Saturday, May 17, 2014

Snail Mailing: An Artistic Hobby

With our dependence on computer technology, an important natural human skill slowly gets unused and soon to be forgotten. Hopefully, the latter won't reach its goal. I'm referring to our handwriting.

Hi-technology and the ease of typing on computer keyboards have set aside the human grip on pens. It is replaced by pushing keys, touching screens and handling of a stylus. The smooth manual flow of our thoughts through ink is substituted by robotic strokes. Still, it is quicker not to handwrite. Who wouldn't want more time in their hands? It's practical, isn't it?

The comfort of typing an email message gives everybody more availability to do other things. Sending out an electronic message doesn't need a week of waiting, or worse a month, like how snail mail is delivered to its recipient. Communication is faster, and more results are attained because of it. Gone are the days of slow process. Everything is quick in 2014. Well, not really everything.

Do we really want our handwriting to disappear? I heard different stories from my friends about how their kids have bad penmanship. Of course, a legible, readable handwriting needs practice. We all think it is done in school. Unfortunately, computers are all used in schools nowadays. Plus, text messaging on cellphones is also popular. Sadly, it distorts correct spelling as well. During my school days, we used to write essays using our penmanship. Now, though, a lot of kids type their essays for homework. If I'm the teacher, I'd be skeptical as who wrote and typed it. If I do a handwritten essay, I'd be proud to say it is my work. My penmanship is the sole proof.

Fortunately, there are some who believe that handwriting is important. They keep it alive by doing Snail Mailing. Still, not all of them use their handwriting. There are some snail mailers who type their letters due to medical conditions. However, I'm pretty sure they handwrite on the envelope. I have penpals who would do anything to retain the life of their penmanship. Snail Mailing is now considered a hobby, which is the opposite of when it used to be designed as the sole bridge to communicate with international friends. In fact, legible handwriters perceive penpaling as a form of art. I have to attest that it is a bit of an expensive hobby at this point (i.e. cost of postage, stationery, decorations, etc.), unless you know how to use the right tools (i.e. paper weight, envelope size, envelope weight, etc.).

Speaking of tools, Snail Mailing is also a great twin of paper crafting and collecting vintage stuff. Old, used postage stamp is an example of one of the things I collect. Plus, stickers and other paper decor enhance my creative imagination. It makes the whole hobby an artistic release. Did I mention cute stationery paper pads? Now, that's a budget release. *laughs*

Where do we find a penpal nowadays? There are a whole bunch of groups online, and I have been a part of some of them. If you want to continue the art of handwriting, try checking out the following groups:

League of Extraordinary Penpals - Paid membership, monthly or annually. Awesome moderator and very friendly members! Everybody's like a family to me. It's a superhero kind of thing.

Letter Writers Alliance - One-time membership. Great snail mail products for sale on their website. I just love everything about this group. Very friendly and all about snail mail. You have to try the Pigeon Mail. It's fantastic!

International Penfriends Club - Paid membership. This is the very first group I joined back in 1989. I got a whole bunch of penpals through them. I had to stop after 1993. I miss my penfriends. Memories.

Global Penfriends - Free and Paid membership. Of course, you'd get more control when you pay. It's a bit boring when you're free because you don't get to contact people you're interested to write to.

Interpals - This is totally free. Just beware of a lot of scammers, stalkers, and weirdos from other countries. Still, it's great when a one-of-a-kind snail mailer sends you a message and create a life-long penfriendship with you. You'll never know.

My only advise is this: It is a hobby. It shouldn't be stressful. You should know how to let go of penpals who don't click with your interests or who are just causing you too much drama. It should be a fun activity! Focus on the usage of your handwriting instead. Don't let it be a lost art.

Happy Snail Mailing!

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Flores De Mayo - Sagala - Santacruzan

How time flies! It's already May. I'm reminiscing that I started to blog back in May 2010. Blogging is four years old for me this month, although most of my old posts have been denationalized by yours truly due to personal reasons. Anyways, that's not the only thing I remember when the month of May arrives. The famous Cinco De Mayo is another. Since it falls on a Monday, I'm pretty sure the celebrations will happen this coming weekend. But, that's not what I'm going to write about. I'm actually recalling a celebration done back home, the Philippines' Flores De Mayo (Spanish for Flowers of May) or Sagala / Santacruzan (refers to the pageant on the last day of Flores De Mayo). Click on the link for Flores De Mayo to see photos.

Flores De Mayo lasts for the whole month of May. Different towns hold a procession at night that parades different colorful flowers, different religious statues from churches, evening gowns/tiaras and Barong Tagalog (National suit/clothing for Filipino men). The parade originated from a religious purpose, also called Flowers of Mary. The Virgin Mary is celebrated the whole month of May and novenas are done before the start of a procession. However, in my personal point of view, the whole occasion became all about the Sagala, or the religio-historical beauty pageant parade. Everybody's more concerned about having the most beautiful evening gown, make-up, and expensive jewelries. A feast for the paparazzi!

I've been in several of those Sagalas when I was a little girl. (Yes, little girls are involved in this. There are different categories: the little girls, the teens, and the adults.) The whole procession was a traffic-starter. No cars were allowed in our small town's skinny streets. People occupied the sides of the road to ogle, to gossip, to take photos, to cheer, to criticize, to catch candies thrown by participants, and just to be outside. I've been in both: on the float as a participant, and on the side as a spectator. It was way better to be on the float than to be on the side of the road (By the way, not every participant is on a float. Some walk with an arch on top of them.) People stepped on my feet without apologizing. In fact, they didn't care if my toes died from their stomping feet. They only cared about catching candies from the float. It's probably not that bad, but I decided that I didn't like to be in that situation anymore. Still, it doesn't mean the whole event is not fun. It's a colorful tradition, I just have to be standing on a safer place. **laughs**

The float was a safer place, eventhough it was made-in-a-hurry out of thin wooden boards and wrapped around and on top of an owner jeep. Everybody looked up on me while I seated in the middle of the colorful flowery decorations. My glittery gloved hand waved to everyone and sometimes threw candies to the spectators. It felt like Princess Diana in humid weather! **laughs** That was way better than being trampled by total strangers on the side of the road, by the way. I would have had broken fingers trying to catch one piece of candy, too. **cringe**

I tried searching online to find Flores De Mayo festivals here in the Bay Area, but I couldn't find anything. Cinco De Mayo is the famous occasion of the month. Then there are different festivals or celebration of sorts: Maker Faire, Renaissance Faire, Film Festival, Bike-To-Work Day, Memorial Day, and even a Broccoli City Festival. Flores De Mayo / Santacruzan / Sagala is probably not that known or popular. I have to consider the fact that there aren't a lot of religious die-hard Catholics here that would go all out and have permits to close streets for a Sagala. But, who knows? Maybe one day, someone would initiate a bold move of bringing this famous Filipino tradition here in California.

Would you be on the float or the spectator? Just throw a bag of candy my way. **giggles**