BLATANT commercialism has made Valentine’s Day an idolatry of money rather than the worship of true love. Worse, even Filipinos, suckers for romance and priding themselves as the only Christian nation in Asia, seem ignorant or oblivious to the fact that the day is a religious feast.

Assoc. Prof. Allan Basas, faculty secretary of the Institute of Religion, said Feb. 14 has been listed in the Catholic Church’s Roman Martyrology as the feast of St. Valentine of Rome, a Roman bishop who lived in the 3rd century during the reign of the anti-Christian emperor, Claudius II.

St. Valentine, or St. Valentine of Rome, was a Roman bishop who lived in the 3rd century, during the reign of an anti-Christian emperor, Claudius II.

The emperor persecuted Christians and banned marriages, especially for men going to war. An account described how St. Valentine would marry couples, sparing the husbands from battle, and aid those persecuted by Claudius II. Because of these acts, St. Valentine was arrested.

The bishop was put under house arrest in the custory of Judge Asterius. Valentine befriended the judge and later healed the the latter’s daughter of her blindness.

Asterius was abashed and asked Valentine what he could do in return. The saint told him to break all the idols in the house, fast for three days, and be baptized. The judge obeyed, and was baptized along with his 44-member household. After being baptized, he set free all his Christian inmates.

On the day of his execution, St. Valentine left the judge’s daughter a note, signed “your Valentine”.

St. Valentine was beheaded outside the Flaminian gate on February 14, 269 A.D. In the early 1800s, skeletal remains were dug up near Rome along with an ancient church and were associated with St. Valentine’s.

The saint’s alleged skull is adorned with flowers and is shown in the Basilica of Santa Maria in Cosmedin, Rome, while his other relics are in Whitefriar Street Carmelite Church in Dublin, Ireland.

Pope Gelasius in AD 496 made February 14 as Valentine’s Day in honor of St. Valentine of Rome who died on that day.


In the Philippines, Filipinos have deviated from the traditional way of celebrating the feast of the patron of love; and commerce may have something to do with it, according to Basas.

“[Businesses] take advantage or see this as an opportunity for commercial purposes or for profit oriented intentions. Capitalism rides these kinds of events. As I’ve said, it’s an opportunity to earn more money,” Basas said.

Basas said remembering Valentine’s example is a corrective to present-day notions that Valentine’s is purely about sex, as what the Department of Health perceives it to be when it distributes condoms to young people on February 14 ostensibly to remind them to engage in “responsible sexual behavior.”

St. Valentine, the saint of love, would correct the mistaken notions that Valentine’s day grants people the opportunity to engage in acts that are violative of their chastity, or to use people as objects of lust instead of respecting them as temples of the Holy Spirit.

Basas pointed out that celebrating Valentine’s day meant expressing respect for one’s loved ones; an example of that is by not engaging in premarital sex, or any explicit sexual activities.

Basas, however, said Valentine’s day also has a positive effect on the FIlipino culture.

“It actually supports the tendency of Filipinos to be very loving persons, to be very affectionate towards their beloved, it conforms to our culture as Filipinos,” he said

Basas added that people have saints precisely to remind them of a particular virtue that the Church teaches.

“In the case of St. Valentine, it’s the theological virtue of love, and with that, we associate that with chastity, as well as fortitude and temperance.”

Other Valentines

St. Valentine of Interamna (modern Terni, Italy) was a bishop who was also martyred. It is possible, however, that St. Valentine of Interamna and St. Valentine of Rome were the same person. One account says that Bishop Valentine was born and lived in Interamna but during a temporary stay in Rome, he was imprisoned, tortured, and beheaded on February 14, 269 A.D.

According to one historical account, the Roman Emperor went to such measures against Valentine because the saint tried to convert him to Christianity. This enraged Claudius, who tried to get Valentine to renounce his faith. The martyr refused, so the emperor ordered him beaten with clubs and stones, and subsequently executed him.

The most recently beatified Valentine is St. Valentine Berrio-Ochoa, a Spaniard of the Dominican corder who traveled to Vietnam, where he served as bishop until his beheading in 1861. Pope John Paul II canonized Berrio-Ochoa in 1988.

English poet named Geoffrey Chaucer referenced Valentine in romantic ideals and concepts in his poem, “Parliament of Fowls,” which describes a group of birds that gather on Valentine’s day to choose their mates for the year. It was believed that through Chaucer’s work, the celebration of Valentine’s day started.

Authentic love

 Fr. Jayson Gonzales, O.P. from the University lamented the commercialism of Valentine’s Day.

“People think and feel they need to spend in order to make their beloved extra special,” he said. “Valentine’s day has become a venue to showcase one’s purchasing ability in the guise of creativity and affection. People who do not receive such effort from gifts and services feel less loved.”

Gonzales encouraged Filipinos to have a deeper understanding of love by citing St. Thomas Aquinas who said, “Love is to will the good of the other.”

“We should focus on what authentic love means. Love is therefore not simply based on material goods but more so on spiritual gifts one can offer to the person—the good of the person,” he said.

Despite the businesses that have leached the occasion for profit, the purpose of the saint’s feast should always remain.

“The celebration of Valentine’s day therefore should not merely focus on spending money for your loved ones but on spending your precious time with them. Presence is the best present, like what St. Valentine did with people whom he minister,” Gonzales said. 


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