It was past nine in the evening when we stepped out of the movie theater showing the hilarious “Pink Panther 2.” I was surprised to see the thick crowd of people at the Terraces in Ayala Mall. They were still lining up to eat at the various restaurants that all seemed to be full. I noticed that the people who were out were not limited to dating couples. Large groups made up most of the patrons at the restaurants, including families with young children. It must have helped that payday was close to the Valentines weekend. The line for taxis snaked through the crowd and everyone jostled to get closer to the wall to avoid getting soaked in the rain.
While I expected Valentines Day to be somber because of all the news stories about mass lay-offs and companies closing shop, Cebuanos at the mall last Saturday did not appear to be affected by the economic slowdown. I imagined that they were aware of the paradox of saving and were just doing their patriotic duty to save our country’s economy by shopping and dining out. Then again, maybe they just wanted to celebrate Valentines Day, regardless of the bleak economic forecasts and the gloomy weather.
In the run-up to Valentines Day, I could not open a newspaper or watch a tv show without seeing a feature about love and romance and the gifts we should get the objects of our affection. Even online news items had topics that were related to Valentines Day, with stories on the chemistry of kissing and the physiology of love. I learned that researchers are trying to map parts of the brain that are activated when people see their romantic partners. In the future, it might be possible to just take drugs to keep that loving feeling. Annulment lawyers might have fewer clients though.
Why are a lot of Filipinos so into Valentines Day? I used to think that those who participated in its rituals were gullible victims of profit-seeking capitalists. I also thought that it was just another example of colonial mentality and our penchant for following Western practices. As I grew older, I realized that those explanations were not enough and that there had to be a deeper basis for the way Valentines Day is almost like Christmas.
I suspect that most Filipinos are naturally romantic and would be happy to have any excuse to celebrate love. While globalization has exposed us to Western practices for Valentines Day, the feelings underlying the desire to celebrate it are our own. How else can we explain why romantic crooners become or stay popular in the Philippines even if they do not make it in their home countries? Why can’t we can’t stop playing and singing the songs of Air Supply?
“Everyday should be Valentines Day,” a friend emailed. I would agree if that meant that heart-shaped donuts and cookies would be available year-round. I also would not mind getting free roses from restaurants every time I eat out. In terms of having to express my love, I’m not worried because I have been told that I don’t need to do much. The resident astrologer of a morning tv show said that all I need to do to make the Aquarian object of my affection happy is to bring him to a fast-food joint and buy him a USB.
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