Valentine’s Day is a huge holiday in the Philippines, second only to Christmas. I suppose that declares to the whole world that indeed, the Filipino is a romantic soul.
Feb. 14 is traditionally reserved for sweethearts, married, engaged or “in a relationship,” all presumably legit. Those who would list themselves in social networks under “it’s complicated” may choose to celebrate around that date. I guess this avoids further, uh, complications?
The legend behind Valentine’s Day is a little dubious, but it has gone down in history as gospel truth.
It tells about Valentine, a priest in third century Rome during the reign of Emperor Claudius II. One day, the emperor decides that single men make better soldiers than those with wives and families. In his desire to build a strong and mighty army, he outlaws marriage for young men.
Valentine bravely defies the outrageous order. He performs weddings for young lovers in secret. Claudius discovers Valentine’s treachery. He is caught and put to death.
There is a romantic twist to the legend. They say that while he was in prison, Valentine fell in love with a young girl, supposedly the daughter of his jailer. On the night before he was put to death, Valentine wrote her a love letter and signed it, “From Your Valentine.”
“Women never forget a man who remembers.” This was the famous tagline of Whitman’s Sampler in the 1950s. The iconic yellow box with a cross-stitch design containing America’s favorite assorted chocolates has been around for a hundred years. In my day, this was a very desirable Valentine’s gift! If a young man brought you a Whitman’s Sampler on Valentine’s, it was a sign of his good intentions.
Trivia: Over a billion Samplers have been sold in the last century. A special issue called the Presidential Tin is the official giveaway token at the White House and on Air Force One.
How do you celebrate the day of hearts? Are mushy cards still eagerly sought? How many clicks and drags take you to your virtual romance? Is your Valentine’s greeting a product of cut and paste? Photoshop?
Hallmark used to make oversized cards for Valentine’s. Some had satin cushiony hearts. The verses inside were often corny. But how thrilling it was to receive one.
Many years ago, my daughter got a paper heart from her grade school classmate saying: “Will you be my Valentine?” I almost put our house on the market.
Where does one go on that special day? Traffic gets nightmarish. Roses, even from vendors on street corners, are incredibly expensive.
One young couple will stay home. “My husband will do the cooking this year, and I will make his favorite dessert. We have a movie date. We will rent a DVD, something our 7-year-old son can watch, of course, and buy popcorn. Everything is so expensive. We want to keep it simple. ”
Another couple I know has been married 48 years. Their children and grandchildren live abroad. What will Valentine’s night be like for them?
“Every year we try to rekindle the love that grew out of our first Valentine’s date at the Manila Hotel. He surprised me with flowers and a box of chocolates,” she gushes. This year, they look forward to a romantic dinner for two with candlelight and music.
I recently saw them at the 80th birthday of a mutual friend. The music was mellow and they danced cheek-to-cheek.
If only one could bottle the magic dust that danced around them!
Do you remember your first “serious” Valentine’s gift?
Mine was a gold ID bracelet with my name inscribed on one side, and a number 5 on the other. That was the number on his basketball jersey. I thought that was sweet. My friends were green with envy. And my parents worried. It was only my second year in university.
That same year a very talented pianist/composer wrote a song with me in mind for Valentine’s. No, he was not smitten, but he said he wrote it for someone who was. The title was “Beloved.” The melody was lovely.
But the words seemed strange to me at the time. What did I know about those things? I was still in school, and not quite over climbing trees and playing patintero.
Dear to the heart
It has taken me all these years to learn that to love and to be “beloved” are vastly different.
Webster’s definition of “beloved” is: “dearly loved, dear to the heart.” There’s a personal and intimate ring to that. To be someone’s “beloved” implies you belong in that person’s heart. No questions, no doubts.
A friend of mine gave up on a relationship because, in spite of her husband’s endless protestations of love after his numerous infidelities, she was tired of being “the one doing the loving.” She wanted to be the “beloved” for a change. The husband had no clue what that meant. The marriage failed.
I like what American fiction writer Robert Heinlein says about love: “It is a condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own.”
On Valentine’s Day, there is an opportunity to declare one’s love and make promises. The hype is contagious and one can get carried away. But roses wilt and fade, and so does the passion of the moment. When the violins have stopped, can we keep the music playing?
Voltaire said about love: “Love has wings. He comes quickly and flies away the same.”
Those three little words on a Valentine’s card or whispered in your ear do not guarantee fidelity, nor do they promise commitment. Love is different things to different people.
Here is someone’s very down to earth, and very real description of that “crazy little thing called love.”
“I don’t pretend to know what love is for everyone, but I can tell you what it is for me. Love is when you know all about someone and still want to be with him more than any other person. Love is to trust him enough to tell him everything about yourself, including the things you might be ashamed of. Love is to feel comfortable and safe with someone, but still get weak in the knees when he walks into a room and smiles at you.” (Anonymous)