Batuhan: The day of love

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By Allan S. B. Batuhan

Foreign Exchange

Saturday, February 15, 2014

YESTERDAY, we celebrated Valentine’s Day, commonly now known as that day in the year dedicated to the celebration of love. And of course, of lovers. So popular has this holiday become, that if you tried getting a reservation in any decent restaurant on this day, you would probably have more luck getting a ticket for the Super Bowl or the UEFA Champions League final instead.

And yet, how much do we really know about this holiday?

From the now ubiquitous Wikipedia: “St. Valentine’s Day, also known as Valentine’s Day or the Feast of St. Valentine, is observed on Feb. 14 each year. It is celebrated in many countries around the world, although it is not a holiday in most of them.


St. Valentine’s Day began as a liturgical celebration of one or more early Christian saints named Valentinus. Several martyrdom stories were invented for the various Valentines that belonged to Feb. 14, and added to later martyrologies.

A popular hagiographical account of St. Valentine of Rome states that he was imprisoned for performing weddings for soldiers who were forbidden to marry and for ministering to Christians, who were persecuted under the Roman Empire. According to legend, during his imprisonment, he healed the daughter of his jailer, Asterius. An embellishment to this story states that before his execution he wrote her a letter signed “Your Valentine” as a farewell.

Today, St. Valentine’s Day is an official feast day in the Anglican Communion, as well as in the Lutheran Church. The Eastern Orthodox Church also celebrates St. Valentine’s Day, albeit on July 6 and July 30, the former date in honor of the Roman presbyter Saint Valentine, and the latter date in honor of Hieromartyr Valentine, the Bishop of Interamna (modern Terni). In Brazil, the Dia de São Valentim is recognized on June 12.”

The religious origins of the holiday are clear enough, so much so that some Christian churches, to this day, still celebrate it as a religious event. But the commemoration of it in the larger secular society has become anything but.

Perhaps among the most popular radio programs these days is one that airs nightly in one of Metro Manila’s most listened-to FM stations. Starring a gang of boys (some really balding and nearing middle age) who style themselves as modern lotharios, this program—to my mind—epitomizes what has become of the day that used to be remembered for real love.

Leading all the way up to yesterday, their program has been promoting prizes, which included an overnight stay at a popular “love hotel,” purportedly to celebrate the day of love. But what a way to go!

Listening to their program, it was clear to me that most of the callers were teenage kids, both male and female, mind you. Which meant that these would be the “lovers” who would be winning their prizes for overnight stays at the place they were promoting. And given their program’s popularity among the young, clearly many gullible teenagers and young adults will be led to believe that the promiscuous and decadent lifestyle they are promoting is an acceptable one. Something that they can aspire to, and even emulate.

Teenage pregnancy is on the rise. Broken marriages are on the increase. Yet casual sex—for all the disease, emotional dysfunction and selfish values it promotes—is being trumpeted as the lifestyle of choice for our young people to emulate.

Maybe, parents—and dare I say—young people as well, ought to remember the origins of this holiday. That once upon a time it was not only about glorifying a hedonistic and decadent lifestyle, and that there really was the word “Saint” before Valentine’s Day.

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Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on February 16, 2014.


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