A candid conversation between singles and what the month of love means to them
Disclaimer: To protect the privacy of the individuals, all names of the participants have been changed.
Every February 14, the world is divided into two groups: the Haves and the Have-Nots.
The Haves relish in their Haveness. They don their finest, most romantic garments from the depths of their closet and whip out the celebration-only makeup products, beaming as they primp in front of the mirror. They spend the equivalent of what a Metro Manila minimum wage worker would earn in half a month on a bouquet of fresh flowers. They make reservations at Gallery by Chele, Metronome, Toyo Eatery or whatever TikTok’s favorite (and expensive) tasting-menu restaurant of the month is. They stare at each other meaningfully over dinner, playing footsie under the table. They mumble sweet nothings. They make love. And to cap it all off, they carefully curate the best photos of the night and post them on Instagram—complete with a lengthy heartfelt caption, of course.
The Have-Nots will see these posts on their newsfeeds, scoff, and muster all the strength it takes to resist the urge to comment: “Mag-be-break din kayo (You’ll eventually break up).”
Or do they, really? Society tends to think singles turn into pathetic and embittered crones who loudly bemoan their loneliness every Valentine’s Day, but the truth may be just a little more complex. Ahead, we speak with a few eligible bachelors and bachelorettes and find out that Single Awareness Day may just not be so single-minded.
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me on the night of valentine’s day while y’all getting dicked down, catered to, and proposed to pic.twitter.com/nXsJVXyJEE
— faith (@faiththegemini) February 12, 2023
Wonder: Let’s begin with two truths: it’s gonna be Valentine’s Day this Tuesday, and you’re single. In one word, how does this make you feel?
Theo, 28, Grad Student: Wow, the way you phrased it was so accusatory lol. Honestly though for me, for the past how many years, it’s just been a fact of life, and it’s stopped meaning that much to me. I’ve been single for a very long time. I do recognize Valentine’s Day, but it doesn’t really bother me in one way or another. Especially this year, it falls on a weekday! It especially doesn’t mean anything because I have to work. So… “inconsequential,” I guess.
Chuck, 26, Consultant: I think my word…would be “annoying.” This mainly stems from when I opened my Spotify and it showed the “make a playlist blend with your Valentine” thing and I was like, “Man that’s kinda annoying.” I think on a good day, Valentine’s would be more inconsequential—like it’s just a Tuesday, right? Like Theo said, the fact that it’s on a weekday does help a ton. But also it’s annoying in the sense that a lot of marketing seems geared toward reminding you [of your singlehood]. I mean, Valentine’s Day in its traditional structure is a holiday that does not include single people, at least in its original conception. So it feels very “Oh, this is something cute that you can do if you weren’t single, so we’re marketing it to people who aren’t you.” Like the Spotify blend thing! It’s cute, but nope.
Santi, 27, Tutor: For me, my word is, “It’s a Tuesday.” That’s it.
Bianca, 25, HR Manager: My word is just a simpler version of what Theo said, literally the first word I thought of was: “okay….” For me, wala lang, it doesn’t really matter. What I plan to do [this] Tuesday is to go out with my friends and have coffee. If there will be Valentine’s promos, eh di cool!
Louise, 27, Social Media Manager: I think my word is “chill.” I don’t really expect that much on February 14, so I’m just gonna stay chill. I’m just gonna do what I do on a normal working day. It’s been a really long time na rin kasi na meron akong naka-date [on Valentine’s], so I don’t know nasanay na lang ako, I guess (It’s been a really long time that I had a date [on Valentine’s], so I don’t know I got used to it, I guess).
