Just wanted to share these two covers from the US and also some thoughts about the Average Joe philatelist's experience in the Philippines.
When I get letters from the States, I remember home sweet home and I also begin to miss US stamps and the US postal service. When I lived in the US, buying philatelic material wasn't as demanding of my time and patience as it is here; I didn't have to travel an hour to the central post office only to find out that the material I needed was "out of stock" (which oftentimes meant that the only clerk who had the issue I needed was out to lunch or didn't come to work that day), nor did I have to plead with "senior officials" to let me purchase some stamps that were officially released according to public announcements, but not yet available for public sale because there was some red tape here, there, and everywhere at the sorry room they call a "philatelic section."
Back home, virtually all new issues, even commemoratives, were available at the local post office, and if I needed something special, or if I needed some older issue that was really out of stock, I could just mail in (or even phone in) my order at the Stamp Fulfillment Services Center and pay just a dollar for shipping and handling. And should the grand total be a mere $10 or a whopping $1000, the service would be available to all paying citizens. Here, it seems that there is an implied "VIP" in front of the term "mail order services" since these "services" are, more often than not, only available to foreign customers (in the Philippines, locals like to treat foreigners as VIPs, whether or not the foreigners deserve such recognition). Local mail order customers have to be "big shots" so that their requests can be entertained; they have to be "dealers" who place big orders, people the post office can make money off.
While it is true that Philippine stamps may be of considerable value one day because they are not very common, sometimes I wonder if putting up with all the crap I have to deal with whenever I visit the philatelic section is worth it. But, after making it back home safely with my loot of new sets, souvenir sheets, and FDCs, and taking a nice, warm shower, I cannot help but smile when I sit at my desk and examine my new acquisitions because, though a pain in the buttocks to acquire, these Philippine stamps are as fulfilling as the US ones that were oh so much easier to acquire. Sure, sometimes these Philippine stamps have gaudy designs and strange themes and, yes, the quality of the printing and perforation is deteriorating, but one day, years from now, when I'm siting at my desk in a far-off place, far removed from the chaos that is the Philippines, I can look at these stamps and laugh at the absurd things I had to put up with in order to acquire them. Like they say, there is more to a journey than getting to your destination.