but I think Vinta does pink inks really well. This is Vinta’s Lakambini 1950 (The Maiden), the name and the color is based on a Lola Basyang story about a slave’s daughter who won a prince’s hand in marriage by overcoming the king’s challenges through her wit and cunning. Yet another Lola Basyang story I don’t know! Oh my goodness, I feel bad about that. Lola Basyang’s radio drama show became popularized in the 1950’s.

I like the base color of this ink, it’s a very mellow pastel pink. Very easy on the eyes and has really cute shading. You can see some hints of soft purple in places where ink pools and around the outlines of some strokes. I like that it’s not bubblegum pink, but a softer, more readable pink. Surprisingly, this ink dries fast too, at about 15 seconds even with a stub nib on Tomoe River paper. Be warned though that this is a very shimmery ink. There’s no discernible sheen on it, but the shimmer is very pronounced. You can really see the gold shimmer on the paper even without having to catch light at an angle. You can also see the shimmer on the nib’s fins right away. It’s best used with pens that are easy to disassemble for cleaning. Or if you like the base color with just a hint of shimmer here and there, don’t shake the bottle before filling your pen. Let the gold shimmer settle to the bottom first before you fill your pen.

It’s also a bit surprising that the color doesn’t spread out when wet. It’s not water proof, but the color can hold up in water better than most non-water proof inks, as you can see in the writing sample above.

Overall, it’s a sweet and whimsical color and I think the Fairytale lineup really wouldn’t be complete without it. Below are some close ups of the writing sample.

You can go to Vinta’s Facebook Page or their website for more information on their new Fairytale Collection.

Ink Swab: Vinta Saysay 1925 (Mystical Eve)

Saysay 1925 (Mystical Eve) is one of my favorites in Vinta’s new Fairytale collection. It’s a beautiful black ink which leans towards blue, like a very dark blue that crossed the spectrum to black. It reminded me of the speedball ink that we used for calligraphy back in high school. When it dries on paper, it’s matte not shiny. It’s a very rich, very beautiful black ink. Then when the light hits it just right, boom, beautiful silver shimmer and copper sheen lights up the dark ink. It’s not extremely sheen-y, just the edges glow copper under certain lights. I would say that it’s a very nondescript black ink until you close closely and see the complexity of the color. It’s like galaxies of stars at night. When water is applied to it, a beautiful combination of teal, purple, pink can easily be coaxed out. I like this one a lot. It’s so dreamy. It reminds me of beautifully clear, cloudless nights when the stars can be seen on the sky.

The color and name was based from Lola Basyang’s “Rosamistica” which is about a kindhearted orphan girl who was rewarded when she gave her last centavo to a mother and child in need. The stories were published in Liwayway magazine on 1925.

The flow of this ink is moderate. I’m relieved it’s not a dry-flowing ink because I wanted to use it in my medium nibs for everyday writing. It dries a tab slower than the other inks in the Fairytale collection, at almost 20 seconds using a 1.1mm stub on Tomoe River paper.

Of course, the usual reminders about shimmer inks apply. Only use shimmer inks in pens that are easy to clean, preferrably something that can be taken apart when you wash it, and don’t leave it too long in a pen without using it to avoid clogs.

Here are close up photos of the writing sample:

Preorders for the Fairytale collection are ongoing now. Head on to their Facebook page or website to learn more.

Ink Swab: Vinta Pagtangi 1958 (Clouds of Grey)

The next ink I tried from Vinta’s Fairytale collection is Pagtangi 1958 (Clouds of Grey). The color was inspired by a Lola Basyang story called “Kastilyong Gawa sa Bakal”, which is about a young princess trapped in an iron castle. Hence, the greenish-grey color. 1958 is the year that the first Lola Basyang film was released by Sampaguita Films.  I can’t believe how many Lola Basyang stories I don’t know! I thought I was familiar with a lot of them but apparently not.

Among all the inks in the collection, this didn’t immediately catch my attention when I swabbed all the colors, but when you use it for writing, it really does grow on you. It’s a fascinating ink that doesn’t fit comfortably in just one color. The base color is a light grey that is almost greenish in person. Under some lights, it can be a soft, almost pastel green. It has very expressive shading that is sometimes pink, sometimes purple. So when you try to describe it, just saying “grey” really doesn’t do the color justice. It really does remind me of grey skies during sunset–sometimes it’s grey but with warm spots here and there, the the subtle pink fading away as the day ends. It’s accentuated by subtle gold shimmer. I think I already like the base color as it is, but the shimmer does add a very dreamy touch to it.

