Oct 14, 2006


In the Philippines, receiving mail was very exciting. It means it is probably from a friend, a relative, a school or something official. And it does not happen everyday.

Over there, sometimes it doesn't matter if you don't have the perfect address. You can write the person's name, then the first address line could be: Seaside of (Barangay) to indicate that the person lives near the beach of whatever coastal Barangay. It could also say "Acacia, Alambijud" referring to anyone who lives near that big Acacia tree in Alambijud.

Where I come from, when the mailman comes, he simply stands in the middle of the street and announces the names of the addressees. And one could go, "Yeah, I know that guy, I'll give that letter to him." And the letter is delivered that way. All about trust.

And then there are also care-ofs, normally written as c/o. Because my family name is not the same as my Grandfather's (He has the more popular name in that area), sometimes correspondence to me says c/o Inigo Gamelo. And everyone knows to give it to someone in my family or to a neighbor who would promptly go to my house and deliver the letter.

In high school, me and my friends would show each other letters from boys. Every Valentine's Day, we'd have a secret mailing system in school, and people could send notes to their crushes and lovers. It was so much fun(even though my sister always got more letters, b****!), and the letters seemed really sincere and sweet. Well, except for one that accused me of being a "rock in the field that doesn't knowing how to pity". Literal translation to the vernacular makes perfect sense. It was an insult that I relished.

Over here, I get my mail from my mailbox, and most of it is junk mail. Very seldom do I get something handwritten in an envelope with an interesting postage stamp to collect. Even birthday cards are not really handmade anymore. And even if it was handmade, it is probably store-bought. It is very impersonal. One of my teachers once said that a card you take time to make means more. I never really understood that. I used to think that if I don't have the time, just buy one since it's the thought that counts anyway. It turns out, it not just the presence of a thought, it's how much of a thought it is. So, I try to send handmade cards and handwritten letters, whenever possible.

Sometimes, mail here can be downright annoying. I get credit card offers in the mail. Forms that any identity thief could steal and get free money off of me. Forms that I have to shred because I am totally scared of the horror stories about identity theft, if I don't totally destroy them.

I do have to say, mail here in the States get to people in time. Three days, and I've never lost a letter. Sometimes, in the Philippines, it gets delayed. I got the Christmas card from my grandparents in the last week of January! Careful examination of the stamps shows that it didn't get handled fast enough on the Philippine side.

I have a nice collection of old cards and letters in a shoebox. Maybe someday, when things are all electronic, I can tell my grandkids, "In my time, we used pens and paper to write letters and made our own cards!"

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