Valentine vignettes

Valentine vignettes Featured

IN six days, we celebrate a special holiday for millions of couples all over the world. Most are described as young lovers, or lovers, young once. My peers fall under the second category although quite a few are widowers. Kemps, my friend of several decades, is in a category of his own. Long unglued but not divorced from a loving wife, a distance of continents separating them, he could be the envy of perhaps a dozen of my septuagenarian friends not the least of whom are happily married, Dinky M. and Toti M. Admittedly, these are dangerous and pure speculations on my part, which, under these circumstances, lay me open to a good thrashing from their respective fabulously gorgeous mates, Queenie and Emma.

But I am digressing. Of late, I have been writing in this column on political issues, primarily about the march of federalists towards fulfilling a decades-old dream—of a parliamentary-federal Philippines. But today, love trumps politics!

Valentine’s Day, February 14, is observed and fêted invariably within the Christian world. This day harks back to the early Christian era and paradoxically commemorates martyrdom. There is much for psychologists to elucidate the proclivity for celebrating a day of love, especially among the young, equating this with martyrdom and gore. Three St. Valentines, all martyred, speaks volumes of this day for cupid’s labors. Is this an ominous sign for modern lovers? Sigmund Freud may have some underlying answers, but this is not within my expertise to expound.

The three martyrs, all named St. Valentine, lived around the second and third centuries A.D. Valentine of Rome was a priest martyred in 269, but Pope Galesius canonized him in 496, enrolling him in the pantheon of Christian saints.

St. Valentine, Bishop of Terni, in central Italy was born in 226 and martyred towards the end of the third century and could be the same person as St. Valentine, the priest of Rome.

The third St. Valentine was martyred in the Roman province of Africa. All three appear in the hagiography of Catholic saints and are venerated on February 14. To add to this convoluted cauldron are seven other St. Valentines whose feast days are not on February 14 but fall on various dates: “…a priest from Viterbo (November 3); a bishop from Raetia who died in about 470 (January 7); a 5th-century priest and hermit (July 4); a Spanish hermit who died in about 715 (October 25); Valentine Berrio Ochoa, martyred in 1861 (November 24); and Valentine Jaunzarás Gómez, martyred in 1936 (September 18). It also lists a virgin, Saint Valentina, who was martyred in 308 (July 25) in Caesarea, Palestine.” (Wikipedia)

But the legend of the first St. Valentine performing a miracle healing Julia, the blind daughter of his jailer, the Roman Asterius, is more compelling and romantic. On the evening before his execution and martyrdom, he wrote a note to Julia, which was signed “Your Valentine.” Thus was born the legend of the “Valentine card.” Julia, upon his death, planted a pink-blossomed almond tree near his grave, now a symbol of “abiding love and friendship.”

Part of this legend too is the image of a heart as the day’s symbol that started when the first St. Valentine “cut hearts from parchment giving these to Roman soldiers and persecuted Christians reminding them of their vows and God’s love.” (Wikipedia)

Originally, the day of love was traditionally March 12, St. Gregory’s day, or February 22, St Vincent’s day. The patron of love was St. Anthony, who feast day was June 13. But all these were eclipsed during the high middle ages by the English poet Geoffrey Chaucer who, again legend says, popularized St. Valentine’s day as the day for lovers and romance in his poem, Parlement des foules, “…For this was on seynt Valentynes day, whan every foul comth there to chese his make” (For this was Saint Valentine’s Day, when all the birds of every kind that men can imagine come to choose their mates. Chaucer ca 1343-1400).

A cursory Google search on Valentine’s Day in the Muslim world would be a quaint study in culture and religion. It is haram for a true believer to celebrate and accept gifts on St. Valentine’s Day. “If the Christians have a festival and the Jews have a festival, which is peculiar to them, then the Muslim should not join them in their religion or their direction of prayer.”

In Pakistan, the top Islamic clerical body threatened to issue a fatwa against the sale of condoms following reports they were being sold together with chocolate to mark Valentine’s Day…” (Rachel Roberts, The Independent, February 13, 2017).

In Saudi Arabia, the religious police ban on the sale of Valentine’s Day goods and removal of all red items, produced instead a black market in roses, wrapping paper and red goods (Rachel Roberts).

In Malaysia, raids were conducted in hotels to prevent couples engaging in unlawful sex.

But overall, Valentine’s Day celebration in the Muslim world is beginning to gain traction that “…the celebrations were so huge they were like the Islamic holiday Eid.”(Daniel Pipes, Middle East Forum, February 28, 2016.)

But nothing compares with the way Valentine’s Day is observed in the Philippines. It runs for three days. February 13 is spent with girlfriends, normally ending in an amorous dalliance with “the secretary” punctuated by a torrid tryst. February 15, the day after the nominal Valentine’s day is celebrated in the arms of the “kalaguyo,” the mistress or the “querida” in a secret “love nest” – especially if the illicit lothario happens to be a government bureaucrat with gray money to throw around. February 14, is of course, celebrated with the legitimate spouse. These three days will tax the man’s prowess – and he is expected to perform. This could be another of those Philippine legends and myths that the macho Pinoy raconteur loves to regale his friends.

For me, on February 14, I spend the day with my one and only legitimate and loving wife, Sylvia. Dinner probably with candlelight complete with red wine and soft music. But the day before, February 13, and the day after, February 15, I may spend with two other maidens, the gregarious Sylvie and reticent Claudia – in the true tradition of the macho Filipino.

But the rendezvous must be before evening falls, as they need to be in bed by 6:30p.m. Instead of wine, they will have to settle for their beverage of choice. Sylvie, three years, nine months, Claudia two years, three months, will need their warm bottles of milk.

Happy Valentine’s Day! “Onli en da Pilipins”000
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