It’s not only roses and chocolates for Valentine’s

Roses and chocolates are top Valentine’s Day gifts

When you think of Valentine’s Day, you imagine a bouquet of roses or a box of chocolates, and for those with much more expensive taste and much deeper pockets, a week-end getaway in a multi-starred hotel or resort or a fancy dinner at a popular restaurant; some bling-bling for those with caching caching.

But it doesn’t have to be. Valentine’s Day is society’s idea of showing and sharing love, except society’s idea of LOVE varies, and capitalism’s idea of showing love is marred and tilted towards profit-making rather than truly expressing and sharing love. Valentine’s Day started with this great idea of the celebration of love, an opportunity for us to truly reconnect with the real meaning of this day. It is about LOVE, giving, receiving, sharing. But business has crept in, as it always does if there’s a chance to make money and profit.

What is love, anyway?

Look back to when you were a child, when things and your actions were almost for pure fun and joy and, OK let’s add, love. The caresses and hugs you received from your parents, mostly from mom, relatives and people around you, can be within the idea of love. The smiles you got from your parents while they held you tightly as a baby or a toddler in front of their faces, and the giggles you gave them, I think that’s also love. The toils and hardships your parents have to endure to earn just to provide the family with necessities and a bit more, that’s a sign of love, too. And there’s lovers’ love. Couples’ love. Even coupling can be love. I can go on enumerating ways and acts that can mean love, but for this blog story I’ll limit myself to my recollection of my Valentine’s Day of years past.

My earliest recollection of Valentine’s Day was way back in Grade 1. My mother, who was my Grade 1 teacher, asked our class to make a Valentine’s card for our parents. She gave us examples of pictures to draw, how to draw a heart and cut it out to be pasted on to our card, and suggested some words that we have to copy onto our cards. I enjoyed creating my Valentine’s card, because my mother the teacher would get one. I’m sure I also made a card for my father, for my sister, and my brother. I might have even made one for my Lola Enyang who lived with us, and maybe another one for Gasing, my favorite househelp at that time. I remember efficiently making the cards out of white bond paper, pasted a red heart that I cut out, and scribbled whatever my mother-teacher wrote on the big blackboard. On the Valentine’s cards I completed, my mom’s heart was the largest, and Papa’s was significantly larger than the other recipients’. I guess the size of my cut-out heart determined how much “love” I had for the recipient. Size mattered.

While that card-making activity was so much fun for me, some of my classmates’ faces didn’t seem to glow while crafting their cards. For most First graders, cutting curved shapes with the scissors was rather challenging. Squirting the tacky paste from the little plastic tubes was messy. Most classmates merely created one Valentine’s Day card. I made many.

Some thought it was just a project for our art class and an exercise on copying and writing weird, long words. “Happy Valentine’s Day” just had too many letters to copy and write on half of a bond paper (we had to fold our paper to create that folding-card effect). At Grade I, we didn’t learn English yet, so we didn’t understand what “happy,” much less “Valentine’s” meant. To most of my classmates, it was merely a writing drill. The words meant very little to them. Devoid of purpose and meaning, any work became a joyless task.

In Grade II, we had to make a Valentine’s card for each of our classmates, some forty of us. Making the cards was still fun. But the repetitious cutting of red and pink paper into hearts was tedious. Until I realized I could cut three or four hearts at the same time by snipping two to three paper all at once. I learned efficiency in mass production.

Some hearts were cut nicely, others were crooked, well, shall we say, amateurish? I didn’t really want to give certain classmates a Valentine’s card anyway, so the process was somewhat tedious. The best cut-out hearts I gave to my favorites in class, and the hearts that didn’t come out right were unceremoniously handed out to my least-favorite in the class. Now, the “look” determined the “value” of my Valentine’s cards. I wrote the same line that I learned in Grade I on all my Valentine’s cards: “Happy Valentine’s Day.” I had no time to practice creative writing. Or, maybe I didn’t really have creative writing skills in a foreign language yet in Grade 2. But I learned what mass production could do. It was quantity over quality. Oftentimes, such is life.

