I remember how, back in grade school, whenever there was an occasion (Christmas, Valentine’s Day or whatever), we would sometimes have class “visitors” who would be selling bowls of chocolate for PHP1.00. Yes, you got that right. PHP1.00 for a white plastic bowl about four inches in diameter filled with chocolate candies wrapped in brightly-colored foil. The “visitors” would suggest that we could give them to our parents or grandparents.
I don’t know how that worked for the school administration. It was a Catholic school and one would expect better so, looking back, perhaps, the “visitors” knew someone high up in the administration. Decades later, when I was already in college, the school would hit the evening news when the principal, the same principal we had when we were still students there, was bodily carried out of her office (live footage on the evening news) after she locked herself in amid accusations of dipping into the school coffers.
Anyway… back when I was a grade schooler, the bowls of chocolate looked so pretty and I would run to my grandfather after school and ask for two pesos so I could buy two bowls of candies — one for him and my grandmother, and another for my father and mother. I didn’t understand marketing gimmicks at that age. I didn’t realize how we were a captured market and sitting ducks. Still, I think about our attitude toward those generic chocolate candies. We didn’t scoff because they weren’t branded. I don’t remember how all that changed. How we changed.
By the time I was in college, gift-giving had become so laden with status symbols. On Valentine’s Day, it was expensive branded chocolates in boxes and long-stemmed roses in boxes that screamed the names of the shops where they came from (the all-important names of the shops spelled out the cost of the flowers). Even places to go to for a meal were labeled as “pang-date”, “pang-barkada” or “pang-pamilya” and the ones categorized as “pang-date” were expensive with all the romantic accessories (candles, soft muted lights, wine…) but where the food was not necessarily good.
For some reason, the overall cost of the chocolates, the flowers and the dinner has become synonymous with the amount and quality of the love professed. Probably without really being conscious about it, boys insult girls by buying their affection and girls act like that’s how it ought to be done. Perhaps, it’s a case of practicality. Wisdom, even. Why would any girl pay attention to a boy who, from the start, appears too stingy with his money? And why would any boy show interest in a girl who doesn’t seem to show appreciation for signs of financial security and stability?
Personally, I’m not particular about the brand of chocolates so long as the chocolates won’t poison me.
I’m not a huge fan of floral bouquets either — they’re pretty for a short time but, when they start wilting, they aren’t good for much else. The thought and gesture are great but, honestly? I’d choose good company and great conversation over expensive chocolates, roses and dinner anytime.