In the week leading up to Valentine’s Day in Japan, there was a steady flow among the major cities’ females. First they hit up grocery store baking isles in droves, and then moved on to craft shop gift-wrapping sections. Later they dispersed gracefully, heading back to respective residential kitchens, where aprons were whipped on and melting, molding, decorating, tasting and wrapping frenzies resulted in boxes of perfectly heartfelt chocolates. Meanwhile, another slightly lazier, or busier demographic of women took much shorter and quicker routes–from their office cubicles to the nearest department store confectionary counters and back.
This was all part of the unique Valentine’s Day tradition of the nation, whereby on February 14, Japanese women are responsible for all gifting–and the recipients are male office co-workers, bosses, boyfriends and husbands. This will all then be reversed on March 14, or White Day, when the men will have to run out in their lunch hours to pick up multi-colored marshmallows, cookies and perhaps some jewelry or a frilly set of white lingerie to reciprocate. Also celebrated in Taiwan and South Korea, the White Day phenomenon has been widely publicized by the international media since as far back as the early 80s.
But I’ve come to discover just this past Valentine’s weekend that another unassuming Asian country has got its fair share of emerging traditions in this arena. The Philippines’ burgeoning love affair with Valentine’s Day could well be giving Japan a run for its money:
Lovapalooza: According to many sources, this Philippine event has already become tradition in the country since its inception a mere six years ago. Its origins lie in a successful attempt to set the Guiness World Book record for the ‘Most Number of Simultaneously Kissing Couples for 10 seconds’ in 2004 that saw 5,347 smooching couples break the previous record. Though in 2005 5,875 kissing pairs in Hungary set a new record, but in 2008 6,124 Philippine couples were able to reclaim the title once again.
This year on Valentine’s Day, the Philippine International Pyromusical Competition was held in the country, at the SM Mall of Asia. The official website for the event describes the show as one that painted ‘the Manila sky with brilliant bursts of vivid color’ to ‘showcase the emerging artistry and evolving sophistication of Filipino fireworks technology.’
Finally, causing a stir now across media outlets is the Philippines government’s decision this year to ‘celebrate’ Valentine’s by distributing free condoms. Despite all of the controversy it created, as reported by the AFP, it continues to defend the move.