In 2021, we opened the first letter writing cafe in the Philippines fittingly named Dear Joe. The idea behind Dear Joe is simple, romantic, and quaint, possibly old fashioned. The coffee shop is the perfect setting to do something that has been lost because of the rise of modern communications technologies – write letters; handwritten letters.
Imagine sitting in a charming corner of a coffee shop with a hot cup of coffee and instead of reaching for your phone to type in something in your notes or perhaps compose a message, you get a pen and a stationery, and pour out your thoughts and your heart. A letter perhaps to a young boy who stole a first kiss from you when you were in elementary, or, to your mother whom you have not seen in five years because she is abroad working. Maybe a heartfelt letter to your husband or to an ex who broke your heart. Possibly a letter to yourself in the future reminding her or him of the struggles you experienced before making it into the world.
With the advent of mobile phones and tablets, writing letters by hand has practically vanished. I remember when I was young, the girls in my class would collect numerous stationeries, some of them perfumed. Writing letters by hand was the primary means of communicating your deepest and sincerest thoughts. Today, kids do that through mobile phones which is kind of impersonal. I understand the comfort of it all, of course. No need to buy paper and envelope, no need to get a pen. But the geezer in me still prefers the experience of holding that pen and letting the ink of your thoughts flow on paper.
The funny thing is that despite the wide usage of tablets for writing – some have “pencils” nowadays that will allow you to “write” on the tablet – I learned about a product calling itself as paper-like screen protector that allows you write on your iPad as if you are actually writing on paper! It mimics the texture of paper because apparently, to many, it is weird to write on, well, glass.
The fact is that writing by hand is deeply personal – both to the writer and the recipient. When you open an envelope and slowly unfold the letter inside it, you know that the sender spent time and effort so that you can read her or his thoughts. So Dear Joe is a homage to writing letters to “the one” – that person who laughs at your corny jokes, cry with you, and who will hold your hand as you make a sharp turn in life.
In my case, I found my Joe in 1975, the only recipient of my all love letters. And this year, Sept. 13, 2022, we are celebrating 47 years of married life. Cynthia would remind me that it is more than 47 years because we were “steady” for seven years before we got married.
I met Cynthia in UP. We both took up a business course; we were classmates and we graduated together. Just like a typical love story, we started out as barkadas, hanging out together and enjoying each other’s company. I guess in today’s lingo we would be considered as MU (mutual understanding) at that time.
Ang mundo ko noon ay Tondo at UP-Diliman lamang. But because I wanted to be with Cynthia, dumadayo pa ako sa Las Piñas para dalawin siya. And also because that was the old-fashioned way of courting at that time. If you like a girl, the proper thing to do is umakyat ng ligaw, another disappearing tradition. Even date night was simple back in the day. Cynthia and I loved watching movies – she liked action while I love comedy films especially those starring Dolphy. We would go to downtown Manila – Recto and Avenida to those scratching their heads – catch the latest movie and eat siopao at Kowloon.
People would ask us the secrets to a happy marriage and my answer is simple – friendship. Cynthia and I have been boyfriend-girlfriend, husband and wife, father and mother to three fantastic kids, and now, doting lolo and lola to the cutest apos. But we are, first and foremost, friends in life. Just like good friends we support each other in every aspect of our life. She supported me when I became a public servant for 21 years and I supported her as she ventured into politics. We value each other like a good friend would at all times.
So after reading this article, get a pen and paper and write an earnest letter to that person whose existence made your life a lot better. In between sips from your cup of joe, pour out your thoughts and feelings and thank God you found your Joe who has stuck by you no matter how life goes.