A few years back, I found a collection of love letters from my dad to my mom. It was compiled in a clear book, which was placed in our reference books shelf. I couldn’t help but have a look.
I always knew my dad had a way with words. He used to write me letters when I was assigned in Mindoro as a Jesuit Volunteer. His letters were poignant and inspiring. They helped me get through the homesickness I felt.
What I did not realize was how my dad used his gift of the written word to woo my mom until I came across his love letters for her. Dad was assigned in Coca-Cola Davao where he met my mom who was working as a nurse in the same province.
Reading through his letters, I discovered that my grandparents were wary of him because he was a “Manila boy.” One of the notes I found were addressed to them. He told them that he knew that they looked at him with suspicion as he was from Imperial Manila, but he assured them that he had good intentions with their Elma. He introduced himself, talked about his parents, their family background, and the work that he did.
He had another message written on a simple white notepad informing my grandparents that my mother had agreed to go out with him. He let them know what time he would pick her up (5:30 PM), the friend they were going with (chaperone) was going to be, what they would be doing (movie and dinner), and what time he would have her home (8:30 PM).
A letter addressed to my mom talked about how beautiful she was and how enraptured he was with her. Another apologized for a misunderstanding. A few others were just a simple narration of his day. One wrote of how he missed her.
I do not have access to these letters right now since they are with my mom in Davao. I write based on the memory and the impression I had after reading through them. It was a sample of courtship in the '60s of a young Manila man to a conservative Davaoena lady.
The letters showed me love rituals of a time not so long ago but already so different. It revealed how much respect a suitor gave to his beloved’s parents. As Filipinos would sometimes say, “woo the parents before you woo the girl.” It showed me a more conservative time when chaperones are needed to get permission for a date. It also gave me a glimpse of a different kind of romance, an expressiveness that may have become rare in this time and age.
Those letters are a testament of my father’s devotion to my mom. I asked my mom if she ever wrote him back. No, she did not, yet my dad continued to write them. It was probably more out of his own need to express his feelings. Those messages, however, have become a bit of history of how perseverance and persistence eventually won the trust of my grandparents and the hand of my mom.