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Valentine’s Day hacks for a happy heart

Expat Tips & Tricks

Another Valentine’s Day is around the corner: Cupid lurks, waiting to divest poor, hapless, overly-romantic souls of their hard-earned money, at bow-and-arrow point. It’s true, I am generally not a fan of the highly-commercial spectacle that Valentine’s (like any other holiday, generally speaking) has become. Have you read my column yet? You’ll see what I mean.

Shameless self-promotion aside, while I am not a huge believer in the commercial angle, or the romanticized notions that cause many people to beat themselves on the head with heart-shaped bludgeons, I AM a fan of spending quality time with yourself, or with those nearest and dearest to your heart. This, in my non-rose-colored-lenses viewpoint, is after all the true essence of any holiday. I am also a fan of celebrating in special ways that won’t necessarily send you to the poorhouse.

If you’re planning some V-Day me-time, or special-someone time, or family-time, and if you want to make it extra-special without being extra-costly, then these tips are for you. Simply put, these are hacks for one heck of a Happy Heart’s Happening:

Cook up a favorite dish. Dining doesn’t need to be out, at an expensive and presumably overcrowded restaurant, for it to be special. Whip up a well-loved meal either your own, or a family favorite. To make it even more special, do the prep-work and the clean-up together.

Eat at a hole-in-the-wall haven. If you do brave it and decide you’d rather eat out, opt for a yummy, out-of-the way (i.e., likely not crowded) hole-in-the-wall place you’ve never tried before – a little bit of research online will likely point you in the right direction.

K.I.S.S. or Keep it Simple, Silly! Special does not mean complicated. Sometimes,
the simple things in life are the best ones. Listen to cheesy love songs on the cheesiest radio station you can find, and sing along; belt these out, at the top of your lungs. Or, download a favorite playlist and do the same. We all love a little Karaoke action now and then! Some other simple yet special ways to celebrate: write special notes to each other, or to yourself, and stick these around the room; wear coordinated outfits for the day (this is the ULTIMATE in cheese!); share a bowl of spaghetti, ala Lady and the Tramp; treat yourself to a mani-pedi, or a professional shave (yes, guys, I am talking to you); rent a bicycle and ride it by the bay. The list is as endless as your creativity.

Be spontaneous! Put the fun back in the holiday by being as spontaneous as you wish. Dance, like no one’s watching, whether there’s music playing or not. Laugh out loud – everyone loves a happy heart! Drive to your favorite getaway; or hop on a bus to a quiet place on the outskirts of the city. Write a message on the peel of a piece of fruit (this works great with bananas), to declare your love. Play a game of Mystery Manila, or some other exciting “escape” game. Don some costumes; who cares if it isn’t Halloween yet? Give a potted plant instead of roses. Go watch the sun rise or set, with a nice glass of wine in hand. Hold hands. Give hugs – this is the best way to get one, in return!

DIY means ILY. Forget store bought presents. Make something special – a USB filled with favorite songs (this is a neat gift to yourself, as well!); a poem you wrote; a cake or cookies you baked, for instance. Head to a bead shop and string your own bracelet. Revisit the old-fashioned way of writing with actual ink and paper, and pen a note or card. Frame a photo – an actual, printed one, in an actual frame, and not the digitized images we have gotten so accustomed to.

Rediscover the beauty of words. Have your own Valentine’s Day Book Club or Spoken Word night. Read some poetry, or any other favorite book, out loud to each other. Again, this activity need not be done exclusively in a romantic context – this can be done as a family, or with a group of friends. Spending time with a good book is time well spent. An alternative, for those who prefer the “me-time” option? Listen to a good audio book while indulging in your favorite sweet or Bacchanalian treat (or both!).

Take a long, leisurely walk. Preferably somewhere scenic, or somewhere interesting. Hopefully someplace safe and clean, as well. Sadly, Metro Manila is in dire need of proper parks and green open spaces, but there are still some areas that exude a serene-enough, eye-catching enough ambiance (stroll through Bonifacio Global City and take in the awesome street art, for instance, or trek down to Paco Park, which is hopefully still worth the visit.) An alternative, for the more physically fit, would be to play a round of your favorite sport – the endorphins will give your V-Day an extra boost!

Go old school. Draw. Paint a picture with crayons. Play a board game. Play charades. Leave the digital world behind for a day, and spend some time on analog activities.
Ditch technology – it will still be there, in the morning.

Spend the day with your beloved furry friends. If you’ve got pets, this is a great way to while the hours away. Have a picnic, pet(s) included. If you have no pets, consider going to a cat café or a dog park and allow the pets of others to amuse you.

Let your love shine through, in all that you say or do. C-H-E-E-S-Y, I know. But isn’t that the whole point, after all?