In Grades III and IV, I bought Valentines’ cards. Store-bought cards looked so much better than what my creativity and scissors-cutting skills could have produced. I was enrolled at an expensive private school in Grades III and IV, and store-bought card was just the thing to do and have. Buying Valentine’s cards — there were close to 40 pupils in our class — was not part of my meager allowance. I must have bought the cheapest cards I could find at that time. I think they came half a dozen cards in one ply of cardboard, partially perforated at the sides for ease in snapping each card off. But I bought an “expensive” Valentine’s card for my crush in Grade III and Grade IV, but she didn’t even look impressed or happy to receive the card from me. I was broke and heart-broken.

I can’t remember what I did on Valentine’s Day in Grade V. I must have made and given Valentine’s cards. That was just the thing to do. And I had crushes (note, plural) in Grade V….

Valentine’s Day in Grade VI felt still so fresh in my mind, as if it happened only days ago. Not because my “crush,” ooops, crushes, again plural, had become real puppy loves. No, I didn’t give any of them a Valentine’s card. I didn’t want any of them to know that I like them so very much. So the recollection is not about what I did or didn’t do on Valentine’s Day that year.

My Valentine’s Day recollection was about my best friend (left unnamed, for his sake). In our Art class in Grade VI, we actually made Valentine’s cards. All of us, even the boys who so hated Art class because they found it too girlish and so unmanly. We boys detested drawing flowers, rainbows, pretty faces, and cats and other “girly” art. We boys wanted to draw ghoulish art, like men fighting, soldiers shooting each other, or at least men carrying guns. I didn’t draw those kinds of boys art, because those subjects were hated by our Art teacher and I would never get my anticipated “Outstanding” (Outstanding, at that time, was the grade equivalent to an A or 90% + grade). So I drew houses, landscapes, beaches with rolling waves, dinosaurs, and animals (but not cat); I became good at drawing galloping horses; I was also good at drawing trains, boats, and airplanes, with good details and shadow effects; cars, sports cars especially, and motorbikes were my favorites, too. I just have to be very selective with the subject of my art for submission to our Art teacher; I had to play with her rules to get the grade I want.

Anyway, back to our Valentine’s card-making in our Art class. Days before Valentines Day, some of my male friends were so into our art class. Surprising. We boys normally hated our art class. Many boys used to skip art class. This time the boys in art class were engrossed with cutting red hearts and writing scripts plagiarized from Hallmark Valentines cards. One of my best friends made four Valentines Day cards that he hid in the pages of his notebook. His notebook happened to look like mine. So that day after school, I accidentally went home with his notebook instead. That’s how I discovered who his crushes were: four at that! But being very close friends I secretly returned his notebook with all those four hand-made Valentines cards still intact in-between his notebook’s pages; I never brought this up to his attention. I knew he never made it to first-base with any of the four girls, so I wondered if he used any of his Valentines cards on Feb. 14th. Maybe Cupid wasn’t on his side.

I kept my art-class-made Valentine’s cards to myself, because I didn’t want a repeat of my Grade III and Grade IV sad experience. I actually made three Valentine’s cards, since I had three major crushes at that time. But I didn’t want any of them to know. No pain, no gain, and so it was for me.

High school was all about my studies, even on Valentine’s Day. Besides, I was enrolled at St. Joseph Seminary. The special day just came and went, just like that.

Students were left mostly to and by themselves in college. Even on Valentine’s Day. Teachers didn’t give a hoot what their students were up to on Valentine’s Day, at least none of my university professors did. No mention of the day of love. No card-making class activity. Not even a mention in class that February 14th was Valentine’s Day. I felt students were in class for one specific reason: learning a specific subject.

If one had a girlfriend or a boyfriend, then Valentine’s Day was a very special day for those college students. For me and my very close college friends (we called our group GAWAD: Galian sa Awit, Wika, Arte, at Dula) who had no girlfriend or boyfriend, we tried to keep aflame our romantic fire. We held our own Un-Valentine’s Day Party at one of our friends’ house near the university. We had a potluck dinner, still complete with red roses for the table centerpiece. We gave each other a rose from the centerpiece after dinner. Then we read love poems by famous writers like Percy Bysshe Shelley, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Edgar Allan Poe, Shakespeare, and their brood. Someone even read his own poem (I felt the poem was actually for one of the girls in our group). We belted out love songs on the minus-one machine (precursor to the karaoke machine). Some ended up drunk from the left-over red wine from our dinner party. The party lasted almost whole night. We slept on the couches and the floor of our friend’s house; a few vomited in the garden. That was a night to remember.

