Interlude #5 - Valentine’s Day


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Hello everyone! Kumusta ka! Welcome to today's episode and Happy Valentine's Day. No matter how far away it may be when you hear this, because let’s be realistic about my upload schedule. But either way I hope the next one works out for you. Genuinely. Whenever it so happens to be.

Because you see, while I think there are better uses of the time spent hyping up this holiday, I can understand why we got here. And maybe that there are things about it that are worth talking about. I’m thinking of one in particular, largely because of the way it embodies the Filipino spirit.

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Valentine’s Dy does stick out in my mind. And it might be because this was the sort of holiday that did have a global feel, albeit a cynical global feel. And that's as bad of a segue as one could probably do, but regardless, this was a holiday that my cousin's shared. One that wasn't tied to Catholicism.

I’m not going to open that can of worms here regarding Catholicism and St. Valentine’s Day But I will acknowledge there is a slight disconnect. And part of it, I'd imagine is the very intense commercialization of the holiday as of late. There’s probably some shade to be had there. But I won’t throw any of that here, though I could.

On the other hand, there was something inevitable about it. Look, it’s capitalism. You see something that can be turned into a product or a need that is kind of, sort of there. And you sell something to that end. In that you can create what is hopefully a mutually beneficial situation.

And look, receiving gifts, flowers, and candies is fun. Giving them is fun, albeit a little stressful. And of course, there’s fun in celebrating love. Which the Philippines is great at, great at celebrating and great at being in love, to a great extent. Or at least, they aren’t worse off than anyone else. In some ways, many of the ways Filipinos celebrate this holiday are familiar. There’s a lot of candies, flowers, cards, and the color red.

Red of course has a bit of a double meaning in this context. For one, it’s the color associated with love. And two, it’s the color traditionally associated with good fortune and luck in Asian cultures. In this, you can see how the Philippines almost stands at the crossroads between these two worlds, but that’s a topic for another time… Or one of those book reviews I hinted at in the previous episode. Also, it’s becoming less significant as the world grows smaller and smaller and the aforementioned capitalism has its way.

Like I said, through commercial purchases feels inevitable. And I could throw shade at that, but that doesn’t feel like the right thing to do.

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The important thing is that love is a big part of Filipino culture. It’s something that I might have said but is definitely something that I’ve been dancing around. Partially because it feels so obvious.

For one, the need for and the ability to love is… well, it’s innate to human nature. And also, Filipino culture is a culture defined by connectedness. Which is partially why I feel so much distress at being so far away from it both literally and figuratively. This is state of affairs that runs counter to a significant part of my figurative genetic code, but up until late, I’ve been able to manage.

And somehow, this got commercialize. Maybe because of its importance. After all, it’s this importance that makes us all vulnerable. If this truly matters above all thing then what happens if you don’t have it? Not even what does it say about you? Forget social standing standings. Forget social norms. What does any of that matter if you aren’t able to survive, and it can feel like that’s what the stakes are.


Marriage is seen as a partnership. A partnership that is supposed to last for the entire life of those involved. You never should be alone. Your spouse should always be there to get you through your troubles. To that end, the Philippines is one of two countries in which divorce is--as of recording this--illegal. I’m pretty annulments are possible, but in an annulment, you’re pretty much saying there was never a marriage in the first place. So I wouldn’t say that counts. Recently, there has been a push to change this fact and legalize divorce, but the fact that there has been an unexpectedly low amount of traction for this issue is pretty telling. Because you would think in current year that would be on the top of the list of things “that we can all agree on.” But it isn’t.

  And I’m sure a not zero portion of this is related to the prevalence of Catholicism in the country, because in Catholicism, divorce is pretty frowned upon, but still, just going off of what I can see on my cousins’ Facebook feeds (yes that’s not a good sample size but bear with me), there’s a part of this sentiment that seems to stand on its own outside of religion.

  It’s called family values, by many. That for the sake of any children born to a union, a married couple should stay together to create a steady home. But, I don’t know, let me play devil’s advocate for a second. A couple that doesn’t yet have kids or genuinely can’t have kids would be the exception to this, right? But that’s not how the line of thought goes. And that’s certainly not written into any legal code.

Regardless of kids, there’s something about marriage and the love therein that is associated with permanency. And you know what? You’d think that would make something like this incredibly unlikely.

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February is the second most common month for weddings. The first being December, presumably because that’s when all the overseas Filipino workers are home for the holidays, but February is able to hold its own and it’s probably Valentine’s Day that gives this month an advantage. Because it’s become a tradition to have mass weddings on this day. Not wedding masses, but I can see where the confusion would come from.

Basically, weddings come with a lot of expenses. Full stop. It doesn’t matter where you are or where you’re getting married. There’s always going to be an administrative cost never mind the pressure to make it special or significant somehow.

Kudos to you if you managed to overcome that, but you’re one of the few. And it’s certainly not a common sentiment to have in the Philippines

If you’re poor in the Philippines and can’t overcome that pressure, then you could have been stuck. But you are one of the few whom Valentine’s Day benefits. After all, the day comes with its own significance. And that significance contributed to the decision on the part of many municipalities waive the fees for anyone participating in the giant mass of couples getting married that day. When I say mass, I mean group not Catholic gathering. Although that might be splitting hairs.

I’m sure there’s a part of it that is just about upholding the previously described perception of the proper social order. After all, if marriage is a good thing to have then make it easier for people to have it. Here’s the thing, there is something about the day that makes magic possible. That turned a mass and cheap wedding like this from a chore or a shine of shame into a beautiful opportunity for romance and grace. And that’s the meaning we have given this day. And sure. I’m the type to want to mock it. But undoubtedly, we have created a tool.

And that’s part of what I understand the Filipino character to be. It’s one of positivity but not unmitigated positivity. There is a sense in which you must acknowledge the present but then make the most out of it. Often with the people that you care about the most.

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Hey. Quick note on the admin side. So I am going to do that other origin story, which means I’m taking off a week—a week of posting—in early April.

So we’re going to have normal episodes through February and March, missing one in April, and then I’ll be back in the latter part of that month. Hopefully with an episode that you like. I should know the topic, but I don’t yet.

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