It dries pretty fast too, about 15 seconds with a stub, more or less. I was expecting it to take a long time to dry but it didn’t really need a lot of time. It’s also pretty well-behaved on the papers I tried it with (Tomoe River and Midori). The usual reminders about shimmer inks apply, of course. Only use shimmer inks in pens that are easy to clean, preferrably something that can be taken apart when you wash it, and don’t leave it too long in a pen without using it to avoid clogs.

Overall, this color I think is suitable for daily writing. It has a very dreamy quality to it, but it’s saturated enough to be readable, and the subtleties in the shading makes it such an interesting ink to look at on paper. Especially if you use good paper that really shows off shading and shimmer.

Here’s a closer look at the writing samples:

The Fairytale Collection will be released on February 28, 2022. Check out Vinta’s website for more details.

(DISCLAIMER: I received this ink free from Vinta. Read my About page to learn more about my review posts.)

Ink Swab: Vinta Lakbay 1861 (Sea and Sky)

The first ink I tried from Vinta’s new Fairytale Collection is Lakbay 1861 (Sea and Sky). The name is from a Lola Basyang story called “Kapatid ng Tatlong Maria”. The 1861 in the name refers to the year that Severino Reyes, the writer of Lola Basyang stories, was born. I haven’t read this story yet! I must look it up. The base color of the ink if pale blue with just a hint of green to make it a faint teal. It also has red shimmer on it. I like the softness of this color, it’s very relaxing to the eyes. The base color is nice shading on it, I think the red shimmer gives an illusion of a pinkish shading. It looks very magical, like the gown of a fairy godmother. The darker spots show off the teal color of the ink, and the lighter spots are almost powder blue by comparison. The whole page that I wrote looks almost pearlescent in person.

The drying time is pretty fast, even for a 1.1mm nib, at about 15-20 seconds. On the papers that I tried (Tomoe River and Midori), it doesn’t feather or bleed through. The normal caveat for shimmer inks apply–it’s advisable to use it on pens that are easy to maintain and clean, don’t let it sit unused for long periods of time.

Overall, I think this ink is super cute and it’s a whimsical color, but the saturation still makes it readable. I used it for titles and headers in my planner, and it really pops out of the page, it’s so cute.

The Fairytale Collection will be available on Vinta Inks’ website on February 28.

(DISCLAIMER: I received this ink free from Vinta. Read my About page to learn more about my review posts.)


Today’s journal entry is about the culture of impunity in our country. Last Friday, I woke up to some distressing news from a fellow member of our pen group. His sister, a healthcare worker who had established health centers in Mindanao among other work for the poor in the area, was arrested. The circumstances of her arrest is something that sounds so familiar because it has happened to many people before. People who serve poor communities, labor leaders, etc etc etc all have very similar stories–violent arrests, dubious search warrants, being denied access by family and counsel, just a lot of blatant human rights violations. I cannot imagine having a sibling forcibly taken under such suspicious circumstances and to not know where she’s taken. I have never in my life lost contact with my brothers. I have never been separated from them in this way. I can only imagine the anguish the family is going through right now.

It saddens me that we again find ourselves in this situation, when there’s so much in our history that should have warned us of the red flags and should have pointed us to a better path. It’s time for us to realize that the violation of one person’s human rights puts all of our rights in danger. It’s time to ask important questions and to care about holding our government accountable. It’s time to reject leaders who do nothing but weaken our democracy and insist it’s “for our own good”. Someday the violence will visit us in our own homes, and by then it will be too late to care.

Yet Another Rabbit Hole

I’ve recently caved in and bought my first mechanical keyboard, a Royal Kludge RK 100. A lot of my friends are into mechanical keyboards and I’ve always been curious about it since I saw some of them modding their keyboards and changing keycaps. So I bought a black RK100 and then bought a set of XDA-profile keycaps on Shopee as replacement. I liked the color because a lot of the keys are off-white with brown characters. I liked it better than the plain black keys the keyboard came with. Also, I like these kinds of little projects. If there’s anything that can be changed or updated in something, you can be sure I’ll figure out how to do that.

After a lot of delays, my shimmer keycaps were finally delivered today. Because it’s my first time to change keycaps, I had already watched videos on how to do it and laid out the keys so they’ll be easier to transfer. There’s always that one point in a project when you look at all the little parts around you and say welp, what did I just do? I remember the last time that happened was when I took apart my Delonghi espresso machine to upgrade the steam wand from the factory wand to a Rancilio Silvia. After I’ve taken the thing apart, I stopped to look around the kitchen table and panicked just a teeny bit because there were parts all over. I have a system to keep track of all the parts, of course, but the sight of everything just dissembled and in pieces made me a little nervous. Of course my espresso machine survived the tinkering and is still doing well until today.

