A 9th grader’s V-Day lesson: Gifts can’t fix a broken relationship | Lifestyle.INQ

OCTOBER 27, 2022

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In less than a week, we will be seeing the timeless clichés of Valentine’s Day: bouquets of flowers, assorted sweets and pastries, even the pricey stuffed animal.

If you’re one of the lucky people to have (or have had) a partner, you certainly have thought of that special gift for your Valentine. As in any occasion, there’s always that one person who goes the extra mile for his/her loved one—in time, expense, and effort, for the perfect “Valentine’s Day Gift.”

Such a person was none other than the 9th grade version of myself. With my first and only official girlfriend to date, I made the grave error of believing that material presents could fix a sinking relationship, especially one in which the reasons were not rooted in material wealth at all.


It started on the first day of the school year. I was the loner in the classroom, and had just moved from Pasay City and had no more than three acquaintances in my new class.

As the new guy in the section, I made it a point to make as many worthwhile friendships as I could since I knew little of my classmates.

Weeks passed without any notable “gimmicks” with the people I’d met in class. This all changed, however, when a certain girl—“Sandra,” let’s give her that name—messaged me on WeChat, asking for help in Algebra. Thinking nothing of it, I taught her the lesson and went to sleep right after.

The next morning, I found myself wanting to go to the local gaming lounge down the road from school. Again, thinking nothing of it, I asked Sandra to join me in playing video games.

To my surprise, she agreed and went with me and another friend. It was my first time to go out with a girl.


Pretty soon, we found ourselves going out on date after date, exploring the nooks and crannies of BF Homes Parañaque. Those times marked some of the happiest moments of my junior high school.

After a few months, I asked her to be my girlfriend and she said yes!

But it wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows. As fast as we hit it off, the fights started.

Problems like priorities, academics, family and pride started showing after every skirmish, slapping us away from teenage fantasies and into the reality we should’ve lived in.

To compensate for the horrible boyfriend I’ve been, I thought of something grand. Something so outrageous that I hoped would get us back on track.

The plan was for me to give her a gift every hour that we were together on Valentine’s Day, starting from the smallest and ending with the largest—in terms of expense and sentiment.

From 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., she received her favorite flower, a box of chocolates, a dress, and one of the cheesiest poems I had written (with all the gifts in between that I thankfully can no longer recall).

But that wasn’t enough. They didn’t even count in the long run. Just as the day started to end at 3 p.m., we had another argument. This time, it was due to my sadness about thinking I would not receive a gift at all, since she acted normally throughout the day. This, aside from countless others, was one of my many faults in the relationship.

Afterward, I went with her to a nearby mall to buy some art materials. As we sat silently in the tricycle, I took the copy of the poem from my pocket and read it out loud to her. She kept silent.

Finally, I followed her to our favorite coffee shop where she bought two pieces of coffee bread for us. As if to apologize, she leaned her head on my shoulder and we called it a day in a relationship that would eventually end that same year.

This just goes to show that, no matter how grand the trinkets are, how much money is spent, or how many ways someone expresses love, it is no substitute for real change, even on Valentine’s.

The solution was never in the material, and my 9th grader self, dumbfounded as he was, learned it that day. —CONTRIBUTED

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