Love in the Time of Letters: A Collection of Love Notes From the Past

The affection between these Filipino couples is perfectly captured in each word.

Images used taken from Cal Poly's Re/Collecting Project.
ILLUSTRATION War Espejo

(SPOT.ph) Call it old school, but people will never stop finding love letters romantic. Without the convenience of texting or chatting in the past, relationships were kept alive by letters, postcards, and telegrams containing heartfelt declarations of love. Today, it’s not as common for people to write love letters (on actual paper, at least), but with Valentine’s Day making everyone feel cheesier, we can’t blame you for being curious to know more about how your grandparents (and their grandparents) used to communicate.

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Maybe this is why the fictional letter entitled “Liham Para Kay Oryang," written by young playwright Eljay Castro Deldoc, gained popularity on social media in 2015. Deldoc as Andres Bonifacio wrote a "letter" for the revolutionary leader's wife Gregoria de Jesus, using his lyrical prose to captivate the hearts of many. According to the Philippine Collegian, it reads:

Ika-1 Mayo 1897

Mahal kong Oryang,

Mali ka. Hindi kita nakasalubong upang sa dulo ng kalsada, ako ay liliko sa kanan at ikaw sa kaliwa. Sapagkat saan man tayo dalhin ng ating pakikibaka, ikaw lang ang aking itatangi at makailang ulit na ihaharap sa pulang bandila.

Hindi tayo nagpalitan ng mga kwento upang sa pinakahuling tuldok ng pangungusap, ang karugtong ay alingawngaw ng katahimikan. Walang pagod kitang aawitan ng himnong pambayan, Oryang.

Hindi kailanman ako mauubusan ng salita upang maialay sa iyo bilang mga tula. Maging ang bulong at buntung-hininga’y magpapahayag ng pagsinta sa tulad mong umiibig din sa bansa.

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Hindi tayo sabay na tumawa, nagkatinginan, at tumawa pa nang mas malakas, upang sa paghupa ng halakhak ay may butil ng luha na mamimintana sa ating mga mata. Loobin man ng Maykapal na pansamantala tayong magkawalay, tandaan mong ang halakhak at sigaw ng ating mga kasamahan ay sa akin rin.

Hindi ka dapat masabik sa akin sapagkat ako’y mananatili sa iyong piling. Hindi kita niyakap nang ilang ulit upang sa pagkalas ng mga braso ko sayo ay maramdaman mong iniiwan kita. Habambuhay akong magiging tapat sa ating panata, Oryang. Kapara ng binitawan kong sumpa sa ngalan ng bayan, tayo’y mananatiling katipun, kawal, at bayani ng ating pagmamahalan.

Hindi tayo bumuo ng mga alaala sa umaga, tanghali at gabi upang sa muli mong paggising ay maisip mong hindi tayo nagkasama sa pakikidigma. Hindi ko man hawak ang bukas, nais kong tanganan mo ang aking pangako na ilang ulit kong pipiliing mabuhay at pumanaw upang patunayan sa iyong mali ka. At kung magkataong ako’y paharapin sa ating anak na si Andres, buo ang loob kong haharap sa kanya at sasabihin ko sa kanyang mali ka. Hindi ako bumati sa simula upang sa huli ay magpaalam.

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Ikaw ang aking bayan,
Andres

It may just be a fictional historical poem, but it can easily pass off as authentic. In any case, we looked around for old love letters written by actual people, and each of them says a lot about the times when they were written.

Gregoria de Jesus’ Poem For Her Late Husband

Paalam sa iyo, masarap magmahal,
May-ari ng puso ko’t kabiyak na katawan;
Paalam na nga yaring pinalalayaw,
Paalam, giliw ko, sa iyo’y paalam.

Masayang sa iyo’y aking isasangla
Ang sulam pamahid sa mata ng luha,
Kung kapusin palad, buhay mawala,
Bangkay man ako, haharap sa iyong kusa.

