The tragedy of Valentine

Love is still thick in after Valentine’s Day, and as powerful and triumphant as ever, inspiring people around the globe, as different societies celebrated it according to their own tradition during that special day.

Indeed, there is no greater force on earth than love, one making death sweeter than life without it, giving up a king’s crown in a heartbeat, embracing love in poverty than riches with no love, and the sentiment that makes sacrificing life to save loved ones as heaven on earth, choosing to face the risk of death, to defend one’s own country, the truth, freedom, and democracy, or principle. History is replete with many other glorious moments where love had endured and flourished over monumental adversity.

Knowing how I feel towards my friends, neighbors, and even towards strangers on the street, and having witnessed countless varieties of love, compassion, and caring among people of all types around the world, I often wondered why we could not achieve world peace.  I might be very naïve to even entertain this question, but it really puzzles me. In spite of the fact that I know the situation is extremely complex, I can’t understand why we, with our differences, can’t all love, or at least respect, each other enough to be tolerant and break bread, around a global table, instead of trying to destroy or kill each other. Perhaps, I am a simpleton, I guess.

But what gave birth to this wonderful February day of love?

Legends of different versions have been around for centuries tracing the origin of Valentine’s Day. Invariably, they all go back to ancient Roman history. The most widely popular one relates the story of a priest named Valentine during the early days of Christianity.

It was said that during the reign of Roman Emperor Claudius II (A.D. 214-270), he decreed that young men should not marry to minimize their reluctance to fight in his wars. In spite of this, however, Father Valentine continued to perform marriages secretly. For this, he was arrested and jailed. While in prison, Valentine fell in love with the blind daughter of the jailer. His great faith and prayers miraculously “restored her sight.” Unfortunately, their love did not last. The emperor had the priest put to death by beating, stoning and eventual decapitation. Before he died, Valentine wrote a farewell letter to his love, signing it “From Your Valentine.” This salutation of endearment has endured over the centuries and used by generation after generation, now still a custom in the new millennium.

For centuries before and after the execution of Valentine, the Romans celebrated the controversial fertility festival on the 15th of February, called Lupercalia, in honor of Juno, goddess of women and marriage. This pagan practice (young men’ rights of passage, using teenage girls) was banished by Pope Gelasius in A. D. 496. To celebrate the death anniversary of Father Valentine’s death, the Church replaced the pagan ritual with a Holy Day (February 14) honoring St. Valentine. And yearly since, people around the world honor their loved ones by celebrating in their own individual and special way.

A few years ago, on Valentine’s Day, I received a text from my wife, Farida, which said, “Just to siomai love for you, I am sending you a box of heart-shaped tikoy with langka. Hopia like it.”

To all of our readers, an advance Happy Valentine’s Day!

“SAD” on Valentine’s Day?

Did you know that Valentine’s Day, the lover’s holiday, is within the prime

SAD season of the year? SAD or Seasonal Affective Disorder inflicts pain on some people and is said to be prevalent in countries where the daylight hours get shorter. Obviously more in the west like the United States, where winter lingers for at least 3 months, SAD is also known as the winter blues. Somehow it also affects some people in Asia, including the Philippines.

Victims are usually a bit depressed. They eat much more and gain weight during the period, besides being more fatigued and sleeping longer than usual.  These individuals develop a craving for sweets and starches – carbs – which seems to provide a temporary boost in their energy level. As a result, they tilt the scale up fast.

SAD, as the name implies, is seasonal, and, therefore, transient. With a good attitude and positive personal reinforcement, one can minimize, if not, ward off, the symptoms by controlling the mood with social activities, exercises, and other personal endeavors that interest the person.

Broken-Heart Syndrome

A lover’s broken heart could well be what it says and means. This condition is real and not uncommon. I have known persons, whose lovers abandoned them, and the extreme emotional pain and stress, led to actual insanity. The violent chemical secretions of the various hormones in the body in response to the trauma could cause the brain to “short circuit,” if you will, and go deranged. If you think about it, this could well be termed the broken brain syndrome. And obviously, there is no heart surgery that could fix this condition. This needs special psychiatric evaluation and care.

And so with those people who experience a sudden shock by hearing news of a death in the family, or by being jolted by a surprise, or any event that suddenly jacks up the catecholamine (hormones like adrenalin that are produced following stress) level in the body to 30 times higher than normal. Folklore has always asserted that traumatic events could cause a heart “attack,” suggesting a close link between emotion and the heart. It is now appears there is a scientific basis for it.

According to Johns Hopkins cardiologist Ilan Wittstein, any sudden shock, extreme sadness, or fright, “can trigger Broken-Heart Syndrome or Stress Cardiomyopathy, which mimics a heart attack, except that the victim suffers no lasting or irreversible damage.” In the Broken-Heart Syndrome, first described by Japanese physicians in the 1990s and only a few weeks ago by U.S. cardiologists in a published article in The New England Journal of Medicine, the heart is temporarily stunned. The rise in the stress hormone levels as a result of the sudden shock causes some spasm in the coronary arteries that momentarily reduces the blood flow to the heart muscles. This leads to the classic symptoms and signs of a heart attack. But the heart function in this syndrome returns back to normal in 10 days or so.  In a major heart attack, recovery takes weeks, if not months, and the heart power may not return to normal at all.

More studies are needed to answer a multitude of questions and unravel the mystery behind the Broken-Heart Syndrome.


Philip S. Chua, MD, FACS, FPCS, Cardiac Surgeon Emeritus in Northwest Indiana and chairman of cardiac surgery from 1997 to 2010 at Cebu Doctors University Hospital, where he holds the title of Physician Emeritus in Surgery, is based in Las Vegas, Nevada. He is a Fellow of the American College of Surgeons, the Philippine College of Surgeons, and the Denton A. Cooley Cardiovascular Surgical Society. He is the chairman of the Filipino United Network – USA, a 501(c)(3) humanitarian foundation in the United States. Email:

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