Gabby, 26, Grad Student: I’m having a hard time choosing between “excited” or “chaotic.” Kasi here’s the thing, usually when people think of Valentine’s Day as a single person, you think of either the really grumpy single who hates people and says “Mag-bebreak din kayo (You’ll eventually break up).” Or, it’s the really annoying single na laging “Shet, gusto ko ng love life (Shit, I want a love life).” Pero ako, I guess I’m excited because either my [coupled] friends will be really in love and have the best day of their lives, or they will have the worst arguments—it’s like a spectator sport, it’s really funny. Oh my god, I’m saying this on record. Pero like, it’s just funny. I’m just excited for the drama, the conflama, the chaos, the confusion.
Wonder: Let’s go back to what Chuck said earlier. So Valentine’s Day is a holiday that has historically excluded singles. Do you guys agree or disagree?
Theo: I’m not a Valentine’s marketing expert or anything, but I do feel like there has been a lot of marketing as well geared towards singles, like either for meeting new people or celebrating with friends. The idea of love or romance is sort of the main theme right, so I do still agree with Chuck that Valentine’s does prioritize people who are in relationships. But I do think that in recent years, there are some angles that people do use to get single people excited for Valentine’s, too.
Celine, 27, Writer: Personally, I’ve never felt that way just because my whole life, my parents would take me and my brother out on Valentine’s as well. So we always felt very included on their dates, and that’s just how I’ve viewed love to be—it doesn’t necessarily have to be between just two people, especially in a family setting. I understand where Chuck is coming from, but personally, I never felt that way.
Wonder: Gabby said earlier that Valentine’s Day can feel like a spectator’s sport. So let’s talk about social media. There’s a notion that on Valentine’s Day, singles get annoyed by the influx of love on their newsfeeds. Do you agree or disagree?
Gabby: As the person who brought it up earlier, I agree and disagree with myself. I think it’s nice to see people flaunting their relationships, right? But I’ve also heard a lot of my friends talk about their relationship dramas, so sometimes you know they’re covering up things. So maybe you shouldn’t go all-out on your Valentine’s post, you know? I’m only a spectator, so as a spectator I treat this like Survivor. It feels like I’m watching Season 15 and I’m so excited: who’s gonna get eliminated? That’s where I’m at.
Wonder: So, do you feel that Valentine’s Day can get performative?
Gabby: Definitely! But you know at the same time, who am I to knock down a sincere relationship? I’m not in one.
Chuck: On the performative thing, I just wanna chime in. I’m not really disagreeing broadly, but I feel like that’s just the nature of social media versus Valentine’s Day. To disagree with my own statement earlier, I actually find it really sweet when people post their SOs on V-Day. I just project as a curmudgeon on Valentine’s Day, but really I’m a big fan of love. So when I know that a couple is in a very loving committed relationship, I think on Valentine’s they do have more of a license to celebrate something that in a less judge-y world probably would be celebrated more often. I feel both things at the same time: It’s great that couples have a day to celebrate a love that is meaningful to them, and also I reserve the right to be outwardly grumpy about it.
W: Let’s talk about judge-y. What differentiates a sweet Valentine’s couples post that will make you go “awww” from a post that will make you want to throw your phone across the room?
Gabby: The caption.
Celine: As a writer, it’s funny because when someone uses too much—I don’t know how else to explain it, like too much over-explaining, too much context, too much of everything—it does come off as a little insincere and showboat-y. Very main character energy, if I do say so myself. I feel like there are some things that should just be kept between two people inside a relationship, you know. So when it’s a little bit too much, it’s like who are you trying to impress? Because I know it’s not your significant other!
*couples posting happy pictures on Valentine’s Day*
Me seeing the posts: pic.twitter.com/SeiXOqFJeJ
— Sopranos World (@SopranosWorld) February 13, 2023
Bianca: Omg, I agree. Sometimes there’s too much context, like when they’re describing a super specific event that happened between the two of them. Parang, are we supposed to know this? Like it gets a little too personal, to the point na if I were in a relationship I think, “Would I want our private business in my SO’s Facebook post?” I mean, it’s also fun to get a glimpse of what [couples] are going through. Pero sana not too much? This isn’t a news report.
