Valentine’s Day in Manila has already become infamous not just for ubiquitous traffic because of all the love-struck couples longing to express their mutual devotion but also because it has come to stand for “Free Condom Day”.
The “tradition” of giving away condoms on the day of hearts, particularly in the Dangwa flower Market in Manila, started decades ago but the assumption that young and not-so-young lovers alike believe love is best expressed when someone gets laid has been consistently challenged by – whom else – young people.
Valentine’s Day 2016 was no different. Right next to a stall dispensing free condoms to hapless passers-by was an assorted group of colegialas, seminarians, and yuppies who perkily held up signs to people that said: ‘Exchange your condoms for candies and real love’.
The supposed government response – not to mention the commercial opportunism of contraceptive companies – to young people’s uncontrollable Valentine libidos may actually be based more on an imposed or fabricated abstraction.
“Actually we were really happy..We were really happy because when they saw that we were giving away candies, they actually eagerly gave up the condoms that they received and some people were even telling us that they didn’t really want to accept the condoms that were being given away,” said Filipinos for Life Vice President for External Affairs Anna Cosio, who also joined a group of 27 young people from mid-morning to noon for “candy-swapping.”
Of the hundreds who passed through the tunnel of volunteers, few refused the pack of candies, leaving the group comprising volunteers from Filipinos for Life, Prolife Philippines, Love + Life Philippines, YouthPinoy, University of Sto. Tomas Central Seminary, St. Paul University – Manila as well as individual volunteers with a huge bag of condoms that had been swapped for a sweeter pack of candies.
“It really made me happy…My realization is that we (those who swapped their condoms for candies) have the same values. Marriage before sex is important… It’s not ok for them to use contraceptives and all. So I’m also assuming that they’re pro-life,” said Lanie Layo, an accountant staff at a fabrics manufacturing company.
Safety from what?
While some like Singles for Christ – West B leader Jem Reginaldo did experience having their condom-candy swap offer rebuffed, the entire exercise turned out exactly how it was meant to be: an active rejection of the image of young people as sexually irresponsible and uncontrollable.
Reginaldo described his encounter with a young man who seemed hesitant to exchange his condoms for the candy pack as both “comic but sad.”
“I was smiling while he looked unsure as if the exchange [was] going to be a great loss. And so I asked, ‘Para saan ‘yan? (What is that for?)’ To which he replied, ‘for safety.’ Then I smiled asking, ‘Safety from what?’” he shared.
Clash of values
The head-to-head clash of two distinct sets of values was not lost on Filipinos for Life president AJ Perez, who has been joining the special V-Day ops for 5 years now, ever since the late Fr. Vic Cajilig OP thought of a way of countering the free condom gimmicks.
“This activity called for a certain amount of brazenness from our volunteers; the guts to go against a culture of hook-ups and a culture where they will laugh at you and insult you for promoting chastity,” said Perez in a Facebook post after the event.
For him, the fact that so many Catholics passively go with the flow and accept the twisting even of public perception is the worst part.
“…A laid-back kind of Catholicism no longer cuts it in this day and age. Gone are the days when all you had to do was go to church every Sunday. Nowadays, all Catholics need to be informed of the issues that will affect them and their children. Silence is the worst kind of response, akin to raising the white flag to the enemies of our souls,” stressed Perez.
For UST seminarian Br. Anthony Koa, who also joined the activity, at the end of the day, the true litmus test of love points beyond skin-deep sex.
“You know, brother, the one who truly loves waits for that someone who will bring them to the altar not to some random place… Love is charity. Love is God and if God is not there [in what you’re doing], love is not there,” he explained in Filipino in an interview on the sidewalks of Dangwa.
Deep inside, maybe the Filipino youth are really listening. (Nirva’ana Ella Delacruz with reports from Roy Lagarde)