Exchange of letters

8 August 2016

This book is about the exchange of letters between two ladies named Urbana and Felisa; and through these letters Fr. Modesto de Castro made known the desirable behavior that everyone-young and old, women and men-should observe in dealing with other people well. It is thought by many that the ideal conduct described in this book should be emulated by Filipinos and should not be cause for embarrasment even in these days. Filipinos do not need an Emily Post to teach them good manners because we already have Father de Castro who left behind golden rules which Filipinos ought to follow not only then but even now and in the time to come.

In these times when our societies are dominated by new patterns of behavior and when even laws governing the home have changed and been swept away by the winds buffeting our shores brought about by Western values, now, more than at any other time, there is a need to return to the past periodically.

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This is not to strip ourselves bare of new ways which we have donned in entering into new relation- ships, but to see mirrored in the waters glimpses of a beautiful and glorious past.

What we experienced is inscribed in the book of life thus: ‘Those who fail to look back at the past/will never arrive at their destination. “) (Those of you who are mothers who have the duty to teach your chil- dren those great truths announced in the Sacred Scripture, you shouldstrive to fulfill these weighty responsibilities for which you have to account before God. ) (The knowledge that teaches a person how to deal with his/her neighbor comes from love of one’s neighbor; love of neighbor comes from love of God.

Thus, one who loves God knows how to deal with his/her neighbor well, and anyone who does not know should strive to learn, because this knowledge springs from good action which God delights in. Those who know how to deal with their neighbor possess good man- ners, for they are careful that their action, behavior, and speech are within certain boundaries pleasing to God and to their fellowmen. Thus, this knowledge is a precious gem to a woman, honor to a gen- tleman, ornament to a young man, beauty and loveliness associated with good behavior that captures the heart.

But if you neglect your responsibilities, allow them to grow lacking in guidance, stripped of good manners, and forced to account for them- selves before God, and when the time comes for them to live their lives, and you see only bad harvest, woe to you; you will be blamed because you have been neglectful parents. ) (The name ‘Urbana” connotes good manners. In her letters to her sis- ter Felisa, a young woman, a child, a married couple, a young man can learn some lessons to suit their various conditions.

From Felisa a young woman can learn how to avoid dangers to her purity; and Felisa’s proper behavior can guide anyone who wants to preserve her goodness and modesty. ) (And if from the examples I proferred, you mothers would deign to pick up some lessons, internalize and observe them, and I witness how your children have profited from your labor to make the lessons bear fruit, can you guess what I will say? I will say that I have come across good fortune, for I am like the sower and the seeds I scattered fell on good soil.

Before you say anything, reflect on it first, and follow St. Augustine’s advice, that any utterance must be measured, and weighed by the mind. Be careful, for an evil word once spoken can never be taken back again. When speaking, avoid gesticulating excessively, speak quietly so as not to shatter the listener’s eardrums; neither is it proper to speak too deliberately because a person who is too full of himself, apart from having little credibility, becomes a butt of joke and a source of irrita- tion to the listener.

When the hand, the face or the clothes become dirty, clean up first before going to school. . . . When talking to another, avoid showing timidity, speak forthrightly, do not speak with too much sweetness or affectation, do not scratch, or scrub the hand nor wet the finger with saliva to scrub . . . . Do not give half-eaten or dirty food to another. ) (Even a strong body weakens, gets sick and even though still young, it ages prematurely and dies due to excessive drinking. The most san- guine color fades, and the face becomes pale, .

The agility of youth, the excitement of middle life, the splendor of beauty wither away; all these wine makes a mockery of. ) (In time, after numerous dalliances, her honor is shattered, her fami- ly’s reputation is tarnished while the townsfolk tattle, but the most painful is the loss of the souls of these unfortunate women, and the many people who sinned because of these women’s bad examples. Who will God blame for these sins but the negligent parents? ) (First, the couple must be alike in class and character.

Second, love must exist. Third, love must be in moderation. Fourth, they should trust each other. Fifth, the woman must not be much richer than the man. Sixth, the couple must be of the same age, or almost the same age. Seventh, the woman’s beauty must not be extraordinary. Eighth, both must be peace-loving and despise sinful merrymaking. Ninth, neither must be fond of incessant gambling. Tenth, they should neither be miserly nor prodigal. Eleventh, both should be industrious and despise laziness.

Twelfth, both should avoid ostentatious display. Thirteenth, both should possess inner strength and endurance. ) Walking in a studied manner is not appropriate, nor is provocatively swaying the hips nor coyly glancing at a young man proper, because a woman will be faulted for breach of decorum. ) (When a young woman, through the way she walks, acts and uses her eyes, displays anything that runs counter to proper behavior, she in effect is inviting a man to treat her scornfully. )

(The world is a place of suffering, where pain comes from the parent, the spouse and child, and from other members of the family. If a woman’s threshold of suffering is low, marriage will offer no fulfillment. ) (If you, Felisa, can endure the pain, embrace the heavy cross invari- ably placed on the shoulders of a married woman, I say accept this weighty burden. if you strive . . . to follow the path of goodness and holiness that are a woman’s treasures, and which Solomon searched for and that the Holy Spirit praised, then 1 say to you, accept the sac- rament of matrimony. )

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