Un-Valentine Parties among our GAWAD group were planned every year while I was in Silliman University, but it only materialized once. It seemed as Valentine’s Day approached, my fellow GAWAD friends worked so hard at getting a boyfriend or a girlfriend, and by the time the week of February 14th loomed, other members felt no need to push through with our party. I myself had already girlfriends (one girlfriend at a time, I felt the need to point this out) when I was in my last years in Silliman, yet, I would still have wanted to join our GAWAD Un-Valentine’s Party. I would have gate-crashed after I bade goodnight to whoever was my girlfriend on that Feb 14th.

In my married years, Valentine’s Day has acquired different ways of celebrating the day of love, and of love itself. My wife and I still give each other little gifts, nothing expensive, nothing unnecessary, unlike in our first few years of marriage. My wife and I used to give each other jewelry or household gadgets. We have long stopped that costly habit. Then years later, I used to buy her bouquets of pink roses (she loves pink, and Rose is her middle name). She pretended to be wowed. Later on she had admitted she wished I didn’t spend money on an expensive bouquet that days later would simply wilt and be part of our compost. Frugality has a way with sincere and honest gratitude.

In subsequent years, I bought her a lovely potted pink rose each Feb. 14th. At least she could grow the rose indoor or outdoor. None of those had lived this long. So, at her hint, I bought her indoor plants instead. During those times, I thought each would survive over the years, and she’d have a collection of nice indoor plants. Nope. I ended up planting those in our garden, and each snap of snowfall by winter brought the various plants to their end. As a budding gardener at that time, I should clearly have known the difference between indoor plants and outdoor plants. Mistakes are great lesson-makers.

Then I realized: why don’t I gift my wife whatever is in our garden in February. But hardly anything blooms as early as February 14th. The blooms available on Feb 14th are sold in the flower shops. Buying bouquets had already been established as a no-no. So no solution there.

Acts of love instead of gifts of love are actually good as Valentine’s gifts. Aha! No need for chocolates (if my wife is trying to be on a diet or to eat healthy); no more bouquets and plants. So acts of love are awesome alternatives. For example: I set the Valentine’s Day table. I clean the house. I wash the dishes. Now I’ve got solutions.

I used to be one of those people who rush around to prove their true love for that “special” person in their life with material gifts. The more expensive the gift, the greater the expression of love, so we thought. But what happens when the roses have died and the chocolates have all been gobbled up? Hopefully, you also asked yourself the same questions that I used to ask to myself year after year.

Wait. How about doing the laundry instead of letting the laundry pile up while waiting for my wife to finally have time to do it? Vacuuming the carpet and rugs? Throwing the garbage and cleaning the garbage bins so my wife can have more time for cooking and baking? How about washing her van, so my wife can have more time to clean up whatever it is she wants to clean up or beautify? How about a whole body massage, or even just a foot massage? The gifts of love becomes endless.

Even better: showing one’s love does not only happen on February 14th. It can be done every day, if we care enough to. It seems we are madly clamouring for this special day of love, as if all it takes to prove and validate our love is just one day of being nice to our partner.

Love is much greater than what we feel romantically. As an old song goes: “Love is a many splendored thing.” It is what makes us sing, dance, or do chores. Love makes us humans — caring, thoughtful, giving and forgiving humans.

And rather than just focussing on what fancy gift we can give to our loved one, or how elaborately we can celebrate the day, we might really just focus on what we can actually give of ourselves. (And if you are single, it is time to give more of yourself to others.)

So my loving wish this Valentine’s Day — for myself and for all of you — is that may you all find the true gifts of love, find happiness in yourself and in your relationship, no matter what stage you are at – perhaps single and having a ball, in a blissful union and loving the journey, or recovering from a broken heart.

