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Bacolod City, Philippines Friday, July 5, 2019
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Come To Think Of It
with Carlos Antonio L. Leonardia

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In my previous article, I told the story of how my package from Japan went through our postal system as it journeyed to Silay City. I shared my disappointment in the supposed improvements undergone by our postal system and one of the topics that I saved for later discussion was the state of our post offices and the questions it naturally raised after witnessing what they looked like as I manually and personally followed up the delivery status of my package like a barbarian in an era when online tracking is the norm.

My search for updates on the status of my package initially led me to the Bacolod Post office, which, being in the capital city, should be the provincial hub. It is located in an unremarkable building on Gatuslao Street. That post office was actually quite busy, and although I didn’t have to queue to make my inquiry regarding my international parcel, it didn’t feel abandoned or decrepit. Our post office may be going the way of the dinosaur, especially with it seemingly not interested in competing with the numerous logistics companies that have been sprouting like mushrooms fueled by the online shopping boom, but a visit to that post office didn’t feel as depressing about the future of postal services in the country.

The post office that made me worry about the future of the service was the one in Silay, a mere 14 kilometers from the one I initially went to inquire about my parcel. I was directed to Silay after the person manning the counter in Bacolod saw my mailing address. She said that the package would ultimately be sent there so while it may pass through them, it would be better to follow up at the post office of the final destination.

For those who haven’t seen it, the Silay Post office is located at the corner of Juan Valencia Street and Eusebio Streets. It is one block from the public plaza, beside a public school, and a block from the highway. The building would’ve been a pretty one in its heyday, its exterior exuding a unique mid-century vibe that could probably be more accurately described by architecture nuts. I just call it a pretty structure that has felt the ravaging of the sands of time and neglect.

When I went there to follow up on my package, I was the only customer and there was only one open and working counter so I had no problem figuring out who to talk. It was decent inside and relatively clean but the rest of the interior looked like a neatly abandoned bodega.Cobwebs and dust dominated the walls and high ceilings and the unused counters/partitions added to the desolate feel. One look at the exterior and interior of the post office would tell anyone that nobody uses it anymore. It’s just there for minimum compliance because all cities need a post office.

The officials and employees of the post office can’t be blamed for the decrepit situation. They’re simply not getting enough business to be viable. Why that is so, nobody knows because the government’s postal service would probably be able to compete with anyone if they really wanted to. All they had to do was make sure their service is prompt, reliable and affordable. But my city’s post office looks like that because almost everyone else is entrusting their mail and parcels to the private sector and there must be a good reason why that is so.

If our government has a plan for our postal service, it better act soon because, based on Silay’s post office, that particular public service is becoming irrelevant. If the plan is to provide minimum compliance service that gives no competitive advantage to Filipino citizens other than being marginally cheaper, but exponentially unreliable, then there is probably no hope for post offices like that of Silay. The situation should even be worse for post offices of smaller towns.

The one reason why I want Silay’s post office to survive is not because I may make another eBay order and the clueless first world seller will most likely rely on regular post because their postal system is reliable and cannot imagine that in some poor countries, the country’s postal system is rotting.

If your postal system doesn’t want to put up a fight, whoever is responsible for it should just throw in the towel and pass the torch to the private sector who have been doing a better job delivering letters and parcels in recent years. I really don’t care what happens to it, as long as a viable replacement can be arranged.

If you come to think of it, my reason for wanting my city’s post office to survive is because I find it pretty. It is a nice building that could absolutely shine, inside and out, if only it were given some TLC. The way the postal system is being run right now, there is no hope for any of that. The best case I can see for it would be if someone rented out the building with the intention of keeping its postal function operating so it survives and functions as originally designed. I can imagine that building getting a new lease on life with a nice post office themed café or gift shop. Not all of the country’s post offices are probably as nice, so those with buildings with no character can be sold off and demolished.

The country’s postal system sucks because, despite the massive resources of the government, it is not even competing. Despite the mind blowing potential of parcel delivery due to the rise of online shopping, because millions of packages will need to be delivered to homes and offices, the people running do not seem to envision the opportunities that could come with this postal renaissance. It is just there for minimum compliance, just like our country’s current definition of “Best and Brightest.”

What does the future hold for our postal service? Only time will tell.*  

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