Theo: For me, it’s less about the caption, because similar to what Gabby said a while ago, who am I to judge what these people’s feelings are for each other? But when I think about it, if it’s clear that a lot of money was spent on a Valentine’s celebration, for me I start to think “why?” It’s a corporate holiday; save the money for your actual anniversary. I guess I feel annoyed against the wealthy in general, but when you use Valentine’s Day to flaunt what you can do for your partner with your money, parang okay, sige, congrats.
Wonder: Okay, let’s talk about money! Specifically on Valentine’s Day, what are the status symbols couples always flaunt?
Gabby: The red balloons that are killing the environment! The roses they import from Baguio, the teddy bears from Blue Magic. Charot.
Bianca: When they go to—what’s the name of that restaurant?—Blackbird. ‘Yung super mahal (very expensive) and you have to reserve in advance. Basta they’re all dressed up to eat—when I see that, it’s like this is not casual, this is something serious. And also when I looked at the prices, I was like, “Okay this is very serious.”
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Wonder: Do you guys feel like the spending that is encouraged during Valentine’s Day is excessive?
Gabby: Yes, sobra.
Celine: Prices are hiked up quite a lot during Valentine’s Day. There are couples out there who want their anniversaries to fall on Valentine’s, and I think financially that’s just not a very good idea, just because you’re gonna spend double what you would have otherwise.
Wonder: For those who have been in a relationship previously, how has your perception of Valentine’s Day changed as someone in love and as someone single right now?
Santi: Siguro back when I was younger, I would celebrate Valentine’s Day [with my ex]. But as the years pass by, parang ‘di na siya worth it. Kasi nakikipag-siksikan ka lang sa mga malls, sobrang daming tao. Parang ‘yung traffic pa lang, and the cost of going to a place, the effort and the money. ‘Di siya worth it. So we’ve never been big on celebrating Valentine’s Day, except for the first two years. Kasi ‘di ba, kahit mag-date pa kayo araw-araw, it won’t be as [much of a] hassle as compared to going out on Valentine’s. ‘Di na siya worth it to celebrate for me.
(“Maybe back when I was younger, I would celebrate Valentine’s Day [with my ex]. But as the years pass by, it no longer feels worth it. The malls are crowded, there are so many people. Just the traffic alone, and the cost of going to a place, the effort and the money. It’s not worth it. So we’ve never been big on celebrating Valentine’s Day, except for the first two years. Even if you date every day, it won’t be as [much of a] hassle as compared to going out on Valentine’s. It’s not worth it to celebrate for me.”)
Louise: I agree. Maybe before in my past relationships, during puppy love or when you get your first boyfriend in high school or college, it kind of feels like your first time. So mga Valentine’s celebrations mo noon, parang excited ka pa then—you’d want to receive gifts, flowers, etc. Pero right now as a post-grad, I agree with Santi na ‘di worth it na maki-join ka sa Valentine’s rush with other couples. I think if you go out on any other day, it’s just the same. Plus, wala ka pang kasabay.
(“I agree. Maybe before in my past relationships, during puppy love or when you get your first boyfriend in high school or college, it kind of feels like your first time. So your Valentine’s celebrations then, you’re still excited—you’d want to receive gifts, flowers, etc. Right now as a post-grad, I agree with Santi that it’s not worth it to join the Valentine’s rush with other couples. I think if you go out on any other day, it’s just the same. Plus, you’re not doing it with other people.”)
Santi: Sa Valentine’s Day din, sobrang haba ng pila sa mga motels, every February 14. So hindi worth it. (On Valentine’s Day, the lines at the motels are so long, every February 14. So it’s not worth it).
Theo: Same with Santi and Louise, specifically for me even when I was in a relationship, I never had the opportunity to celebrate Valentine’s. It didn’t last long enough to reach February 14. But knowing myself kasi, the sign that I like someone is that I give gifts, that’s my love language. And so, Valentine’s doesn’t significantly change that.
