In the mid-1990’s, two circumstances converged to profoundly influence my life – I began to visit Singapore with some regularity for business reasons, and I met Jimmy Wong, proprietor of Fook Hing Trading at the Bras Basah Complex on Bain Street.
After that fortuitous encounter, I made it a point to visit Jimmy each time my office sent me to Singapore, and to procure one or two fountain pens (sometimes three!) before going about my work. My friendship with Jimmy is responsible in no small measure for the stash that I have built up in the last four decades. As I often stayed on short trips, I always had time to test my newly acquired pens on hotel stationery in the evenings, and it became a habit for me to use them to write letters to my daughter.
During the instances that I had gone there, Anjelica was evolving from grade schooler to coed, and in my last letters to her, she had already begun working as a chef in a hotel. Writing to her all that time, I had wanted to chronicle her growing years for posterity, recall the many marvelous times we spent together, describe her passage from little girl to career woman, and perhaps even acknowledge my reluctance for her to mature into an adult, inexorable though it was.
An only child, Lica and I often talked about passing on to her my many pursuits when the inevitable happens – the Batman action figure collection, the vintage glass bottles, the antique fire extinguishers, the mid-century ephemera, the coffee brewing equipment, the fountain pens, of course, and all my other interests. One always fantasizes that his progeny will want to inherit his trove of treasures.
The remarkable thing is that I never really gave her those letters, concealing them instead in a box, and hoping that, in some future melodramatic denouement, she would chance upon them in a shadowy corner when I’m gone. Even I eventually conceded it was mawkishly sentimental, and so sometime after Lica got married, I turned over the entire pile to her.
One of them, which I penned in January 27, 2008 in less than sterling script, kind of sums up the overarching theme of those missives. Here’s the text:
My dearest Lica,
I write this letter while I’m away from you and your mother, visiting Singapore for a meeting with my boss at 9:30 AM tomorrow, after which I will take the flight back home. Hence, I will only be away for a little over a day. I was, however, reluctant to leave the two of you even for just a while. At 20 years old, you are quickly transitioning from student to working woman, and I fear that my days of treating you like a child are rapidly fading away.
Nowadays, you drive yourself to Miriam College, except on Fridays when I pick you up at 9:00 PM from JZone at St. Francis Square, and Saturdays, when I pick you up at 6:00 PM from school. I rather enjoy picking you up, because we have time to talk on the way home (assuming you’re not in one of your moods), and because I realize that soon enough, another guy will be picking you up. I really don’t know how I can give you up to anyone.
I’m writing this letter using a Montblanc Cool Blue StarWalker, a new pen I picked up tonight before checking into the hotel. Hopefully, you will eventually use this pen as a writer yourself, just as you use my other things. Some two weeks ago, I gave you one of my watches – a Guess metal-strapped watch with a lavender face – and we stopped by the Alexis jewelry shop in Mega Mall to have it adjusted for your wrist. Both of us prefer silver metal watches, and you are starting to like bigger faces. I’m glad you do, because I must have about 10 watches that I would like you to inherit, wear, and take care of.
I have so many things that I want to pass on to you, but beyond that, I also hope you will inherit my love for reading, writing, and perhaps a bit of collecting, and being sentimental about historical things. When you finally read this letter, I hope you’ll remember me through the many things I will leave behind to remind you of our times together.
I love you,
All fathers relish the hope that their only daughter will take after them, acquire their hobbies, and never, ever leave the hearth and home. I think I was able to at least successfully pen-able her, so that’s a one-out-of-three score. As for my other interests, we do spend an inordinate amount of time exploring coffee shops in parts unknown, going on walking tours of early-1900’s buildings in Binondo, and reading our respective choice of literature in quiet moments. But as for the action figures, I doubt that she’ll say, like Bruce Wayne in the darkness of his manor on a pale moonlit night, “Yes father, I shall become a bat.”
Lica now has her own small hoard of beginner pens, but nothing really stops her from occasionally dipping her hand into my cache, or picking out a particularly attractive shade of ink, which runs into variations of teal at the moment. One of these days, she just might grab that Cool Blue StarWalker to take down notes on her journal. Or maybe write a letter to her old man.
Written by Augusto Toledo II
Check out his collection of memorabilia on Past is Prologue!