It's February again and that means the yearly gimmicks and promotions aimed for the Valentine's Day crowd. Flashy ads and sales are a reminder that it's the one time in the year that you're supposed to show your significant other how much they mean to you. To some it has become tradition, to others, a mundane act done out of repetition. A simple thing like romance is reduced to one day out of the year when we're told to buy in to marketing ploys in order to somehow show appreciation to the one you love. Sadly many single people and people in relationships alike will tell you that romance is dead and is only for new love, and the modern consumerism and plasticky feel of Valentine's only serves to worsen the state of twenty-first century romance. Busy lives where everything goes by so fast often make people look past the important things and focus on the inconsequential. Fortunately, all hope is not lost and there are still people out there who believe that romance is alive and most importantly not confined to one day out of the year. To those ardent few, romance is simply about passion and effort in showing that important person how much they are appreciated and not about a mark on a calendar. Whether it be a grand gesture or a simple act of love, these people show that romance still has a pulse and a place in today's world, Valentine's Day or not. Here is a compilation of stories from some of those hopeful romantics who choose to keep the art of romance alive.
As most of these kinds of stories go, it started with a girl. We met at work, and we were friends who were getting closer and closer over time, bonding over books, music, films and art. And as is the case with me, I started falling for her. Things got a little weird eventually, and it seemed like all was lost.
But then seeing that I was, and am, 100% idiot, if I was going to fail at this particular romantic endeavor, I might as well fail spectacularly.
And so for her birthday I made her a book — this little zine-like thing, every page hand drawn save the cover, which I paid an artist to mock up. It took a week and almost sleepless nights, but I pulled it off.
The concept behind it was that it was an alphabet, and for every letter, I would draw something about her that I gleamed from our talks over the months — from favorite songs, to spirit animals, to schools. Therein lied both the mundane, the intimate and the ridiculous.
It was a book made up of the tiniest details, a testament I guess to the fact that, before I knew it, I had been listening to her and keeping the little things that made her “her,” all the things that I fell for, and took it to heart.
After all, we don’t fall for the big things, right? It’s the little things that stick to us.
It’s the little things that matter.
So I poured everything I had on to the page.
She seemed to enjoy and appreciate the gift.
In the end, I did end up failing. Nothing really ever happened between us except more weirdness and a dash of confusion. Maybe lessons were learned. But I don’t regret anything, at least. Not at all. It was a brilliant confirmation to myself that, when it comes to love, I am, apparently, 1000% idiot.
And that’s okay. I like that about myself.
It’s a small consolation, a little thing. But I’ll take it.
"My husband and I have been married for 15 years. The most romantic gesture we've shared before we got married is when we said our own prayer at the same time each day when we were thousands of miles apart for a year and a half. The prayer was our wish to be reunited. Now we cherish each day we're together sharing laughter, tears, joy, sorrow, failures, and successes."
"As an anniversary surprise, I bought two tickets for a short cruise along Manila Bay for me and my girlfriend, some years ago. On top of being ridiculously cheap (for a cruise), it’s something that we haven’t done before so I was pretty thrilled about it. I picked her up from her house, asked her to wear a blindfold, and we took a 45 minute drive to Manila. While on the road, I gave her clues as to where we were going, to which she eagerly responded with playful guesses. When we arrived, I removed her blindfold and we both laid our eyes to an unexpected sight – the boat was no bigger than a basketball court, and the build was nowhere near what you would picture in your head when you hear the word “cruise”. Judging from the attire of some passengers, it appeared that I was not alone in overestimating the grandeur of this trip. No wonder it was on sale! Apparently, the surprise was not just for my girlfriend, but also for me. And she was laughing all throughout the ride, dubbing the experience as an embodiment of a “romantic comedy”.
We are not together anymore, but this is one of the events that I remember when I think of her. It reminds me not to dwell on past frustrations and heartaches, but rather to recall moments that made the relationship real and special, however short-lived it turned out to be."
"My most romantic gesture probably happened last year during valentines. My girlfriend had football training and told me to wake her up via phone call and book her an uber at 6:00 am in the morning. As she prepared I was on my way to her and told her that her uber was already outside. I surprised her with a potted orchid and a letter and asked her to have breakfast with me before training. We had a simple breakfast at McDonalds Katipunan cos we were kinda both broke."
"Travelled on my own for almost 24 hours (stopovers included) to be with my husband."
"The most romantic gesture that I have ever done for someone was when my then-boyfriend-now-husband and I officially became a couple four years back. On the day that I wanted to give my oh-so-sweet 'Yes, I love you!' I prepared a gourmet lunch menu from appetizer down to dessert. Little did my beau know that the dessert was actually the 'sweet finale'. I made a refrigerated cake with fruit cocktail toppings that engraved the word 'I <3 U.' When it was dessert time, I served the plated dessert on the table and he was surprised to finally hear, er see, from me the words 'I love you.' He was utterly speechless. He gave me a big, bear hug and sweet kisses."
