BUNCH OF ROSES. A man carries a bunch of roses on his shoulder along Dos Castillas Street in Sampaloc, Manila on Saturday (Feb. 13, 2021). Giving roses to someone is the most popular gift to express one’s love during Valentine’s Day. (PNA photo by Joey O. Razon)

MANILA – With the pandemic affecting the way people celebrate events and holidays, everyone has more or less expected a different Valentine's Day this 2021 –– remote or with less to zero social interaction due to social distancing protocols.

But for some couples, it didn't mean a diminished love in the air. After all, it's not only about chocolates, gifts, and romantic dinner outside that makes this day special.

Josh Mirafuentes, 29, is currently based in Luzon while her husband, who works for the Philippine Coast Guard, is stationed in Cagayan de Oro.

Their pre-pandemic Valentine's Day tradition was usually involved going out for movies, eating out, and preparing handmade gifts for each other.

"Because of travel restrictions and the nature of this job, we must celebrate apart. But thanks to video chats, we use it to compensate for the lack of being able to physically be in the same room. We are both doing our best to keep up with each other's lives," she told PNA.

While it was tough maneuvering through the pandemic, particularly with the restrictions imposed, Josh said love endures even if you "can't be together in person" and, for her, this is what Valentine's Day 2021 is about –– making your efforts seen.

"We know it can be tough, but love knows no bounds. Although it might take more effort, you can show your love and affection without physically being next to your partner," she said.

Josh said while she previously believed that Valentine’s Day has been grossly commercialized which involves purchasing commodities to give as gifts, she said its meaning has become more meaningful in the last years.

It's because Runiel, her husband, sees it as a special day to express his affection to her.

"It's meaningful to him. A few years ago, I see Valentine's Day as commercial exploitation. But my husband loves Valentine's Day so celebrating the occasion will show that I paid attention to what is important to him," she said.

Keeping love alive

For 26-year old Jamie, this year's heart's day is all about keeping the love alive.

Be it at home, a road trip up to the mountains, or splurging on dates, she said making Valentine's Day meaningful boils down to how sincere you are at spending quality time with your special someone especially after a tough year they've been through.

"Besides keeping the love alive, Valentine's Day reminds people to stay hopeful and to look forward to the days when we don't have to worry about catching a deadly disease anymore. We worry about ourselves and our loved ones every day, sometimes we forget to celebrate each other's presence," she said.

Jamie said expressing affection, however, doesn't have to be grand.

"When you get your special someone a gift, it doesn't have to be super expensive. Cook them some of their favorite dishes, buy them a book from secondhand stores online, download a movie and watch together, etc. Show them you care about their interests and spend quality time together," she shared.

Last year's anxieties and stress brought about by the health crisis also gave them an opportunity to reflect on what really matters today -- just being there for one another.

"My boyfriend would report to his office from time to time, but most days he just stayed home and did the cooking and I would always talk to him whenever I'm stressed from the micromanaging (at the office). Thankfully, I was able to find a new job with a better boss so I'm hoping 2021 would be better for the both of us," Jamie said.

The same sentiments go for 24-year-old Mary Joy Retubis, who sees Valentine's Day as a reason to celebrate love amid the prevailing health crisis.

"Because life still needs to be celebrated, most especially love, since it's one of our main source of strength in these trying times," she said.

It's also one of the few moments they get to spend time together, she said.

"I'm such a clingy person so I was used to seeing him every week but it's hard these days since there's no mode of transportation and neither of us can drive but thanks to the internet, that, I can say is our saving grace," she said.

But yes, like any other couples, Valentine's is also a bit different for her this year.

"(Last year we had a) picnic at a peaceful park. (This year, it's) literally nothing grand, we just pampered ourselves yesterday and we're just planning to watch and drink later," Mary Joy shared.

According to a survey conducted by the Social Weather Stations (SWS) from Nov. 21 to 25, 2020, only about 39 percent of adult Filipinos said they would celebrate Valentine’s Day.

The poll also found that 50 percent of Filipinos said they are "very happy" with their love life and 31 percent said they could be happier. (PNA)