It’s that time of that year again when hearts of different sizes, textures and temperatures flutter everywhere.

You enter a mall, a restaurant –any edifice for that matter, and there they are– puffed up, bright red and resplendent, reminding you that consumerism of anything to do with romance is again at an all-time high. Red roses are on high demand and chocolate shelves have quick display turnovers. The social media, abuzz with the mushiest of greetings, also makes sure no one, (as in no single soul), can ever ignore this day.

And yes, the spirit of romantic love transcends geographical and physical barriers. Thanks to instagram, facebook, skype and messenger, sending your sweet greetings can happen in milliseconds, unlike in the past where one relies on postal service and has to wait for weeks, even months, for a response.

(In fact, in this era, the word “wait” is becoming abhorrent. With technology at our fingertips, people accept no excuses for any delay in communication, whether one acts as the sender or as receiver.)

As for this Valentine fever, would you believe even those in jail celebrate this occasion as well?

When the entire fam went to Laguna Provincial Jail (LPJ) for a two-day drug prevention seminar on February 12 & 13, we were taken aback of the flurry of preparations the inmates had for Valentine’s Day.
The usual heart-infested “Happy Valentine” greeting was displayed conspicuously in the visiting area. What was astonishing was the fact that not just one pig was being prepared and readied for a feast/lunch gathering.

And what about the temperature of the inmates’ hearts? Me, oh, my… I was able to gauge them through their signed requests addressed to the warden for his approval.

The warden, a longtime friend, casually handed me some handwritten notes, (while he was signing the others), chuckling at the same time. Out of curiousity, I scanned the contents inwardly bemused by the commonality of the requests.

Sir, ako po si _______. Ang kinakasama ko po ay si ___________. Kami po ay may dalawang anak na nagngangalng_______ at ________ Nakikiusap po ako na sa darating na Valentine ay mapayagan mo po na kami mag “conjo. Kami po naman ay may plano na ring magpakasal sa lalong madaling panahon

Conjo (a rip-off from “conjugal” is a term inside the provincial jail which means to have sexual relations.

Well, requests like these are but common for inmates. When the warden assumed his post not too long ago, he immediately instituted a policy not to allow inmates any “conjugal” visits unless the visitor is the legitimate spouse (meaning, they have to show a marriage cerificate before any physical intimacy could be allowed between partners). This was a novel policy that was welcomed by some but generally disliked by others (especially some jail guards supportive of the previous leadership that allowed “conjugal visits” of inmates with multiple or different partners, provided they would pay certain “fees” for some private moments depending on the amount of time they wanted to avail (nyak… parang short time)

Since an overwhelming number of inmates have existing live-in partners with whom they also have children, the warden flexed the policy and then included those who have common-law wives with the condition that only one and the same partner can have the “conjo” visit.

And so it goes that on the day romantic love is especially exalted, the “conjo” traffic at LPJ will be at its peak.

Then again, that may be true as well in the outside world (which the inmates call “layang lipunan”), where every nook and cranny has its lovers’ lane.

So much for them.

I have not had any memorable Valentine story of my own, except perhaps that one instance when I was in my freshman year at the University of Nueva Caceres in Naga City when I was invited by a guy two years my senior for a dinner date, together with his male friend with whom he set up for a blind date with a common friend. In short, we were to be a foursome. I was only 17 at that time and while I did enjoy the dinner, I eventually ended up liking my date’s male friend who was at that time smitten already with his pretty blind date (just seated beside me). In short, as far as I was concerned, Cupid failed big time.

I had not experienced this either with my husband during our courtship days because I met him exactly a month after Valentine’s Day and we got married nine months later. Unfortunately for me, flowers and chocolates were not in his vocabulary (except perhaps if he considers a trading business with these stuff and make profit from them).

So how does the world view love being celebrated on Valentine’s Day?

Physical intimacy… Some blind date and few “kilig” moments, cards with copy-pasted dedication, a bunch of roses and chocolates, some fluffy teddies, and heart-shaped balloons – these have become the norm, year after year. The problem for some though, is that this special day is celebrated with a different partner in the succeeding year(s). (Well at least for those whose take on love as based solely on feelings.)

So while the world celebrates romantic love today (bahala kayo diyan), I am here ruminating on the beginnings of the beautiful love story of Christian couple Jim and Elisabeth Elliot.

Theirs was a love story that bloomed in an era where letter writing was the primary mode of communication during courtship days. Their love story (cut short by Jim’s gruesome death in the hands of  merciless Aucan tribesmen in Equador) is so beautiful, it made me cry. It is like no other –founded on the love of the Greatest lover of all–God our Father.

This couple, even early on in their pre-marriage life, had fully embraced what it meant to love sacrificially. At a young age, they already knew that it was not for them to direct their own path.

While their story was halted by Jim’s early death, it speaks of a love that transcends romance characterized by those erratic waves of emotions. It sacrifices personal feelings for the highest good of the object of one’s affection and one that pursues that which God requires.

That is true love. And that’s the kind of love I want my heart to be filled with.

I am an old soul, after all.