"Well mostly everyone knows I'm a goofy guy but deep inside of this goofiness there's a side of me that's somewhat romantic. I love to give the best surprises. Last surprise was when I set up a short day trip with my girlfriend after her work last year, not her knowing that I had been planning on proposing to her. So I made it seem like a photoshoot downtown (over looking Toronto)"
"Being asked for the most romantic gesture I've ever done, I suddenly felt my heart contracting with skipped beats and mixed emotions. I never thought I would be encountering this difficult question in my life and me being a not cheesy or showy type of person, I came across a few. As I look back, those moments were spontaneous because planning was uncertain in my field. Random calls, Singing a song together or holding his hand while walking already made my heart pound faster. But giving him a hand and back massage is the most romantic gesture I've ever done. I never thought I'd be good at it but it was appreciated. Yes, we do silly things in the name of love, we may sometimes be vulnerable or closed off but we can choose our romantic destiny, as long we know how to love a person no matter how it may be perceived."
"One was making a surprise for my boyfriend's birthday by coming to him with balloons and T-shirt saying “who is an engineer” (because he is) and later on I took him to a dinner to a restaurant with a 360° view. Another thing with him again was when I surprised him by taking him to a photo shoot. He had no clue about it and initially he said he didn't like photo shoots but in the end he loved it. Now the pic is on his desktop. One more thing was recently on one of my flights, I was entertaining little girls and to leave them with nice memories, I took my stewardess hat and clicked pictures with them. They were showing them to everybody around."
"After a month of being together, my boyfriend (now my husband) celebrated his birthday. I couldn't think of a special gift that I could give him so I threw him a surprise party. Thanks to my supportive friends who allowed me to use their flat and help me decorate it. I even created a fake celebration with my friends in some restaurant so he wouldn't have a clue. During that day I told him that we needed to drop the booze at my friend's place since after our dinner at the restaurant we would definitely be hanging out there. I was nervous on our way to my friend's house and even asked him to take the longer route because I was afraid he might see his friend's cars parked nearby. As they opened the door, there were party poppers with all my friends and his friends present. He was speechless as planned, it was successful!"
"I found out my girlfriend had never been to New York before despite being an avid traveler and having been to numerous places around the world. (I even took her to the Philippines last September!) So, for christmas last year when we were exchanging gifts, she was surprised to see that I had nothing in my hand. Then I told her to check her phone for her to see that I had texted her our flight confirmation and she was so happy!"
"Anyone would perceive that night as a normal weekday, probably preparing themselves to go to bed and rest for the next day. Well, not for us... flight attendants do not have the same perception of time (and perhaps, space, too). My girlfriend back then had a long flight to do that night, it was a take off at about one in the morning.
During the day, before her pre-flight power nap, we had an argument about my not-so-romantic manners - you see, I'm not the kind who gives flowers unless there's a special occasion neither do I make rose petal paths into a heart-shaped pillow-filled bed with an ice bucket sunk Moet.
My ways are more subtle and subjective I guess. But I'm going off-tangent here.
So, I left her home so she could rest for her flight later. She seemed really upset.
I felt guilty cause of my failure in showing her my true feelings. I really loved that girl and she wasn't able to see it.
I had to fix this, and I had to be as cheesy as possible. Didn't talk to her all throughout the day.
When she came down her building ready, in uniform, all pretty with perfect make up, she could see a lone black car in the street. The two front lights on but still.
The car started moving towards where she was and, as it did, a familiar song made its way into her ears.
I get out of the car in front of her, her eyes full of total surprise are still clear in my memory, along with her beautiful smile.
After hugging her, I opened the door as a real gentleman would.
In the passenger seat, rested a big flower bouquet with her favorites - mind you she didn't like white roses, so, no white roses.
Playing on the stereo was her favorite singer and her favorite songs by him on a loop.
Once we were both inside the car I took a deep breath and sang her favorite song in her mother tongue - That I spent hours practicing that afternoon.
She had tears in her eyes, it was a magic moment for both of us.
To end, I gave her a note inside an envelope that I asked her to open later - I wrote her a poem comparing my love for her with a shell in the sea. The shell is only beautiful and free when in the sea. Out of it, it's dry, lifeless...
I drove her to the briefing building, gave her a long and passionate kiss, knowing that my message was received.
Yeah, Romance is always alive within us and everyone likes to feel loved, so show it more to those you love."
"He was still at work and I was at his place hanging out. I always notice unfolded laundry sitting in the basket usually for days on end. So I decided to fold his clothes and organize his closet. When he came home he said that was the sweetest thing a girl has ever done for him cos he absolutely hates folding.
