Why I got married on Valentine’s Day

By Ludy Astraquillo Ongkeko, Ph.D.

Once in every 12 months, there is a day that tugs at a great many hearts.

There are virtual reminders weeks before it becomes part of the prevailing picture. Media and commercial interests zero in on Valentine’s Day. The meaning? To purchase expensive presents? To play up to romantic notions?

No, as this modest writer remembers, romance was not part of what Valentine’s Day meant to her as a 7-year old, decades and decades ago. My mother was the principal of a school where, although some of her faculty colleagues were chronologically older, they had that ‘connection’ with Mama. Her office became theirs. I would drop by now and then to go for my snacks and maybe, when I had a test paper that showed “V.G.,” it would mean a small reward, Nestle kisses?

But Valentine’s Day at the end of a school day was either one of joy or sadness. Some of my mother’s colleagues would be so happy (they received
floral arrangements from husbands or boyfriends) but more than not, some would be in tears. I queried from Mama; she had a simple answer, if you
see them ‘happy,’ they received Valentine greetings; the ones who cry, you don’t have to ask.

Owing to the fact that it was a ritual to see cheers and tears combined each year (even when I was off to high school), I remarked to Mama, why shouldn’t
everyone choose Valentine’s Day when they get married so there would be no reminders needed?

That’s why I promised myself that were I to get married, it would be on Valentine’s Day. I did.

When the marriage proposal came, my hubby-to-be knew what date I had in mind, so, since he immediately did what he had to do as a member of the military, he sent his ‘permission to marry,’ through the Commanding Officer, Second Military Area, on to General Headquarters, Armed Forces of the Philippines, Quezon City. The ‘approval,’ to marry this author, mentioning her hometown, and whatever would carry the communication through, bearing: “By Command of Major General Duque,” was granted on February 5, 1952. I don’t know whether such permissions are still being observed today.

Love never changes.

The author

The author

In the mind of a seventh grader then, I did not equate it with the romantic emotion of human attraction. I merely thought it should have been a custom that
spouses had to remember even just by a single, solitary flower, a rosebud, if you will, because the city I call home, Baguio, was never short of flowers.

Therefore, although Valentine’s Day celebrations came regularly, socials and similar functions were remembered; and I still told myself that if I were to get married, it would be on a February 14th, regardless of the day, even if it fell on a working day, as long as the date was what I had, duly ensconced in my mind and heart. When that date came, I was a reporter on beat at the Manila Daily Bulletin, (now Manila Bulletin), where I earned my first paycheck after I was done with all my undergraduate degree requirements, my bachelor of science and arts degrees.

When my wedding date came, I prayed that it wasn’t just romantic love, but genuine friendship that was to last ‘forever and ever.’

I thought of how it would be: how married love was going to spring from being a bride; how my husband-to-be and I would face love of family and children; how we would get along with one another, in sickness or in health; to look at one another review how, each time a February 14th would descend on us through the years, would be better. Above all, what lay ahead was our commitment to one another.

My husband and I would get saddened when we would hear from our dear friends who would discuss unhappiness, abandoned relationships, betrayal and
how they gave priority to their egotistical life.

I wasn’t prone to preaching; each one leads her/his own life. But having dedicated myself to teaching and reaching out to others, who sought me, I considered it one of the greatest challenges to let them know that striving towards the greatest love of all is how Valentine’s Day requires that significance.

To place the care and needs of one’s spouse before ourselves was my goal. And when our family grew, a son and two daughters, that commitment springing from their father and mother was strengthened. We told ourselves, it is not easy.

But we found it worth trying. Our children went through college and graduate school in a land away from our ancestral home. They became their own children’s role models.

I do realize as each single day beckons that my husband’s ideal of love was commitment. I know he lived a heroic life even if he didn’t articulate it at all.
His was not impossible for ordinary people to emulate. He did it up to the date when he passed on in the midst of all of us, his family.

We had six decades, four months and nine days from the time we said our marriage vows on February 14, 1952. For those who join me in remembering the date, they have my gratitude because Valentine’s Day, they say, isn’t just one of love, but of an undying commitment.

One Comment

  1. Beautiful message for Valentine. Happy Valentine’s Day to all lovers and friends.

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