An Open Letter on Valentine’s Day

Hermie and Ludy Ongkeko

Hermie and Ludy Ongkeko

By Ludy Astraquillo Ongkeko, Ph.D.

Dear friends, who continue to keep Hearts’ Day alive:

We all know, whether we are younger or older that once a year, there is one day particularly remembered as ‘special.’ Reminders come weeks and even months before the date itself. Why not? Media and commercial entities keep on articulating their messages, perhaps, springing from goodwill, or, maybe the love of the date itself, February 14th, unforgettable for lovers?

As this humble heart remembers, romance was not part of what the earliest meaning of Valentine’s Day revealed then.

In our early grade school classes in my old hometown, the City of Baguio, 5,000 feet above sea level, flowers were always part of our environment. Therefore, our teachers instructed us to draw ‘hearts and flowers.’ We would be prone to bring our ‘art work’ home to show to our parents.

As a seventh grader, I was inspired by seeing floral arrangements delivered to my mother’s room. They were not for her. Mama was the principal of an elementary school then. Those flowers were received by the then school registrar for some faculty members. At the close of a Valentine’s Day celebration, the recipients would be informed; they would claim their flowers. Not all was joy. There were tears from those who did not receive what was due them: fitting and appropriate remembrances of Valentine’s Day.

As a naïve onlooker, I told myself everyone should get married on Valentine’s Day so nobody would forget its significance.

I did get married on Valentine’s Day itself. I didn’t need to wait for a weekend. Waiting would have marred the date. And it would no longer be on that particular day of days.

When my husband-to-be proposed, he knew how I always had Valentine’s Day for our wedding day, so, whether it was a week day or not, and it was on a Thursday, we didn’t wait for a weekend. We said our wedding vows on February 14, 1952. Just a simple, truly simple military church wedding, but we made the date.

Everything before the wedding date was followed. A letter dubbed “Permission to marry,” was sent by my groom-to-be dispatched to the Commanding Officer, Second Military Area, on to General Headquarters, Armed Forces of the Philippines, Quezon City, so it could be approved before the wedding date. (My promised fiancé was a detachment commander of a battalion in that military area, fighting the then enemy, the local communists.

That approval request had to be accomplished: “By Command of Major General Duque” the then Chief of Staff. It was granted on February 5, 1952; this writer does not have the sheerest idea whether or not today, that ‘approval’ is still sought. hermie

Ludy after graduating from the university

Ludy after graduating from the university

I write to the readership of The FilAm because of the essence of Valentine’s Day, its message to us doesn’t stop with romance alone. It is true it is dedicated to lovers. But its emphasis is on going on with life and loving. Romantic love must accompany it., but it cannot stand alone.

My husband and I made the meaning of marriage one of commitment. How we would face love of family and children; how we would get along with one another, in illness or in health; to look at one another years hence, aging together, each time a February 14th would descend on us.

This is my message as I dedicate Valentine’s Day as I remember it through the decades since. I am not 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 toward the greatest love of all is how Valentine’s Day requires significant observance to the best of one’s efforts to stay in love as the years descend on us all.

For one whose marriage lasted: six decades, four months and nine days, it truly isn’t one of length. It is the extent of how that union came through; in times of sickness and well-being; in times of ups and downs; in times of love and
caring for one another. My beloved has left this terrestrial globe, but he remains with us, his family, and the one who vowed to stay with him for all time!

The sum total of commitment maintained forever is the core of a Valentine’s Day! It is ageless!

This is my message to all! If you have read as far as this, that means you do agree that Valentine’s Day is not just dedicated to a day. It is one dedicated to life everlasting! It is one of limitless prayer! Keep up that same fervor when you marked your first Valentine’s Day together!

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