“Okay I’m done. This is it. I’m done. I’m officially retired. Thank you, Lord. I’m done.”
It’s a heartwarming message spreading around the Internet, and it comes from a Filipino postal carrier who just delivered his last mail after 24 years of serving the United States Postal Service. His name is Anthony Vives, a 65-year-old Ilocano and father of two.
In the video, there’s a bit of a drizzle but Mr. Vives is looking blissfully relieved, accomplished, grateful and happy. “It’s a little bit raining. But I don’t care. I’m done. Thank you, Lord,” he says as he walk towards his service vehicle. And what makes the video even more affecting is that he took it himself, to send to his wife and daughter last December 29, his last day on the job. “I’m gonna go home now. This is it for me. Hey, baby. I’m done. This is it. Hey, sweetheart, I’m done.”
Belle Vives, the new retiree’s daughter, was so proud of her old man she posted the video on her TikTok. As of our last peek, it’s already earned 750,000 views and almost 7,000 comments. The video was also picked up recently by an ABC 7 news program in Los Angeles.
We ask Mr. Vives what was running in his mind while he made the video. His answer: “That I won’t have to worry about the rain anymore,” he says with a chuckle. “I didn’t know na pinost pala ng anak ko sa social media. Dumami nang dumami ang mga views. Nai-news pa ako sa [ABC7]. Sabi ko, kahit na mailman lang ako, na-feature naman ako sa news dito. Sikat pa din ako.”
But Mr. Vives is quite sikat, and dearly loved, over at West Hills, the area he delivered mail to for years. “I would say Papa is one of the most likable people ever. Everybody loves him,” Belle tells ANCX. “He jokes around all the time and is very humble. He would take time to have five-minute conversations with each customer, every single day, so he personally got to know them. That's why they love him so much. He knows them all by name, [he knows] the kids, the dogs.”
To show its appreciation for Mr. Vives, the West Hills neighborhood that he served even threw him a block party to celebrate his retirement. “I’m sorry I have to retire because I’m tired and I’m getting old,” Mr. Vives remembers telling the residents. “I’m gonna miss you all.” And he thought about the dogs, too. “Ang mga dogs nila mabait sa akin, I’m gonna miss them too.”
Born in Batac, Ilocos Norte, Anthony Vives was the seventh of 12 children. He had a tough childhood, he says. For several years, he had to live away from his family in Ilocos and stay with his cousins in Manila because his parents could not support him. “Para akong tutang ipinamigay,” he remembers. He didn’t get to finish his Radiologic Technology course because it came to a point his older brother could no longer finance his studies.
Through his uncle’s recommendation, Vives got hired by a printing press and the work helped him get by for a couple of years. Things started to get better for the family when his eldest brother accepted an opportunity to work in the US in the 70s. After a while, the same brother petitioned their mother, who later petitioned Anthony and his siblings. It was November 15, 1981 when the young Anthony first set foot in The Golden State.
Vives first worked in a printing company for six years before he decided to apply for a job at the US Postal Service. After five years as a casual employee, he applied for a regular position as a mail carrier.
Like any job, being a mail carrier in the US has its share of joys and challenges. Delivering the mail itself was pretty manageable. He’d work anywhere from three to eight hours a day, depending on his load. There were opportunities to work overtime for extra pay. “By the time you get off work, you’re on your own, wala ka nang boss,” Mr. Vives says.
However, work gets difficult during the summer when temperatures would reach 110 to 115 degrees Fahrenheit. “I have to drink at least 10 bottles of water a day. There was a time when I almost passed out because of the hot weather,” he recalls. But his customers take good care of him. “Parati silang may nilalagay na iced water bottle sa mail box.”
Meanwhile, during winter, there would be times when it would rain non-stop. “Basang-basa ako. Sometimes it would be very cold, windy. Kahit makapal ang mga rain gear namin, tumatagos pa din ang lamig,” recalls Mr. Vives.
He would walk daily to deliver the mail. And while that was good for his health, providing his regular dose of exercise, the mailman later on developed knee problems. “There were multiple times when he had to see the doctor because he ended up having bursitis,” says Belle, a nurse. Having to carry a heavy mailbag every day also took a toll on his shoulders. “The physical labor was too much for him,” the daughter adds.
Mr. Vives says he had an option to be transferred to a department that allowed him to use a service vehicle to deliver packages, but he didn’t want to leave his friends at West Hills so he opted to stay in the same post until his retirement. He served the area for 22 years.
The best time of the year, recalls Mr. Vives, was Christmastime because the West Hills people would give him all sorts of gifts. “They became like family to me. Mahal na mahal nila ako roon. Nalungkot sila nung nalaman nilang magre-retire na ako. But what can I do?”
Working at the US Postal Service has definitely been a great help to his family. With his wife who currently works as a supervisor in Juvenile Court Health Services, they were able to send their two daughters to school. Both are now nurses. “We already paid off our house. Every five years nagpapalit kami ng sasakyan,” Mr. Vives says. “Kaya pag nag-retire na ang asawa ko [in five years], pa-travel-travel na lang kami.”
The retired mailman says he now gets to enjoy plenty of R&R opportunities at home. But he’s also been busy cleaning their front yard and backyard for the retirement party his daughters are throwing for him in March. He’s looking forward to a vacation in the Philippines this July. Their last visit to the motherland was way back in 2004. “We live in Batac, Ilocos Norte, so gusto kong maglibot,” he says, adding he’d love to feast on fish and vegetables.
Life in the US is not easy as some people may think, according to Mr. Vives. Everyone experiences their share of hardships. “Marami din akong nakikitang nahihirapan na mga Filipino dito,” he offers. His advice to them: “Magtiyaga lang sila. Maraming trabaho dito. Wag lang silang tatamad-tamad at tiyak namang may magandang kinabukasan na naghihintay sa kanila. Basta magsikap lang.”
Photos courtesy of Belle Vives