Midnight of the thirteenth of February 2017, workers in an uptown Cebu City hotel decked the walls outside their foyer with artificial red roses as large as basins.
On the sidewalk nearby, heart-shaped crimson-and-silver balloons on plastic stalks springing out of a candy stall swung in the cool north wind.
Everything is ready, my fellow jeepney passenger told his companions. Dawn would mark the beginning of a busy day in honor of at least three saints named Valentine.
* * *
Sometime in the late third century, a bishop Valentine in the imperial capital Rome ministered to every man and woman who wanted to enter into the covenant of marriage.
Presiding over weddings was a violation of Roman law at the time. The empire wanted every man to be willing to fight to death in its military campaigns. Husbands were perceived to be more attached to their spouses than to the crown.
Valentine’s resistance would cost him his life. He was meted the penalties of stoning, beating and finally, beheading.
Before his birthday in heaven, however, Valentine managed to leave a gift. He prayed for the healing of his judge Asterius’ blind daughter, restoring her sight. His last words were written in a letter to her signed “your Valentine.”
* * *
The sun had set. Across the city, vehicular traffic was painfully slow. Everyone is out on their Valentine date, a friend of mine said.
I wondered what would happen in the next few days. Will the popular sentiments associated with the Valentine celebrations spill over into national life?
Will there be charity for children who come into conflict with the law so that they will be rehabilitated rather than lumped together with common outlaws?
Will there be compassion for convicts so that they will be placed in a functional correctional system rather than expelled from this life?
Will there be pity for the victims of plunder so that lawmakers never again forget that theft of public money is theft of the prospects of a good life for the man and woman on the street?
Will there be concern for Mother Earth, so that the closure of mines will not be reversed to serve purely monetary interests while ears are pressed shut against the clamor for sustainable progress?
Will there be mercy and justice for the families who lost members in the war on drugs through the skirting of due process, in cases of mistaken city and as so-called collateral damage?