This excerpt was taken from Gregoria de Jesus' poem entitled "Magmula, Giliw, Nang Ikaw ay Pumanaw." According to the National Historical Commission of the Philippines, Oryang wrote the poemwhich talks about her grief for her belovedin a letter. It was written as an awit, so each line contains 12 syllables and follows a monorhyme. Her second husband, Julio Nakpil, made a copy of the piece in his own handwriting. It’s now displayed at the Bahay-Nakpil museum.

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Elpidio Quirino’s Love Letters to His Wife

October 20, 1924

My dearest Alicia,

Today is your birthday. I deeply regret that my duties here have prevented me from joining in the celebration of your coming of age and gaining your complete independence.

I expected to touch your fresh cheeks with my kisses, your last kisses as a minor.

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Yes, Alicia, you are a woman now, respectable and respected. On this day, you begin a life that is broader and more sober than you have known, with a more complex and nurtured sense of responsibility.

Before former president Elpidio Quirino rose to the position, he lived as a struggling lawyer looking to make it big in Manila. He had to leave his wife, Alicia Syquia, and their children in Vigan, which is why they spent most of their time apart. This is evident in the letters they wrote to each other, which were collected and published into a book entitled Elpidio and Alicia - The Love Letters. The ones that survived the war are displayed at the Syquia Mansion in Vigan.

Love Letters from the Re/Collecting Project

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Mar. 17, 1958

My dearest darling,

Suddenly everything seems gloomy again when I got home without you in the house. I feel so lonely without your voice and laughter and your pinches. Please darling come home soon.

I sent the money to Emil today. I didn’t however deposit your money because I forgot to bring the bank book. I will do it tomorrow. Also, I already mailed the money to the hospital.

Now how are you darling? Please always be very careful. Please talk to Dr. Smith that you take treatment at home through his prescriptions so that you can come home next Sunday or sooner. In the meantime, call me up in the telephone if and when they will release you so I can come to bring you home. The telephone number is 9391. Now don’t be a naughty girl. You can be a “garampingat” but not a “tala tala.”

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Yes, I am really very lonely again darling. I miss you so much. Our whispers during the silent hours of the night are haunting me because those whispers [spell] our affections, our love and our passions. Now we are denied of them again. So please darling come home. Don’t let me down anymore.

Now tell me what do you want me to bring when I come to visit you again. Of course you know what you will also give me.

Bye now and love always.

Your love,

Pedro

P.S. It was raining hard when we were on our way home last night. By the way, did you hear from Monico and Cornelio already?

California’s Central Coast is home to a diverse community, with many Filipinos migrating there during the '30s. Through the Cal Poly’s Re/Collecting project, love stories of the past are made digitally available so that the under-documented communities will be remembered. Cal Poly has a big collection of love letters for people to read through, capturing even the most mundane stories of Filipino couples. This letter is part of a collection of love letters, photographs, and other mementos curated by Cal Poly. The featured letter was written by Pedro Aradanas for his wife Lily when she had to stay in his hospital to care for an unusual growth that appeared in her lung. 

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Love Letters Between High School Sweethearts in the '80s

Apr. ‘87

To my dearest George,

Take the gift of life and live it.
Take your love and freely give it.
Give your laughter, smile and tears.
Give your best through all the years.
Life is everything you make it.
Life is beautiful, so take it!

Whatever happens, just try to recall happy moments you’ve spent, and soon you’ll see everything will just be fine.

Here’s hoping you’ll always be the George I’ve always known.

Smile & Stay happy.

Always,
Glo

P. S. I do hope you’ll try to keep this and the rest of whatever cards like this you have; better yet, place it on your table just to guide you.

There’s nothing cuter (and more inspiring) than a slow-burning romance between friends as they fall in love and eventually end up together. Friends since high school, “George” and “Glo” waited until after college to get together. The letters from the '80s were posted by their daughter on Twitter in 2017. Glo's words (written in her impeccable handwriting) easily show how deeply she cares for her would-be husband.

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