When you think of Valentine’s Day, you imagine a bouquet of roses or a box of chocolates, and for those with much more expensive taste and much deeper pockets, a week-end getaway in a multi-starred hotel or resort or a fancy dinner at a popular restaurant; some bling-bling for those with caching caching. But it […]

Roses and chocolates are top Valentine’s Day gifts

When you think of Valentine’s Day, you imagine a bouquet of roses or a box of chocolates, and for those with much more expensive taste and much deeper pockets, a week-end getaway in a multi-starred hotel or resort or a fancy dinner at a popular restaurant; some bling-bling for those with caching caching.

But it doesn’t have to be. Valentine’s Day is society’s idea of showing and sharing love, except society’s idea of LOVE varies, and capitalism’s idea of showing love is marred and tilted towards profit-making rather than truly expressing and sharing love. Valentine’s Day started with this great idea of the celebration of love, an opportunity for us to truly reconnect with the real meaning of this day. It is about LOVE, giving, receiving, sharing. But business has crept in, as it always does if there’s a chance to make money and profit.

What is love, anyway?

Look back to when you were a child, when things and your actions were almost for pure fun and joy and, OK let’s add, love. The caresses and hugs you received from your parents, mostly from mom, relatives and people around you, can be within the idea of love. The smiles you got from your parents while they held you tightly as a baby or a toddler in front of their faces, and the giggles you gave them, I think that’s also love. The toils and hardships your parents have to endure to earn just to provide the family with necessities and a bit more, that’s a sign of love, too. And there’s lovers’ love. Couples’ love. Even coupling can be love. I can go on enumerating ways and acts that can mean love, but for this blog story I’ll limit myself to my recollection of my Valentine’s Day of years past.

My earliest recollection of Valentine’s Day was way back in Grade 1. My mother, who was my Grade 1 teacher, asked our class to make a Valentine’s card for our parents. She gave us examples of pictures to draw, how to draw a heart and cut it out to be pasted on to our card, and suggested some words that we have to copy onto our cards. I enjoyed creating my Valentine’s card, because my mother the teacher would get one. I’m sure I also made a card for my father, for my sister, and my brother. I might have even made one for my Lola Enyang who lived with us, and maybe another one for Gasing, my favorite househelp at that time. I remember efficiently making the cards out of white bond paper, pasted a red heart that I cut out, and scribbled whatever my mother-teacher wrote on the big blackboard. On the Valentine’s cards I completed, my mom’s heart was the largest, and Papa’s was significantly larger than the other recipients’. I guess the size of my cut-out heart determined how much “love” I had for the recipient. Size mattered.

While that card-making activity was so much fun for me, some of my classmates’ faces didn’t seem to glow while crafting their cards. For most First graders, cutting curved shapes with the scissors was rather challenging. Squirting the tacky paste from the little plastic tubes was messy. Most classmates merely created one Valentine’s Day card. I made many.

Some thought it was just a project for our art class and an exercise on copying and writing weird, long words. “Happy Valentine’s Day” just had too many letters to copy and write on half of a bond paper (we had to fold our paper to create that folding-card effect). At Grade I, we didn’t learn English yet, so we didn’t understand what “happy,” much less “Valentine’s” meant. To most of my classmates, it was merely a writing drill. The words meant very little to them. Devoid of purpose and meaning, any work became a joyless task.

In Grade II, we had to make a Valentine’s card for each of our classmates, some forty of us. Making the cards was still fun. But the repetitious cutting of red and pink paper into hearts was tedious. Until I realized I could cut three or four hearts at the same time by snipping two to three paper all at once. I learned efficiency in mass production.

Some hearts were cut nicely, others were crooked, well, shall we say, amateurish? I didn’t really want to give certain classmates a Valentine’s card anyway, so the process was somewhat tedious. The best cut-out hearts I gave to my favorites in class, and the hearts that didn’t come out right were unceremoniously handed out to my least-favorite in the class. Now, the “look” determined the “value” of my Valentine’s cards. I wrote the same line that I learned in Grade I on all my Valentine’s cards: “Happy Valentine’s Day.” I had no time to practice creative writing. Or, maybe I didn’t really have creative writing skills in a foreign language yet in Grade 2. But I learned what mass production could do. It was quantity over quality. Oftentimes, such is life.

