You Have .. Snail Mail!

The Lost Age of Letter Writing

Mar 17, 2011 by

I miss receiving snail mail.  The only snail mail I get these days are my bills and that, I definitely do not miss.

There was a time when the sight of an approaching postman would fill me with excitement.  Today, I am filled with dread whenever I see my postman.  He never brings anything good anymore.  Just bills, bills and more bills.  Whatever happened to the days when the arrival of a postman heralded a love letter?  Or a card from a friend?  Letters from mom or dad?

Email has sucked the romance out of mails.

Would you believe that the last greeting card I received via snail mail was 17 years ago?  Yep, those should now be on display at the Smithsonian.  The last time my mom sent me a birthday card was 15 years ago.  That, too, should be at the Smithsonian.

Had I not checked my Facebook 30 minutes ago, my ego would be in desperate need of therapy by now.  Thankfully, that’s not the case so I can just blame Mark Zuckerberg for my drought of snail mails.

My daughter, Angel, has yet to snail mail me anything.  Then again, she lives 5 steps away from my bedroom so why should she snail mail me anything, right?  Still, in her 19 years of existence, she’s only been to the post office twice.  When she went there for the first time, she didn’t know what to do with a stamp.  Seriously.    Born in the internet age, her idea of a stamp was the kind you used for scrapbooking.  She didn’t even know how a stamp looked like until she held it in her hands 5 years ago!

“Wow, Mommy.  Do you think this is worth a lot of money?” No, Angel, it’s worth P5.00 and do not ask me to convert that into US dollars because, at a FOREX of Php1: US$43, my calculator would go into shock.  And what, in heaven’s name, are they teaching you in that expensive university you go to?!  Your professors never taught you what a stamp is?!

“I study multimedia design, Ma.  We don’t even use pen and paper anymore.” Oh yeah, I forgot.  A notebook to her is a laptop, paper is a tablet and pen is a stylus.  I’ve been selling my body parts for 19 years so Apple can make more profits off of my daughter.

When she was in high school, Angel went on several class retreats, the norm in Catholic schools.  As is customary here in the Philippines, retreat participants get a “palanca” letter from their family and friends.    A “palanca” letter usually contains words of wisdom and everything else that Hallmark greeting card forgot to print.  These letters are opened on the last day of their retreat to complete the requisite retreat waterworks fest.  It is not a successful retreat if Noah’s Ark is not needed.

Being the melodramatic stage mother that I am, I called relatives and her friends to send Angel a “palanca” letter which I shall gather and send to her teacher.  Their reply?  “Sure, I’ll email it to you.”

EMAIL A PALANCA LETTER?!  Sacre Bleu!  You CANNOT email a palanca letter!  What is wrong with you, people?!  In the end, they had to email it to me.  Teacher said “just forward all of Angel’s palanca letters to my email.” Tragic.

I recall my own high school retreats where vast tracks of Philippine forests would be obliterated first before my friends could pen the perfect masterpiece.  And much like the disappearing forests, letter writing is also on the verge of extinction.

Did you ever get perfumed love letters?  In college, I dated a guy who would snail mail weekly letters to me written in the back of huge Lindt wrappers.  Then, he would slightly burn the edges to “age” the letter.  After which, he would dab it with a hint of perfume.  Of course, he became my boyfriend.  You do not say no to a guy who goes through all that trouble of writing a letter for you.

And my letters to him?  I broke many a red lipstick practicing the perfect lipstick mark to put on my letter envelopes to him.  Gawd.  Spell cheesy.  No wonder we broke up a year later.  Yes, before JPEG, there were my lips.

I remember collecting stationeries to write my letters on.  These days, some people send me emails on a stationery format and the two just aren’t from the same universe.  My concept of stationeries includes Hello Kitty and Little Twin Stars, not Trojans and 10 years of downloading time.

It used to be that being asked for your snail mail address did not constitute a military red alert.  Today, when someone asks you for your snail mail address, only two things can go through your mind:  unpaid bills and stalkers.

How did we become so paranoid at the idea of giving out our snail mail addresses?  Since when did we stop appreciating the virtues of snail mail?  Are we so busy now that we cannot spare 30 minutes to write lovely letters?  Have we forgotten to use our hands for writing?  Will the ball pen and pencil become obsolete soon?  I totally get preserving trees and the environment but this is just ridiculous.

However did we get to this sad, sad place?

(Author’s Note:  This post inspired by Toby Bloomberg)

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  1. There’s nothing like a real letter (as Toby so well explains).

    I’n grateful my mom still sends me b’day cards, and Xmas cards, and cards just because. As do several of my friends. I have a couple that even send thank you notes! I also look forward to getting my dead tree media delivered (Oh! Saveur is here!)

    Now, I need to go mail that envelope of clippings and stuff to my Mom.

    • My mom just picks up the phone and calls instead. 🙁 But it’s ok. I get to hear her voice which is way better than receiving a letter, if I had to choose between the 2, I mean.

      I haven’t handwritten a Thank You note for ages now. Maybe, it’s also my fault that I don’t get letters anymore. Because I don’t send one as well.

      Oh! A friend told me that there’s a day that celebrates letter writing. It’s called the National Letter Writing Day or something similar to it. Happens every January 23. Perfect time to start learning to write and send real letters again. 🙂

  2. My new article on #atsgf: "You have…snail mail!" – Read it, read it, READ IT! Visit me & @atsgf on

  3. Toby Bloomberg

    Sunny- Yes, the fun of riping open an envelope aside, there is something special about receiving a ‘real’ letter. Before she died my mum gave me the letters that my dad wrote to her when he was in the army. She told me there were more but she destroyed them because they were ‘too personal.’ We can only imagine .. ! Those letters passed along the history of their early love. Could that happen from printing off emails, sure. But the texture/heart of the person in terms of paper, ink, handwriting is missing. Sigh ..

    • I now keep all my old letters in a huge plastic envelope. I find it strange to do this now because, back then, letters were just something I took for granted. Now, letters are something I value (except the bills, of course – hehe) because I don’t know if anybody will still send me another one. I’m beginning to think I should have my photo beside the post office before it becomes obsolete.

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