COVID-19 has forced most of the population to stay at home. which brought out the inner green thumbs and frustrated chefs among those who could sustain a hobby in this pandemic.

But there’s one more thing that everyone discovered in isolation: people miss chit chats. To be specific, people miss listening in on conversations. That is one of the reasons why podcasts saw a rise amidst the ongoing health crisis.

Podcasts aren’t exactly new in the Philippines: some are recordings of radio broadcasts while others push for advocacies such as women empowerment in sports. However, this recent growth in podcasts means that there’s bound to be one new channel that will discuss your interests.

For Filipino penthusiasts, that would be The Pen Noobs Podcast.

Hosted by teachers and “just two pen noobs” Jika and Ryan, the first local stationary-themed podcast offers a casual guide to fountain pen basics such as pen choices and “new(b) discoveries.” Here’s how they got started.

Disclaimer: While we share the same name, and The Pen Noobs Podcast are independent of each other.

Down the rabbit hole

Jika already had a bit of podcasting experience before she put up The Pen Noobs Podcast

“In 2018, the noble intention to minimize plastic pen consumption sort of set a precedent for most of us in our teaching department to get into the hobby,” explained 32-year-old Jika. “By 2020, a lot of our department’s members were already in it. But one of my closest friends, Ryan, wasn’t yet. So when he told me that he was interested in a fountain pen over the first quarantine period, I got really excited.”

Ryan with his Hobonichi A6. He just started the hobby in 2020.

By this time, 29-year-old Ryan was “trying to fill in a void.” Then “Instagram’s algorithm played its tricks/magic” with a fountain pen ad. “It took me 2 weeks thinking about it but I finally bit the bullet during the last week of April and bought myself a TWSBI ECO pen,” he added.

Read: Pen-demic collecting

“The Pen Noobs Podcast is essentially a result of those two highlights: one of my closest work friends just got into the hobby, and I just got into podcasting,” explained Jika.

Her other podcast was about the Theory of Knowledge (an entry-level/teenager-friendly course on epistemology, she noted). Hosted with a  co-teacher, she learned to do everything from making show notes to editing episodes.

Recording hobby conversations

If you want to see the pens they’re talking about, video recordings of their episode are also available on YouTube.

Jika realized that she and Ryan would talk about pens, inks, and journals whenever the students they co-handled online this academic year went on their work breaks. “Honestly, the only thing missing was to record those conversations.”

So she pitched the idea to Ryan in February: why not make a podcast for pen noobs? Her previous podcast experience and their shared love for nibs made it easy for Ryan to jump in on their pet pen project.

“What sparked my interest to do a podcast with Jika was our endless conversations about fountain pens, inks and stationeries,” said Ryan. “It also made me remember how I started with fountain pens and wished I had people to talk to or listen to who were also getting into the hobby.”

On March 30, their first episode went online.

Podcasting in the pandemic

“To be honest, we started this podcast with no expectations,” said Ryan. “I just want to keep on talking about and producing content about pens and stationery,” added Jika.

This humble ambition and mindset kept the two teachers grounded that according to Jika, “I don’t get bogged down by the smallest adversities.”

The duo managed to put up their pod, “oddly enough” with little challenges, she said. “I don’t think there’s been a tough part because this podcast is our–or at least, my–respite from the stresses that the pandemic and the sudden shift to online teaching had on us in 2020 to 2021.”

Jika’s Lamy 2000 and TWSBI ECO Cement Grey, highlighting two color changing inks: Platinum Citrus Black and Vinta Armada. The duo talks about pen, ink, and paper combinations in their podcast’s first few episodes.

Thankfully, the local community’s response was positive.  “Every moment so far has been motivating and nothing too worrisome has posed a considerable challenge,” she added. Recently, they even got mentioned on The Pen Addict’s podcast.

“I’m not a fan of listening to myself, at times I cringe, even until now,” admitted Ryan. “But I think my enthusiasm towards fountain pens, inks and stationeries outweighed that awkwardness listening to myself.”

Jika and Ryan share their noob adventures on Instagram as well, like Jika’s swatch notebook here.

The duo will get busier starting June, as preparation for the next academic year sets in. But they already banked some enough to keep their twice-a-month uploads going.

“Our content is going to amp up by June or July 2021, I’m sure of it,” teased Jika. “But we can’t reveal too much because spoilers.”

Ryan kept his clues generic as well, saying that they will start having guests over and experiment with their format.

New(b) beginnings

“We don’t know where this podcast can or will take us,” said Ryan.  “But we will remain authentic to the concept of this podcast — just friends hanging out and talking about our love for stationeries.

As for Jika, she quoted from her March 30 journal entry:

“I want to have interviews with big wigs (like local makers, podcasters, youtubers, and penfluencers) eventually. Or have pen kit giveaways. Or just, you know, just talk about and do something I love and can learn from along the way. For this, I am grateful.”

But will they ever stop being pen noobs? Is there a pen that will make them graduate from the newbie stage with honors?

Pen Noobs for life

Jika is into Sailors, featured in the photo after a pen flush

Jika is into Sailors, featured in the photo after a pen flush

“Being that Ryan and I are teachers by profession, we have the mindset that there’s always something new to learn,” explained Jika. “I’m quite set on the idea that someone is likely a “noob for life” and that’s something to be proud of. I don’t think that the day when I finally get my Pilot Custom Urushi Vermillion (my grail) would change that.”

For her, “it takes guts to teach knowing that your knowledge is limited–that you’re a noob, and in this case, a pen noob–in the first place. But it’s always exhilarating to find that others are willing to involve themselves in the learning process with you.”

Ryan is in the process of curating different brands in his collection. Here are his recent acquisitions from the Kaweco AL Sport line.

Ryan is in the process of curating different brands in his collection. Here are his recent acquisitions from the Kaweco AL Sport line.

Ryan, on the other hand, said someone can consider oneself as a noob even after 10 years of experience. “. I think the label “pen noob” in itself is quite subjective and the level of “pen noobs-ness” may vary from person to person.”

“Calling yourself a noob makes you open to learn more and know more. I think one way or another we will be a noob at something — whether it be a new pen, a new ink or new paper,” he added. “There’s so much more to know, discover and experience and we hope we carry that kind of mindset so that the spark, joy and passion for the hobby remains alive.”

Jika fixing a Sailor MF nib’s misaligned tines herself, a move that is not for the feint of heart.

“In our classrooms, we’re deemed almost infallible by the kids, but in our podcast, we can show that we’re humbled and willing to be humbled to make learning happen,” Jika wrapped up.

“We’re noobs–newbies, so they say–in more ways than one and we capitalize on and are proud of that.”

The Pen Noobs Podcast is available on all audio streaming sites and on YouTube. New episodes are uploaded every 15th and 30th of the month. Got a pitch for them? Slide into their DMs on Instagram  @thepennoobspodcast.