Now that we live together he does the laundry, wash & fold! Lol!
Well, as the mother of his child I think that's one of the ways he shows his appreciation for how I love and care for our son... i'll take it!!"
"One night last year, when I went out with the girl I was courting and her friends, we went to this nice and cozy roof top bar in Makati. The ambiance and vibe that night was just breathtaking. The DJ was playing nice, happy, and groovy music. I thought, might as well propose to her and seal the deal as a couple. I did this by secretly chatting with her girl friends on Facebook and talking to the waitresses discreetly to prepare a cake with this written, "Will you be my one and only?". We had that sent to our table by surprise with her friends gracefully cheering with one of our favorite song playing. It was embarrassing but I did it anyway to show my love and sincerity to her.
It was getting late and no other cake was available except for the last slice of blueberry cheesecake in the rooftop bar. So I thought, despite the small piece of cake, the gesture is what matters and wanted to savour the moment. After all, the message meant the entire world to me. She is my girlfriend now and things have been awesome since then."
(The last piece of cheesecake that sealed the deal!)
"A quick story of the sweetest thing I can think of, although it didn’t happen on Valentines Day.
It was for my mom’s birthday. My relatives and I organized a renewal of vow wedding for my parents. It was just a small gathering. My mom was clueless on what was happening. Her church meeting was canceled and she got disappointed coz she planned to celebrate it with them, not knowing we planned everything together. On top of that I came home on my days off (from Qatar). We booked a hotel for her and my dad so she wouldn’t see me until the day of the reveal. Then finally on the day she came home, she was told that she was going to do a photo shoot for her birthday and for a designer’s portfolio. I was hiding in one of the rooms in our house with my dad and the rest while she prepared.
When the time of the reveal came she was shocked when she saw everyone. Friends, relatives, co-workers were present in the event."
(Click here to watch the video of Drew's surprise)
"When we were in College at Texas A&M, I always looked forward to having lunch with my then girlfriend now wife at our military-type dining facility, Duncan Dining Hall. We would enjoy our short lunch together just like two love birds, googly-eyed and young, just enjoying every precious moment we had together and not worrying about what the next minute or tomorrow will bring. I guess that feeling of being high--naturally--and happy staring at each other's eyes and wondering if we would be together thus far in our lives."
"This is such a timely question. I needed to ask myself, what could I really do for the one I love, the person who shows me every single day how much he loves me? My husband is such a thoughtful man who is very loving, protective and responsible, yet so simple and humble and he never asks for material things and loves me for me.
So, here I am, asking myself, what is the most romantic gesture I can give to him to show how great my love is?
I went over and over in my head, trying to figure out what I could do and one day, I gravitated to this amazing idea…I would give him LOVE NOTES. I wanted it so creative that he would be left speechless, yet so simple that it would clearly express to him the love I have for him in my heart. I’m not one for fancy words but if I could just pull off the perfect Valentine’s gift for him then it would have to be "LOVE FROM ALL AROUND THE WORLD"
I’ve asked all of my “love elves” to write a note. It includes the help from family, friends, and friends of friends. Each love elf would write my simple message with the location they are in and take a picture of this love note with the scene of their surrounding.
So, here I am today, with 380 love notes from all across the world. I have Love notes from 50 states and from different countries from A to Z. I will take each and every one and place them in a scrapbook that I will give on Valentine’s Day. This book will show him how proud I am and how I am literally declaring my love for him all over the world. THAT, is the most romantic gesture I can give and show to my husband. Now, if only someone could write it on the moon….. "
(Just some of Xen's many "Love notes")
"Walking around the city, holding hands and talking about our plans, hopes and dreams til sunrise is one the most romantic things I’ve had done with my bestfriend and partner in life, Ryan. No fancy dates or expensive gifts, just pure love."
"It was Aug 2, 2009 when I proposed to my wife. She never owned a Barbie doll growing up so I had an idea to buy her one and put her engagement ring in it.
I took her to Toys-R-Us knowing that we needed to buy a toy for my niece's birthday. We walked to the Barbie section aisle and I asked her if she could pick one. I ended up picking the Bridal Barbie and handed it to her. She said it was okay and took a good look at it. She was actually confused why there was a ring inside the box. Then I knelt down, asked her to be my wife and of course she said yes! That was her very first Barbie and by far a very memorable one for her."
"I remember for someone's birthday I gathered a basket of all their favorite things and wrote a couple of handwritten love letters. I then pretended to not have any plans of giving a gift, but on the eve of that special someone’s birthday I showed up at 12 midnight outside their house so I could give it."
"I don't know what gives her the feeling of romance but I guess when I stroke her hair my heart speaks to her in a way that tells her that I love her."
Photos submitted by contributors