Here’s to Valentine’s skeptics | Inquirer Opinion
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Here’s to Valentine’s skeptics

/ 12:13 AM February 14, 2014

When I was a child, in Maryknoll, the all-girls school I went to, Feb. 14 was celebrated not as a Day for Lovers, but as a Day for Showing Your Love—to your teachers, your parents, and your classmates.

I don’t know if this was an official celebration, or just an innovation of the American nuns and our lay teachers to distract us from all the romantic claptrap of the day. But days before Feb. 14, our art classes were devoted to crafting elaborate cards out of red cartolina, doily paper, cupid cutouts and hearts of all sizes and materials. But the messages we put on them were decidedly chaste: “Thank you for all your love and support!” we might word a card for our parents, which would earn us a loud kiss from our moms and our cards a place on the family refrigerator.


We were especially creative in our messages to our teachers, although “sucking up” was a common theme. “You make me love reading books!” was one superlative declaration I came up with one year, earning me the beaming favor of our reading teacher for the rest of the school year.

It was not so easy, though, to pull the wool over the eyes of one’s classmates, whose judgments about popularity and A-list qualifications were spot-on. Come Valentine’s Day, we all silently competed to win the biggest number of Valentine cards. Needless to say, your columnist always ended up among the bottom dwellers, the honor of being the “most liked” falling on, invariably, my mestiza classmates who spoke with American accents and brandished those fancy, complicated pencil boxes with tiers of compartments while most of us had to make do with plain plastic pouches that were secured with a button.


* * *

Of course, come high school, the stakes rose even higher.

Not content to show off their social superiority by the number of cards they received from classmates and friends, the A-listers soon had boys from the neighboring school and even from farther districts lining up at their feet.

We plain Janes could only gawk awkwardly at the parade of bouquets and arrangements delivered to the popular set around dismissal time, as we all waited to be fetched from school. Even more awe-inspiring was to behold a delivery man knocking on our classroom door bearing a dozen or more roses for the lucky recipient. Of course, it was all we could do to stay in our seats and fight the urge to crowd around the recipient and inhale the fragrance of young love. That, to me, was the peak of achievement in the young romance sweepstakes.

Again, it never happened to me. Such a loss would have hardened my heart if I hadn’t heard, many years later, that some of those “honored” by the delivery man actually placed the order for a Valentine flower arrangement themselves. Talk about self-delusion! And talk about basking in the smug revenge of the socially awkward and unloved (at least in adolescence)!

Well do I remember this line from an actor’s biography, about being snubbed at some hoity-toity affair: “How mean of them, and how petty of me to still remember.”

* * *


You’d think, almost 40 years after hearing my new boyfriend, now my hubby, declare that “I don’t believe in Valentine’s,” that I’d be content, and used, to sitting out this most cruel and commercial of holidays.

He may not believe in it, but I still—despite experience and the repeated smashing of my hopeful heart—do believe in Valentine’s. Or at least in its mythic power, its cheesy appeal, its kilig moments.

My daughter-in-law Tesh, apparently also the victim of a Valentine’s skeptic, thinks we can give our romantic illusions a boost by watching the latest Piolo Pascual-Toni Gonzaga movie. But when I asked when we would trek to the movie house for this romantic outing, she suggested waiting till next week, “so we don’t watch it with all the pairs of lovers or the bitter singles.”

There is no getting away from Valentine’s envy even in the darkness of a movie house.

So what are we doing today? We were supposed to watch Jack Jones at the Manila Hotel, but just contemplating the traffic—always horrific on ordinary days but guaranteed to grow to nightmare proportions today—gives me the heebie-jeebies. Besides, we have to be on the road by 4 a.m. Saturday morning to celebrate my cousin Lulu Garcia’s 70th birthday in Pangasinan.

So maybe we’ll just stay home and veg out on cable TV—which is what we do on most days, anyway.

* * *

But if you’re young and in a relationship, or still in the throes of postwedding bliss, but find yourself paired to a Valentine’s skeptic, let me give you some words of advice.

One, Valentine’s Day, it’s true, is a largely contrived holiday. St. Valentine, who supposedly inspired the celebration, has been proven to have never existed. So we’re investing all this hoping, yearning, planning and conniving on a holiday that mainly exists, it seems, for the benefit of florists, chocolatiers, restaurateurs, and entertainers.

Two, love or romance doesn’t have to be celebrated on a particular occasion. In fact, it’s best when celebrated, acknowledged and declared in the most unexpected moments, unbidden, unofficial, all-of-a-sudden. And the celebrating doesn’t have to be an elaborate, candle-lit ceremonial occasion. It can be as simple as waking up late in the morning and finding on the dining table a plate of French toast and a jug of sticky hot chocolate for breakfast. Prepared by the Valentine’s skeptic’s own hands.

And three, love endures even without cheesy flourishes. Indeed, it is tested through the hardest, toughest times—death and illness, material hardship, child-rearing conflicts, distance and disappointment. But it is also a lot of fun. And you don’t have to buy yourself a bouquet to

enjoy its many pleasures.

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TAGS: column, Rina Jimenez-David, Valentine's Day
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