Mechanical keyboards are fascinating. I accidentally pulled out a few switches in the process of removing keys and of course I immediately thought I will be changing switches soon. I’m currently using RK’s factory brown switches, which are pretty good, but of course I want to check out other switches too, in the future. Taking the keys out one by one, sweeping and cleaning the board, then putting the new keycaps in is pretty fun and therapeutic. You just focus on doing one thing, and you let your hand go through the motions. It’s calming.

After a few minutes of gentle pulling and pushing, I was done. I plugged the keyboard back in, powered up my computer and checked if everything was still working and all keys were doing what they were supposed to do. Everything was working fine.

My new keycaps are called Shimmering Keycaps. The profile is XDA, which is pretty different from the original profile of the original keycaps that came with the keyboard. Everything is flat and all the same size, and they’re low-profile. I have to admit that at first I wasn’t too crazy about the profile because it felt harder to find my fingers on the board when touch-typing. I really liked how they looked, though. I liked the short and chunky profile, and of course I liked the colors I picked. They keys reminded me of little Boggle blocks, they’re so cute. After a few minutes of typing, I adjusted to the size and uniformity of the profile and am back to my usual typing speed. I feel comfortable with it now. I’m really happy I preordered my second custom keycaps in the XDA profile too. I got the Izu Babi caps from Zoot It Up and almost changed it to Cherry after trying out these keycaps, but I thought I’d give it a few days to see if I will adjust. I decided not to change my order anymore and keep the XDA profile.

There’s so much to learn in a new hobby, and I think I enjoy that part of the process most. I like to learn things slow, discover them at my own pace. I’m lucky to have my nephew and a few friends who patiently answer my questions about mechanical keyboards, because I do like to ask a lot of questions, but for the most part I also like to discover things on my own. There’s so much to learn about mechanical keyboards and a whole new lingo to adapt to, but it’s all quite fun.

Next project–change the switches! I’m trying to find out what I like first before I buy anything, though. The XDA keycaps reduced the noise of my keyboard, but I think I like it thockier. I’ve read up on a few modifications to achieve that. Sigh. Humans and our rabbit holes.

Rough Weekend

We had quite a rough start of the weekend yesterday. We were just enjoying a quiet Saturday, having early lunch at home and watching Netflix. My husband’s new toy cabinet just got delivered and we were planning which toys will go where. Then I went in our room and found our cat, Blair, licking blood off her chest. Since her cancer diagnosis, we were taking care that her tumors will not develop lesions, but here we were. Despite our best efforts, it’s happened. My husband rushed her to the vet where her wounds were cleaned and dressed. She was prescribed antobiotics and anti-inflammatory medication. I wrapped her up in a bandage so that she will not take her gauze off, but switched to a shirt later to make her less uncomfortable.

This is an ordeal for all of us. Seeing her uncomfortable, knowing that cancer is slowly wreaking havoc on her little body, it’s killing me and my husband. Someday I know we will get to that point where we may need to ask the vet to put her to sleep. I can’t imagine having to face that terrible decision someday, but I don’t want her to suffer. For now she’s moving and eating like normal, except that she has a large bump on her chest. That large tumor stretched out her skin, so the vet thinks that the skin ruptured when she licked it. If it becomes apparent that she is in pain, the humane thing to do is to euthanize her. The very thought of it is terrifying for me.

I remember the last time that a pet’s death caused me immense pain. She was a little Japanese Spitz, we named her Alanis. When she died, I honestly felt that I could not love a pet again. Pets live much shorter lives than we do, and their death is something that we should be emotionally prepared for. They light up our lives for a short time before they leave. When Alanis died, I questioned wanting to open my heart again to a little creature who I will grieve for when they pass away. But then along came Blair. We got her when we were just newlyweds, and showered her with so much love and attention. I realized then that even if they’re in our lives for a short period, the love and joy that they add to our lives are worth it. Would I wish that I didn’t have all that Blair brought into my life in order to spare myself the pain of grief in the future? If I could have a choice of having her with us and facing this grief and pain in the future, or not knowing her and not having to go through any of this, I still would choose her. I choose the moments when I bury my face in her neck, when I would smell her and kiss her soft cheeks. I choose the times when I would wake up and find her sleeping beside me, purring softly. I choose all those nights when she and my husband are snoring on our bed while I work. I choose to see her spaced out, watching birds beside the window. I choose the good moments even if they come with bad ones.

Cats with cancer don’t have the best prognosis, but as long as she’s with us, we’ll do our best to fill her life with love. From start to end, we’ll be her humans. That’s the best thing we could do for such a wonderful, loving, trusting creature.