February 16, 2007

Valentine messages

Something Like Life
Feb. 16, 2007

I WOKE up on Valentine’s Day with my usual blurry, mote-filled view of my bedroom chockfull of still unread books (I’ll get to them… as soon as I wean myself from the computer and TV). After a few more lazy cat-stretches on my bed and trying to recall what schedules and deadlines I had on my calendar that day, I switched open my cell phones to check for messages.

In came the flurry of text message greetings of “Happy Valentine’s Day,” “Happy V,” messages of prayers and love plus other well-wishes from friends and family. The weirdest text by far went something like this: “Stella, my dear! Happy V Day! Magpapa-press release ako. Help!” Oh, brother! It came from a cell phone number that wasn’t on my directory so I was half-debating on whether or not I’d even acknowledge the text. Anyway, what the hell, it was Valentine’s Day and it wasn’t the day for my bitching. (I do it usually on Mondays.) I quizzed who the text sender was but even after identifying herself, I was still fuzzy on who she was. Well, I did just wake up after all! In the end, I told the X sender to just e-mail the press release to me.

Except for a few special times in my life, Valentine’s Day to me has always been about friendship. So I’ve never really been the type who’d get anxious about having no date or a special place to go to on this day of hearts. It’s a day usually spent with family or friends, eating, drinking or going to concerts. There were a few dates, of course (you know who you are!), but I just hated sitting in traffic on the way to hotels or restaurants. It just took something away from the special occasion. No matter how sweet the person beside you in the car (may holding hands pa!) was, as we inched our way through monstrous traffic, the road gridlock would just make me a tad bitchier than usual.

Sure, I enjoy the roses, the chocolates, the special dinner and the—ahem!—dessert which would come after. But if I had a choice, I would rather spend a quiet night at home or out of town with the “significant other.” Of course, I had little choice in the matter. Valentine’s Day was something I never planned with my boyfriend or lover of the moment. They would usually just have the whole evening mapped out. They knew better than asking me what I wanted to do. (Be a man. Surprise me!) Besides, I’ve always been a cheap date. Sumptuous food can get me in the mood.

But just being with my gang, whose members have changed over the years, on Valentine’s Day was just fine as well. I actually knew someone who would break up with her boyfriend always before that day, and end up spending the evening with us, away from the traffic and noise, just eating and drinking and having a blast. There was actually one Valentine’s Day I remember spending with a best girlfriend, with a special dinner at PICC with possibly most of Manila’s 500 at the neighboring tables. (Okay, we had free tickets, duh!) It was the first concert of Burt Bacharach and Dionne Warwick in Manila and we were excited. And all that mattered was the fabulous music (the dinner sucked), never mind that we didn’t have boyfriends at that time.

There were times my friends and I would dress in black, and bitch about men while gorging on the spread of food before us. But mostly we would talk about nothing and everything—our lives, our dreams—and just endlessly gossip about people we suspected to be celebrating their Valentine’s Day the next day. Sorry, Gabe Mercado, we were the original anti-Valentine show.

Eventually, we all grew up, some with significant others today, some without. Nevertheless, I hope most of us are just happy being… instead of being with someone.

So on Tuesday, I began texting my own friends and family, the people I absolutely adore and have loved through the years, and who’ve stuck by me no matter what demeanor or disposition they find me in (crabby, mostly). There was no elaborate three-page message in a poem with hearts filling the screen. It was just a simple heartfelt “Happy Valentine! Mwah!”—with the small German ü for my smiling face.

My friends—and you are all oh-so-wonderful!—responded similarly, in their same simple fashion, which made me happy and feel blessed I have them in my life. From my favorite cousin living in Iloilo: “Musta na, Stel? May date ka tonite? (ang baduy ko, no?)” My answer? “Oo, baduy ka nga!” How could I resist? A few failed to respond, but I’m sure they had a very good reason why (bitches!), and there were a few ambivalent comments as well, which made me just sigh in acceptance. Sample: “Although I really don’t believe in celebrating Valentine’s Day (dapat everyday should be a celebration of love, ’di ba?!), nonetheless, today, as in everyday, I sincerely wish you God’s continuing love and care!” O, sweet pa din naman, ’di ba? Nakakapagod lang. But then, the reply comes from a friend whom I’ve known for over 15 years backwards and forwards, whom I’ve fought, laughed and cried with, and who — despite his sometimes annoying demeanor (makulit talaga eh!) — is one of my best food and travel buddies. So how could I expect anything as simple as “same to you” instead of his usual kilometric message, and how could I not accept it?

Now that I’m older and hopefully wiser, I don’t take people to task for celebrating Valentine’s Day. It’s a day to spend with loved ones no matter who they are. It can be with your family, your friends, your pet dog, your children, your lover, husband, or even your ex (now that can be exciting as well). And I don’t think it’s so ridiculous to celebrate it the way we do. Sure, bring on the roses, the chocolates, the restaurant food, the motels and hotels, whatever! It’s good for the economy. We can’t rely on the OFWs forever!

Yeah, sure, as Kulit texted, we should give love everyday to the people around us, but the reality is we sometimes do forget to tell people how much they mean to us. So maybe it is a good idea to mark special days on the calendar to remind us to tell people we love how much we appreciate and cherish them.

So belated Happy Valentine’s Day to you all! Hope it was as good as mine.

(My column, Something Like Life, is published every Friday in the Life section of the BusinessMirror. Cartoons by Jeff Swanson at freneticwanderings.com.)

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