Monday, January 29, 2007

Of Pen and Paper.

I had free time over the weekend so I decided to clean up my desk drawers. As I was sorting through the countless receipts, meaningless post-it notes, and funny-smelling stationaries I've collected since I was in grade school, I came upon Rita's last letter which I haven't been able to reply to.

Just to make things clear: Rita was, well, is my Latvian pen pal. Yes, PEN PAL. Haha.

It all began during my last year in high school. On our first week of classes Mr dela Vega, our beloved World History professor, told us we had to write to someone from another country and have them give us first-hand information about their culture, history and traditions. No relatives: Canada and the US were not included. Filipinos in any country do not count. [This was a time e-mail was not option, the internet available to businesses and was altogether unheard of at that time]. You could just imagine our horror at was he was asking us to do. But our grade depended on this, so a week into the announcement it was a common thing to see the seniors of St. Paul Pasig batch 94 to have a copy of Buy and Sell, scanning through the pen pal section, looking for a prospect pen pal.

I wrote to at least 10 people who appeared wholesome in their ads. Only 2 wrote back. The first was a German, who wrote in his reply to my candid letter of friendship that he was 'looking for Filipina wife and you seem to be perfect.' I tore the letter into pieces and burned them.

The second letter I received was from Rita. Her English was bad but she got her message across, her penmanship neat and clear. She was 17 (at that time) and planning to enter medical school the next year, and has 3 sisters. They are not rich but they get by, she says. Her dad is a driver and her mom a housewife. She didn't know anything about the Philippines but she'd very much like to know everything about it and would I care to correspond with her? Would I care? I wrote a reply and sent it the next day.

We continued to correspond over the next 5 years, sending each other tokens, pictures, postcards, books, pamphlets, and even food. We've shared deaths, birthdays, holidays, and births even. She would write me stories of her dog, Argo, and I would entertain her with stories of my cat, Long. She invited me to visit her and I said if she found herself in Asia someday she can definitely stay with me.

Now, I have in front of me a letter she sent in 2000. I feel bad for not finding the time to write back. I feel so ashamed of not taking care of the friendship we've formed. I've grown accustomed to just typing the words and sending it through email that I don't know if I'll be able to write something eligible and meaningful.

I realize that I will write back and I will write beautifully. It will be long and I will send pictures of me and my 3 pesky pamangkins. I will tell her how sorry I am for not corresponding with her the past 6 years and that I have no excuse to offer her. I am still her friend and I hope that she feels the same way.

And maybe I'll also ask her if she has an email address now... you know, just to make things easier for the both of us.