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Editorial: Valentine’s Day celebration in Philippines

February 14, Valentine’s Day, is a red-letter romantic occasion for Filipinos, the day that they express their love and appreciation to their loved ones, who could be a fiancée, spouse, children, best friend, parent, relative, or friend, through various ways such as giving gifts, writing love notes, walking in the park, going out for dinner, sending cards and flowers, exchanging “I love you,” malling and shopping. Some prefer to spend it at home, in the company of someone they love.

Valentine’s Day is a special day in the Philippines. A few weeks before the celebration, establishments prepare special promos – hotels and restaurants, usually crowded with celebrating couples, prepare a candlelight treat for lovers; malls spruce up with red décor of Valentine’s Day symbols such as hearts, cupids, and flowers, and fill their racks with gift items such as food, stuffed toys, heart-shaped chocolates and candies, and uniquely crafted balloons; airlines offer special discounts; moviehouses show romantic films; television shows pay tribute to lovers; and schools and offices organize parties.

Valentine’s Day greetings started in the middle of the 18th century when friends and lovers exchanged handwritten notes. One billion cards are set each year worldwide, making Valentine’s Day the second-largest card-sending holiday of the year, next to 2.6 billion cards sent for Christmas. The oldest known Valentine card is on display at the British Museum, while the oldest known Valentine poem, written by Charles, Duke of Orleans, in 1415 to his wife, is in the collection of the British Library. Teachers receive the most Valentine’s gifts, followed by children, mothers, wives, and sweethearts. Hallmark produced the first Valentine’s card in 1913.

There are beliefs associated with the celebration. One, it honors the martyred St. Valentine, a priest who served in Rome in the 13th Century, was held in custody when he refused to solemnize marriage for soldiers and their brides. While in custody, he sent the first “valentine” greeting to a young girl who visited him. Before his passing on, he gave her a letter which he signed “From your Valentine,” which is commonly used today. Another, is to mark the Church’s bid to Christianize the pagan fertility rite, Lupercalia, that paired young men and women. In the middle Ages, France and England believed that February 14 was the start of birds’ mating season, making it a day for romance. In 498 AD, Pope Gelasius declared February 14 as St. Valentine’s Day.

Happy Valentine’s Day to all men and women of the Republic of the Philippines and the world!