Writing letters made me fall in love with writing.
When I was a little girl, I used to write letters to my mother and grandmother every single day whenever they would go on a trip. The letters usually never made it to them wherever they were in the world, and they would get returned to me long after Mom and Lola were back in Manila. I loved opening those envelopes with their recipients and reading them together, going back to what I had done or felt many months before.
When I got older and moved to New York, Mom and Lolo would send me letters via fax machine. Handwritten letters with anecdotes and stories and words of advice. I kept all of them in a hatbox. Unfortunately when I opened the box I realized they had been printed on thermal paper and had since faded into nothingness.
Nowadays, Mom and I keep in touch via e-mail or text message, messages sent via cyberspace, deletable with a click of a button. And what used to be lines and lines of handwriting are now just a phrase or two.
Which is why I love the new Summit book “Letters to My Children.” In this digital age, we have 35 lovely letters written by parents to their children. A letter from taipan Lance Gokongwei, Tony Award winning actress Lea Salonga, Senator Risa Hontiveros, philanthropist Lizzie Zobel, National Book Store managing director Xandra Ramos, and many bold face names. But to their kids, they are just Daddy, Dada, Papa, Mommy, Mom, Mama.
An excerpt from the letter of Lance Gokongwei, my big boss, to his children, Hannah and Jacob:
“Our family has always been a simple one. We’ve always worked very hard and we continue to do so. Your angkong experienced many years of hardship and learned how to be frugal. He was known to be a bad dresser. He never spent a lot of money on clothes, shoes, watches, cars, or other flashy things. He never flew business class while he could still fit in economy class seats. He never believed any of those frills were important. What he did spend money on was books. When we were growing up, he would take us to the bookstore and let us buy as many books as we wanted. Books opened our minds and made us curious about the world we lived in. They made us open to new ideas, excited to try new things. That is why your mom and I let you buy all the books you want, too. We want you to expand your minds the way your angkong and ama had us expand ours.”
“I’m very proud that you have very good grades, but more important than that, I want you to earn other people’s respect. I want you to be considerate. I want you to be kind. I want you to be known more for your good character than for anything else.”
“Your angkong has always been different from other people. He has marched to the beat of his own drum all his life. That’s what I want for you, too. Don’t be afraid to take risks. Live out your dreams. Be adventurous. Do your own thing. Do what you want to do. Be who you want to be. Do it.”
An excerpt from the letter of Lizzie Zobel, our very first Town&Country cover subject, to her children, Mariana, Jaime Alfonso, Eugenia, and Mercedes.
“In a life that is filled with beautiful possibilities, I know that you will agree with me that the choices you make shape the journey and, eventually, the people you will become. Listen to your heart and make these choices carefully for they must be deeply personal and driven by your own aspirations, not those of others. Know that the paths you choose will require perseverance and discipline but, above all, they will require a sense of responsibility—to yourself and toward others.”
“Be responsible, to yourself. Sign up for life. Seek to find your passion and pursue it without restraint. You will need to be brave—take on as many experiences as possible and immerse yourself in those that you find meaningful. Finding meaning in the work you do will cue you where your passions lie.”
“And if you take the time to listen and watch those around you carefully, many of the most important lessons have already been learned, and some of the more painful ones may be avoided by those who remain attentive. Ultimately, you must treasure what has been achieved and do your part to contribute toward a fairer and more just Philippines.”
“I have learned more from your grit, perseverance, and compassion than I could have ever hoped for. You make me very proud. But, if these words serve as a reminder of how significant it is to find meaning in the work that you do and that true meaning will ultimately come from serving your larger community, my heart is with you. Remain brave and always true, but mostly deeply compassionate.”
Letters to My Children, published by Summit Books, is available at National Book Store.
Life is good.