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Jilai

The Love Month: How’s it all done in the Philippines?

Love. Martyrdom. Freedom.

Yes, I am talking about Valentine’s Day.

We can add more to that list of words one can think of during this season.

Flowers. Balloons. Cards. Sweets. The list can go on.  However, let’s keep this into a minimum and focus on something more interesting.

This is going to be the second time I’ll be celebrating Valentine’s Day away from my homeland (not that I actively celebrated it over there in the first place). And I miss home and I wouldn’t be able to give my loved ones a big fat hug this month, so I will be sharing to you all my love through this blog. What I’m going to share though would be more interesting to our dear students but please do read along.

I’ve conducted a very simple survey asking some Japanese students and the Filipino teachers with regards to how Valentines Day is celebrated in their respective countries.

As most of the Japanese readers may know, Japan is big on something I totally love myself during the month of love. Yes, I’m talking about oh-so-yummy and oh-so-tempting, CHOCOLATE!

Finding these beautifully-wrapped boxes of chocolate goodness in supermarkets and convenience stores in Japan is as easy as blinking one’s eyes. They’re literally everywhere!

Back at home, chocolates are also a big  deal during the love month. Don’t get me wrong. The only difference here in Japan though?

In the Philippines, the female population doesn’t give them to the lads. Yes, it’s the other way around.

I’ve told some of my students about this and I’m pretty sure they replied to me with a glint of surprise and amusement in their eyes. I’m not saying that we do it way better back at home especially since there’s White Day here in March. We don’t have that payback chance to the male population  in the Philippines. So, I would say, “Fair dinkum“.

Another thing I find quite amusing here in Japan is the existence of  “Giri Choco” (義理チョコ), which literally means, “obligation chocolate”.  This type of chocolate is given to male co-workers, friends and  single lads. They are/should be relatively cheaper than the ones you give to your lover or husband.

And also, I truly believe that buying chocolates for a significant other or a loved one is simply a sweet gesture. What I also think is sweeter is the effort and thoughtfulness one shows when she makes home-made chocolates. I’ve never done it and I might as well try doing so in the future.

So, that’s the biggest difference between Japan and the Philippines in celebrating the love month. But there are still a lot of things that I want to share to you on how we do it there, “Filipino-style”.

Filipinos in general poke fun at themselves for being loveless on Valentines Day. It’s not uncommon to plan group dates or even do something ridiculous such as buying yourself a bouquet of flowers just to show someone loves you or that you’re not single.

Why do we do such silly things? Oh, it’s because we are also big on celebrating this month, it would be embarrassing not to get anything special on this day.

First up, we have the heart-shaped balloons. Some of the ones I saw even had teddy bears inside them. You can’t miss seeing these items being sold in streets and shopping malls in the Philippines.

And of course, who would miss the opportunity of giving flowers to their significant others on the 14th of February. I even remember getting a rose in high school. And nope, it wasn’t because somebody fancied me. It was all because my teacher asked my male classmates to bring one each and give it to their female seatmate. I know, it sounds so pathetic. But yes, even husbands take this chance to show they love their wives by giving them flowers. Red roses are the top-selling ones of course.

But the ones I mentioned are too mainstream I guess. What I’d really like to let you know are two of the things that are done on Valentines Day in the Philippines that I consider quite unique not just in comparison to Japan, but to the rest of the world.

The picture above doesn’t show couples giving a simple kiss to their partners. In February, mass wedding ceremonies are done in the Philippines. Although wedding ceremonies are more expensive in Japan, in a developing country like mine, a couple could spend quite a hefty amount to seal the deal of their love for each other. As a result, people who can’t afford to do so could end up marrying in paper (civil wedding) or living together.

These mass weddings done in many parts of the country are mostly sponsored by the local government or the local church and other organizations. Talk about showing your love to everyone! Nope. There’s definitely no shame in this!

And talking about shame reminds me of something else. In 2004, I was a 14-year old single high school student. But I remember exactly how I felt watching thousands of couples on live TV kissing each other. I was like, “Yuck!”. I know. I was  a very naive child.

But what was that all about? Well, it’s another thing that we do in the Philippines during the love month. It all started in 2004, when a certain company selling toothpaste organized a kiss-fest called “Lovapalooza”, vying for  the Guinness World Record for the Most Number of Simultaneously Kissing Couples for 10 seconds.

And so, 5,347 couples crowded  in Manila on the eve of Valentine’s Day that year beating Chile’s record of 4,445. The year after that, wider participation was encouraged nationwide but unfortunately, the record was beaten by 5,875 couples kissing in Hungary. The Philippines reclaimed the title in 2007 with a record of 6,124 kissing couples.

However, the event was actually never held after that year since the Catholic Church’s archbishop wasn’t all too happy about the notion of couples expressing their love through Lovapalooza. Sad, isn’t it? I’m Catholic and I’m not as innocent as I was when I was 14, but I think the event was totally cool.

What about you? Let me know your thoughts about all the things I talked about above. I would certainly love to hear your comments soon!

Oh, it’s almost Valentines Day. I need to do some last-minute “Giri Choco” shopping!

Oops! I already did! And these ones are not just for the lads! Ladies, please have celebrate your cheat day and pick one at our Start-Up English Yaesu office one of these days! We’re all waiting for you!

Note: Thanks to all the students and teachers who took the survey! The photos in this post are not mine, except for the last two!