(Photo courtesy of Lovapalooza entry in WikiPilipinas.org)
Valentine's Day is met with a mixture of excitement and dread - the very fact that it is also known as "Singles Awareness Day" is evidence of this. Couples celebrate it through chocolates, cards, flowers, romantic dinners, and so on. Children usually give each other little cards with candies at school, often featuring popular cartoon characters and cheesy phrases like, "Will U B Mine?" And singles hit up the clubs and bars.
At least, that's how it goes down in the United States. But how is Valentine's Day celebrated over 6,000 miles away, in the Philippines?
"Maligayang Araw ng mga Puso" is one way of saying Happy Valentine's Day in Pilipino, literally translating to "Happy Day of the Hearts." But most simply say, "Happy Valentine's Day." And on that note, Valentine's Day really not much different there.
But one key distinction that my mother always pointed out to me was that Valentine's Day is actually more of a holiday for singles than it is for couples. She fondly recalls her high school and college days, when her and the other girls in her class would anxiously wait for Valentine's Day, because this is the day your admirer(s) come out of hiding and reveal their true feelings. This is done through love letters, cards, chocolates, and flowers--again, not much different from the way it's done here. But, if the guy you like didn't get you anything, then he clearly doesn't feel the same way about you.
Note that my mom moved from the Philippines almost 25 years ago, so things have definitely changed since then. It's typically still a holiday for singles who are looking to find love, but technology now allows single Pilipinas/os to find and express love through e-greeting cards, Skype, and Twitter. Philippines Azkals striker, Phil Younghusband, is making headlines this Valentine's Day for asking actress Angel Locsin to be his Valentine via Twitter. Locsin politely responded that she had to work that day.
And in 2004, the first annual Lovapalooza took place in Manila, in which thousands of couples gathered at midnight of Valentine's Day to simultaneously kiss for 10 seconds. It began as an attempt to break the Guiness World Record for the Most Number of Simultaneously Kissing Couples. The attempt was successful: the Philippines beat out the previous record holder, Chile, by gathering 5,347 pairs for a simultaneous smooch. Although the Philippines is no longer the record holder, couples have continued to gather here every Valentine's Day.
On a side note, how is the Philippines' most prominent bachelor, President Benigno Aquino III, spending his Valentine's Day? "Yes, I have plans, and I'll keep them to myself," the President announced during a hospital inspecting in Quezon City. The President, also known as "PNoy," also gave the women of the Malacañang Press Corps a bar of chocolate and a red rose.
This is in no way supposed to be a comprehensive guide to Valentine's Day in the Philippines, as neither myself nor my mother are experts on the issue. So readers, share your stories about Valentine's Day in the Philippines!
What do YOU know about Valentine's Day in the Philippines? What stories have you heard from your parents?
And of course, Happy Valentine's Day!