Jessica, 25, Ad Woman: TBH with my most recent relationship, our anniversary was conveniently very near Valentine’s. It was always a big double celebration. But, actually even back when I was growing up, it was always a family thing. I think it’s uncommon, but like Celine we always celebrated it together.
Gabby: I was together with my ex for five years, and we never really celebrated Valentine’s Day. My perception of it hasn’t really changed, except for how it’s different when it’s your first relationship, as compared to your succeeding relationships. For your first, you want to experience all the trappings of Valentine’s, ‘di ba? But then as I’ve grown older, and as I’ve seen how people are judged on how they observe Valentine’s and to what degree they’re willing to participate, hmm…parang it feels like an all-stars season of any reality TV show. Every day for the rest of the year is a normal season, but Valentine’s is the all-star season for couples. Not everyone has to do all-stars if you know you’re a winner, right? So I just don’t feel like a loser during Valentine’s Day.
Wonder: As single people, we are no strangers to loneliness. Every February 14, do you feel a stronger pressure to put yourself out there to combat the lonely feelings? If ever, how?
Chuck: Not any more than the base pressure that comes from society. I think the pressure is not any more than usual, especially as you get older and your view of relationships gets more pragmatic. Chuck: I think what Valentine’s Day means becomes a little more malleable, you know? As a single person, I feel like my relationship with Valentine’s is a lot of reclaiming it as a day to celebrate, as many of us have alluded to, love in all its forms. So as I’ve grown older, every February 14 just feels like another day, like I don’t have to be on dates or be with a significant other. But it’s a nice sort of feeling to have, like “Oh, it’s Valentine’s Day. It’s a special event,” so I have a reason to see people and catch up with friends who are free for that day. The fact that Valentine’s Day is a notable day shared by a lot of people can be used to alleviate that loneliness and be social and be with your friends.
“As a single person, I feel like my relationship with Valentine’s is a lot of reclaiming it as a day to celebrate,
as many of us have alluded to, love in all its forms.”
Gabby: I don’t feel the pressure to put myself out there. For me, it’s more of a sense of responsibility to be there for your friends who either recently broke up with someone or who are sawi in general. I think Valentine’s is an invitation to be empathetic to those who can’t or refuse to participate in the tradition for whatever reason.
Theo: I agree with what Chuck and Gabby said [about] trying to support friends on that day. But for me, I have this superstition [that] I kind of don’t want to hang out with people on V-Day. In my mind, feel ko ma-ji-jinx ‘yung relationship ko with that person if I go out with them on February 14, on a special day when you’re supposed to be with an SO (In my mind, I feel like I will jinx the relationship I have with that person if I go out with them on Feb 14, on a special day when you’re supposed to be with an SO). Irrationally in my head, I’m like: so does this mean anything? So I do feel pressure in that sense, which is weird; I don’t know why. But I do agree with looking out for other people, especially for friends who feel down during the season.
Jessica: I don’t feel the pressure to put myself out there because I refuse to let people tell me what to do. I will date when I have the energy, and I can’t talaga—if someone tells me to date, I will not date just to prove something. Lalo na this past year, I spent it single, and for Valentine’s, it’s just like any other day. I mean I work in advertising, so it’s just a special promo day for me. Actually, what I did recently was I made a little check-in with myself when it comes to the self-love department. I mean I was just getting over a breakup, so it was a very reflective period about how I was when it came to loving myself.
me this valentine’s day bc i love me pic.twitter.com/8eh0nyr4zg
— ♱ (@bIondecity) February 13, 2023
Bianca: I agree, like Janina San Miguel, I don’t feel any pressure right now. Or ever, actually. If it happens, it happens. Medyo ganun ‘yung belief ko. Just like Jess, ‘wag mo ‘kong utusan. Don’t force me to do something I’m not ready for! It will happen, and hindi naman ‘yun ‘yung priority ko right now.
