I’ve been employed for a decade in more than two organizations but it is only this year and in my current workplace that I’ve been in a Valentine’s Day Program for employees.
On the morning of Valentine’s Day, I fell in stride with one of the Department’s senior officers whose route, like mine, to the office, is via the back gate. She mentioned that there was the party at noon and did I know? I said I didn’t. She said I do now, and told me to bring along a gift of chocolate if I could to exchange with the others otherwise a hug and a kiss from me would do.
A few minutes before noon, a colleague and I ran to the corner Mini Stop and bought heart-shaped fondue solo cakes worth 55 pesos each as our exchange gifts. (In exchange, I received Starbucks cinnamon bread and strawberry lollipop, lucky happy me! My angel must’ve been at work whispering to the other that I’m partial to things Starbucks.)
The party was held in the boardroom where important economic and land issues of the country were deliberated and decided on from the time of Marcos to the present. I imagined the indelible footprints past and present decision-makers made on its floor and the historical significance of the venue added a touch of importance to an otherwise casual gathering of thirty.
First order of the party were the games: lime relay; apple eating; sliding the coin, wherein the girl slides the coin upward from underneath the boy’s clothing until it comes out at the neck area. The senior officers came and were quite the enthusiastic audience. The games were for fun and the fun itself is the prize.
After the games, chow. Chicken, vegetables, cake, and ice cream silenced the group a bit. Afterward, the highest senior officer greeted us a Happy Valentine’s Day.
Then the exchange of gifts. The mechanics was for the giver to go up front and make a pick up line at the recipient.
Giver: Unan ka ba (are you a pillow)?
Recipient: Bakit (why)?
Giver: Kasi, ang sarap mong i-hug (Because, it’ll be good to hug you).
In my seat, I was like sh*t I’m so old I don’t know what pick up lines these young people are talking about. But I’m flexible enough so when my turn came I had something mashed up, having picked up the gist from the giver-recipient exchanges. I gave my best acting shot and it worked, bringing the house down with laughter. To my relief. (After that, people in the Department somehow regard me as having a talent for comedy. Perhaps now I could do it more publicly like in the Monday flag ceremony and program for 500+ workers? Ha-ha.)
By half past one in the afternoon, the boardroom was back to being a place for serious national business.
I came away from the party glowing with being in community with my colleagues. The effort to gather in celebration simply and briefly and give the other of yourself as symbolized by your presence, partaking of the communal food, and exchange of gifts and doing it with people who you’re with most of the year or years is what Valentine’s Day really is about, at the workplace. Such rituals engenders collegial connection and makes a worker happy and appreciated and ultimately more productive.