In Grades III and IV, I bought Valentines’ cards. Store-bought cards looked so much better than what my creativity and scissors-cutting skills could have produced. I was enrolled at an expensive private school in Grades III and IV, and store-bought card was just the thing to do and have. Buying Valentine’s cards — there were close to 40 pupils in our class — was not part of my meager allowance. I must have bought the cheapest cards I could find at that time. I think they came half a dozen cards in one ply of cardboard, partially perforated at the sides for ease in snapping each card off. But I bought an “expensive” Valentine’s card for my crush in Grade III and Grade IV, but she didn’t even look impressed or happy to receive the card from me. I was broke and heart-broken.

I can’t remember what I did on Valentine’s Day in Grade V. I must have made and given Valentine’s cards. That was just the thing to do. And I had crushes (note, plural) in Grade V….

Valentine’s Day in Grade VI felt still so fresh in my mind, as if it happened only days ago. Not because my “crush,” ooops, crushes, again plural, had become real puppy loves. No, I didn’t give any of them a Valentine’s card. I didn’t want any of them to know that I like them so very much. So the recollection is not about what I did or didn’t do on Valentine’s Day that year.

My Valentine’s Day recollection was about my best friend (left unnamed, for his sake). In our Art class in Grade VI, we actually made Valentine’s cards. All of us, even the boys who so hated Art class because they found it too girlish and so unmanly. We boys detested drawing flowers, rainbows, pretty faces, and cats and other “girly” art. We boys wanted to draw ghoulish art, like men fighting, soldiers shooting each other, or at least men carrying guns. I didn’t draw those kinds of boys art, because those subjects were hated by our Art teacher and I would never get my anticipated “Outstanding” (Outstanding, at that time, was the grade equivalent to an A or 90% + grade). So I drew houses, landscapes, beaches with rolling waves, dinosaurs, and animals (but not cat); I became good at drawing galloping horses; I was also good at drawing trains, boats, and airplanes, with good details and shadow effects; cars, sports cars especially, and motorbikes were my favorites, too. I just have to be very selective with the subject of my art for submission to our Art teacher; I had to play with her rules to get the grade I want.

Anyway, back to our Valentine’s card-making in our Art class. Days before Valentines Day, some of my male friends were so into our art class. Surprising. We boys normally hated our art class. Many boys used to skip art class. This time the boys in art class were engrossed with cutting red hearts and writing scripts plagiarized from Hallmark Valentines cards. One of my best friends made four Valentines Day cards that he hid in the pages of his notebook. His notebook happened to look like mine. So that day after school, I accidentally went home with his notebook instead. That’s how I discovered who his crushes were: four at that! But being very close friends I secretly returned his notebook with all those four hand-made Valentines cards still intact in-between his notebook’s pages; I never brought this up to his attention. I knew he never made it to first-base with any of the four girls, so I wondered if he used any of his Valentines cards on Feb. 14th. Maybe Cupid wasn’t on his side.

I kept my art-class-made Valentine’s cards to myself, because I didn’t want a repeat of my Grade III and Grade IV sad experience. I actually made three Valentine’s cards, since I had three major crushes at that time. But I didn’t want any of them to know. No pain, no gain, and so it was for me.

High school was all about my studies, even on Valentine’s Day. Besides, I was enrolled at St. Joseph Seminary. The special day just came and went, just like that.

Students were left mostly to and by themselves in college. Even on Valentine’s Day. Teachers didn’t give a hoot what their students were up to on Valentine’s Day, at least none of my university professors did. No mention of the day of love. No card-making class activity. Not even a mention in class that February 14th was Valentine’s Day. I felt students were in class for one specific reason: learning a specific subject.

If one had a girlfriend or a boyfriend, then Valentine’s Day was a very special day for those college students. For me and my very close college friends (we called our group GAWAD: Galian sa Awit, Wika, Arte, at Dula) who had no girlfriend or boyfriend, we tried to keep aflame our romantic fire. We held our own Un-Valentine’s Day Party at one of our friends’ house near the university. We had a potluck dinner, still complete with red roses for the table centerpiece. We gave each other a rose from the centerpiece after dinner. Then we read love poems by famous writers like Percy Bysshe Shelley, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Edgar Allan Poe, Shakespeare, and their brood. Someone even read his own poem (I felt the poem was actually for one of the girls in our group). We belted out love songs on the minus-one machine (precursor to the karaoke machine). Some ended up drunk from the left-over red wine from our dinner party. The party lasted almost whole night. We slept on the couches and the floor of our friend’s house; a few vomited in the garden. That was a night to remember.