(I agree, like Janina San Miguel, I don’t feel any pressure right now. Or ever, actually. If it happens, it happens. It’s kind of my belief. Just like Jess, don’t tell me what to do. Don’t force me to do something I’m not ready for! It will happen, and it’s not my priority right now.)
Louise: Ako naman, my mindset right now is to just show myself off. When you ask friends kasi na, “Huy, i-reto mo naman ako,” wala naman silang kilala. So for me, I wanna put myself out there but it’s tiring. On-off ako sa mga dating apps, so I guess now I just put my Instagram, TikTok, etc. on public. And then I just post whatever I want, like when I feel beautiful in a photo or whatever. I think just let the magic happen. So far naman, hindi siya effective.
(For me, my mindset right now is to just show myself off. When you ask friends, “Hey, can you let me meet someone,” they don’t know anyone. So for me, I wanna put myself out there but it’s tiring. I’m on-off dating apps, so I guess now I just put my Instagram, TikTok, etc. on public. And then I just post whatever I want, like when I feel beautiful in a photo or whatever. I think just let the magic happen. So far it’s not effective.)
Santi: I don’t really feel pressured on the 14th, but mas nararamdaman ko ‘yung awa…sa mga tao na hindi ako ka-date (I don’t really feel pressured on the 14th, but I feel more pity…for people who aren’t dating me).
Wonder: But, there is this perception that singles are extra pathetic every Valentine’s Day. We’ve all seen the memes and tweets, all the jokes about “Single Awareness Day.” How do you feel about this perception?
Gabby: I think people just want to be extra dramatic during Valentine’s. Anyone ha! I think it’s a time of heightened emotions, you know? I don’t find it to be a bad thing. Like ‘di ba love is there because of chaos, it’s a resistance to chaos.
Chuck: Honestly, I do agree. I do love leaning into the lonely, pathetic single character, only because it’s fun. Maybe also relevant in context, I was awarded “perpetually sawi” in my college class. But like if couples feel more of a license to express or perform their couple-ness, it’s also kind of fun to perform your singleness. I find it fun, I don’t really feel called out. It’s more like “Hahaha, that’s so true, he’s just like me.”
Bianca: I really do agree with what Gabby said. Also kasi, I treat Valentine’s just like any other holiday. It’s like Halloween na makiki-ayon ka (you agree) with the festivities. Like okay, if it’s fun to joke around and use your singleness to make a funny tweet, eh ‘di why not? For me, I think it’s one of the more acceptable days to be loud about that.
Gabby: I think this is the holiday kasi where you’re allowed to be really, really PDA, and really, really pathetic. And that’s great! You know how in Mean Girls they say Halloween is the one night a year when you can dress slutty? It’s like that for Valentine’s, you can be as emotionally slutty as you want! I think people want to belong to something, and by acting out and being excessive, they also feel more like part of these categories eh, that also make them feel included in Valentine’s tradition.
“You know how in ‘Mean Girls’ they say Halloween is the one night a year when you can dress slutty?
It’s like that for Valentine’s, you can be as emotionally slutty as you want!”
Santi: I feel like singles act extra pathetic because they think that they’re missing out on something. Pero ‘di ka naman sa Valentine’s Day single, eh. Araw-araw din naman (You’re not just single on Valentine’s Day. It’s every day). Let’s be real, you’re single every day and you don’t really bitch about it, so why bitch about it on February 14?
Wonder: As a single, what does Valentine’s Day mean to you then?
Louise: Now kasi, when I think of Valentine’s, I really don’t think of couples lang talaga, eh. Uso na rin ang ibang forms of celebrations, like Galentine’s (Other forms of celebrations like Galentine’s are hip). Valentine’s for me immediately makes me think of my single girlfriends. I don’t want to be sad because I’m single on V-Day, it’s a day for showing your love, not necessarily just between couples. It’s a day for showing how much you love your loved ones, including family, friends, etc.
