Philippine Daily Inquirer

Valentine table for one

- VICTOR ROMULO GALLARDO DUMAGUING

Amajestic log cabin with an A-shaped roof stands proud on top of a hill ringed by towering pine trees with a luxuriant growth of sunflowers in between. Inside is a high-ceilinged, woodclad indoor restaurant, with dimmed fairy lights that suffuse the entire room with a warm, mellow glow. The tables are all covered in immaculate white, with rose petals strewn on the surface and a bottle of Dom Perignon lying expectantl­y, waiting for its bubbles to be poured into a slender glass. A long-stemmed red rose in a Murano vase looks down on three red candles resting on an antique candelabra.

The table is in a discreet corner, comfortabl­y distanced from the wood-burning fireplace to complete the romantic ambiance. After all, it’s a special Valentine dinner for me.

And myself? Aha, I am dressed to the nines—dark blue Armani suit, white silk dress shirt by Dior, flaming red YSL tie, and Ferragamo shoes. Thank God for Baguio ukay-ukay outlets. I’m an FBI (full-blooded Ilocano) and CIA (of certified Igorot ancestry); I’m very basic, not brand-conscious, but then again, look, it’s Valentine’s Day.

A friend, consenting to my folly, drops me off in his black Mercedes—I gave my old but reliable FX, overworked with doctor’s duties, a well-deserved rest—arriving just in time for a grand entrance. On cue, the violin, guitar and piano harmonious­ly launch into their instrument­al version of “The Greatest Love of All,” a prelude to an exciting evening, all by myself, alone but definitely not lonely...

Single people in the Philippine­s, especially those men and women already in their late 30s, are regarded differentl­y, to say the least. In a marriage- and family-oriented culture such as ours, singles have been called many names. The most common words associated with them include “abnormal,” “weird,” “pathetic,” “inutile,” “tibo (for tomboy),” “pompyang (in obvious malicious reference to the clanging of cymbals).” On the part of the unmarried man, he is called “bakla,” “syoke,” “closet queen,” “paminta.” In other words, an endless litany of teasing, snide remarks, innuendoes and insults.

Bible-reader I am not, because as a child, I had difficulty making sense of the word “thou” and the seeming backward arrangemen­t of the words in the sentence “But indeed, God makes a way.” Susan, our beloved med class president and a Bible expert, told me that Saint Paul lived a full life as a single man. My reflection on singlehood is not meant to be a doctrinal or biblical argument for or against being single. It is my personal simple statement of concern for the many single adults like myself out there.

As John 10-10 states, “Your decision to remain single is your personal response to God’s invitation of a full life as a single person. Therefore you are answerable only to yourself. ... No amount of social pressure can demolish your own conviction and confidence in the value and validity of your vocation as a single person. Your being single is not a mere accident. Singlehood, like marriage, is a calling...”

The reality is that aloneness does not automatica­lly translate to loneliness. Many times, solitude provides us the most intense emotions. Besides, looking back, we have loved and have been loved, too.

Meanwhile, I am happy and content being single! I may not enjoy marital bliss, but at least, I don’t suffer from its blisters. And as an added bonus, I don’t have a mother-in-law.

———— Victor Romulo Gallardo Dumaguing, MD, 68, is a retired faculty member of Saint Louis University Schools of Medicine, Nursing, and Natural Sciences, a visiting professor of its graduate school, and a practicing internist of SLU Hospital of the Sacred Heart.

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