Un-Valentine Parties among our GAWAD group were planned every year while I was in Silliman University, but it only materialized once. It seemed as Valentine’s Day approached, my fellow GAWAD friends worked so hard at getting a boyfriend or a girlfriend, and by the time the week of February 14th loomed, other members felt no need to push through with our party. I myself had already girlfriends (one girlfriend at a time, I felt the need to point this out) when I was in my last years in Silliman, yet, I would still have wanted to join our GAWAD Un-Valentine’s Party. I would have gate-crashed after I bade goodnight to whoever was my girlfriend on that Feb 14th.

In my married years, Valentine’s Day has acquired different ways of celebrating the day of love, and of love itself. My wife and I still give each other little gifts, nothing expensive, nothing unnecessary, unlike in our first few years of marriage. My wife and I used to give each other jewelry or household gadgets. We have long stopped that costly habit. Then years later, I used to buy her bouquets of pink roses (she loves pink, and Rose is her middle name). She pretended to be wowed. Later on she had admitted she wished I didn’t spend money on an expensive bouquet that days later would simply wilt and be part of our compost. Frugality has a way with sincere and honest gratitude.

In subsequent years, I bought her a lovely potted pink rose each Feb. 14th. At least she could grow the rose indoor or outdoor. None of those had lived this long. So, at her hint, I bought her indoor plants instead. During those times, I thought each would survive over the years, and she’d have a collection of nice indoor plants. Nope. I ended up planting those in our garden, and each snap of snowfall by winter brought the various plants to their end. As a budding gardener at that time, I should clearly have known the difference between indoor plants and outdoor plants. Mistakes are great lesson-makers.

Then I realized: why don’t I gift my wife whatever is in our garden in February. But hardly anything blooms as early as February 14th. The blooms available on Feb 14th are sold in the flower shops. Buying bouquets had already been established as a no-no. So no solution there.

Acts of love instead of gifts of love are actually good as Valentine’s gifts. Aha! No need for chocolates (if my wife is trying to be on a diet or to eat healthy); no more bouquets and plants. So acts of love are awesome alternatives. For example: I set the Valentine’s Day table. I clean the house. I wash the dishes. Now I’ve got solutions.

I used to be one of those people who rush around to prove their true love for that “special” person in their life with material gifts. The more expensive the gift, the greater the expression of love, so we thought. But what happens when the roses have died and the chocolates have all been gobbled up? Hopefully, you also asked yourself the same questions that I used to ask to myself year after year.

Wait. How about doing the laundry instead of letting the laundry pile up while waiting for my wife to finally have time to do it? Vacuuming the carpet and rugs? Throwing the garbage and cleaning the garbage bins so my wife can have more time for cooking and baking? How about washing her van, so my wife can have more time to clean up whatever it is she wants to clean up or beautify? How about a whole body massage, or even just a foot massage? The gifts of love becomes endless.

Even better: showing one’s love does not only happen on February 14th. It can be done every day, if we care enough to. It seems we are madly clamouring for this special day of love, as if all it takes to prove and validate our love is just one day of being nice to our partner.

Love is much greater than what we feel romantically. As an old song goes: “Love is a many splendored thing.” It is what makes us sing, dance, or do chores. Love makes us humans — caring, thoughtful, giving and forgiving humans.

And rather than just focussing on what fancy gift we can give to our loved one, or how elaborately we can celebrate the day, we might really just focus on what we can actually give of ourselves. (And if you are single, it is time to give more of yourself to others.)

So my loving wish this Valentine’s Day — for myself and for all of you — is that may you all find the true gifts of love, find happiness in yourself and in your relationship, no matter what stage you are at – perhaps single and having a ball, in a blissful union and loving the journey, or recovering from a broken heart.

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