Theo: Same, after hearing everyone else talk, I realized that I recognize Valentine’s as the theme for the month. It feels like an unspoken agreement that the theme for this month is love, and hearts and pink, ganun. Maybe in my own personal time, it means I will watch more romance movies or something, but it’s not necessarily something that means anything to me.
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Chuck: I think the thesis is: Valentine’s Day is for couples. And the antithesis is: I should consider Valentine’s Day inconsequential as a single. But the synthesis is: the fact that Valentine’s Day exists—and to treat it as just any other day—feels like a wasted opportunity for me to celebrate something very important to me, which is love in all its forms. And honestly, I’m a big fan of romantic love in general! And just because I don’t have an avenue to express that right now doesn’t mean that I have to skip celebrating the day of love. So you know, I’m gonna root for my friends and take the opportunity to re-watch the Before trilogy. I feel like you can celebrate romantic love even if you’re not in it, but you’re a fan. And I’m a fan. But also, I reserve the right to be bitter and curmudgeonly on Instagram and Twitter. That’s part and parcel of it!
Jessica: For me, Valentine’s is all about celebrating the love around me at the moment, and not the love I lack. I’m pretty grateful to have been raised in an environment where, with my family, V-Day was about familial love. And I think a lot of people focus on the fact that they lack a romantic relationship on that day, when actually, V-Day is the worst time to look for a romantic relationship, because you just want it for the sake of it. And for a while, I had to really work on loving myself back for a long time after not-so-good relationships. So I think Valentine’s Day is an opportunity to look at however you define love, and focusing not on what you aren’t getting but the love that is around you, you know?
“For me, Valentine’s is all about celebrating the love around me at the moment, and not the love I lack.”
Bianca: Valentine’s has always been a time to spend with people I love. That’s how I’ve always understood the holiday, that’s what it means to me. So I usually spend it with friends, or even by myself—and I love myself, so ayun. My friends are also single, so sama-sama kami. And also, it’s a time to take advantage of Valentine’s promos. I’m very chill about V-Day because it’s just another day to spend with my friends, whom I love.
Gabby: Personally, I think traditions have to start somewhere. And I think Valentine’s Day is an invitation to create whatever kind of myth or delusion love can be. I don’t know, maybe as a gay man, I don’t necessarily know if I want to challenge the very hetero concept of Valentine’s, if I want to lambast it, turn it, change it. But I think that although it may be infiltrated by corporate interests and by heteronormative pressure, I do remember that I do need to reach out to my friends and make them feel loved, you know? Maybe Valentine’s Day is an alarm.
Santi: Sa akin siguro, Valentine’s Day is a temporal highlight or a reminder that fits nicely in our calendar when a lot of other things are happening. As a teacher, ‘di ba kahit hindi naman Buwan ng Wika, mag-ta-Tagalog ka pa rin? Or kahit hindi Nutrition Month, kakain ka rin naman ng gulay? In the same vein, kahit hindi naman Valentine’s Day pwede ka mag-mahal, eh. It’s a reminder, I guess, to express your love in whatever form, but it doesn’t need to happen in just one day. It’s a reminder of something we should be doing every day.
(For me, Valentine’s Day is a temporal highlight or a reminder that fits nicely in our calendar when a lot of other things are happening. As a teacher, even if it’s not Buwan ng Wika, you’ll speak Tagalog, right? Or even if it’s not Nutrition Month, you’ll eat vegetables? In the same vein, even if it isn’t Valentine’s Day you can show love. It’s a reminder, I guess, to express your love in whatever form, but it doesn’t need to happen in just one day. It’s a reminder of something we should be doing every day.)
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The consensus? Valentine’s Day is a day for celebrating the love present in your life, whether that may be romantic, platonic or familial. And while loneliness is inseparable from the single experience, it does get a little less lonely when you’re cracking jokes and unapologetically waving your “Single on Valentine’s” banner along with the rest of the world’s Have-Nots.
Words Jer Capacillo
Art Matthew Ian Fetalver