Never Promise Post Cards

Post Card
Before I left the States I promised some of the sponsors of my Habitat for Humanity volunteer trip that I’d send them a postcard from the Philippines.

This, l learned, was based upon a few invalid assumptions:


Postcards are easy to find

I should have known something was up when I asked a local Filipino where to find post cards and she just looked at me sideways.  After scouring a large portion of the 4.2-milion square foot  Mall of Asia, I finally located some in Kultura, a shop specializing in Filipino gifts for tourists.


You can buy stamps anywhere

In the US, you can buy stamps at the grocery store, 7-Elevens, most ATMs, and some hotels.

When I asked the woman at the hotel reception desk if they had postage stamps, she looked at me sideways, too.  No, I had to go to the Post Office.  OK, where is the Post Office? There is one near the Pure Gold Grocery Store.

It was already past 4 pm.  Although the location wasn’t far, from prior experience I knew that directions from the front desk were accurate to within  +/- 200 m.  Not bad if you are a bird, but not so great when it’s 100 degrees outside and the target is up a hill on the other side of a busy 4-lane road with no crosswalk or traffic light.  In Manila.


It’s easy to send mail

I’ve come to learn from my cousin Joel, who moved from Canada to Quezon City  in 1995, that people don’t ‘do’ mail here.  There is no mailbox right outside your door.  If you have a letter you need to mail it from the Post Office.  If you need stamps you need to buy them from the Post Office.  If you have wedding invitations you need to hand deliver them, and then call each person to confirm attendance because they won’t want to go to the Post Office to mail an RSVP.  If you have to pay a bill then you can do it online or at a bank.

I’ve stayed at five different locations in the past two weeks, carrying these post cards with me each time. I wish I could stamp them like passports, for each location.

Tomorrow I fly to Tacloban where I hope to help in the reconstruction efforts following Typhoon Yolanda. I’ve decided to take my postcards with me and find a Post Office there.

At least it’s one place where I probably won’t need to walk uphill.


Categories: Travel, Volunteer


  • Janis E McKinstry says:

    Ruth, you’re so thoughtful! I think I’d draw a stamp on them to represent the place you visited and then hand them to your folks when you return. They will have traveled with you throughout your trip and will be a great story to share 🙂

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