Falling in love poses a bit of a challenge when prices keep rising.
“Sa hassle ng buhay mo, magpapa-hassle ka pa ba sa pag-ibig?" Belle Mariano so succinctly put in An Inconvenient Love.
Today's times warrant that we conserve our hard-earned money and cut down on our expenses. Whether you need to save for a rainy day, or just barely make ends meet as it is, you still deserve love on Valentine's Day or any time of the year for that matter.
Pending any significant measures to alleviate our financial hardships, we must rely on our own resourcefulness for now. PhilSTAR L!fe curated these simple date ideas for those who are looking to celebrate the day of love even on a low budget.
Food for thought
The most expensive dating options on this list involve food, given recurring news of record inflation rates locally. Nonetheless, there are workarounds to meetups revolving around food.
When eating out, the only time you should consider the price point is what constitutes too much rather than as a gauge of how romantic an experience is. There is nothing to romanticize about poverty when you go broke trying to look rich. Even the "minsan lang naman" mentality has its limits.
Opt for restaurants that offer main courses—not appetizers or sides—at a maximum price range of P200 to P300, as any higher could quickly add up beyond your expectations. There are still possible hidden fees like service charges or even overpriced drinks and rice, so leave an allowance for unforeseen expenses just in case.
If fast food establishments won't cut it, there is a selection of buffets and mid-scale restaurants (like Gringo, Kko Kko, and Marugame Udon) that fall within the suggested price range... or at least an acceptable excess if the food's value justifies so.
When in doubt, you can also prepare at home any food that is considered romantic, such as beef, chocolate, fruits, pasta, and wine. At least you can count the bill even before reaching the grocery line.
Playing for keeps
You can't play around in a relationship, but you can play together.
Aside from playing on a traditional video game console that can set you back tens of thousands of pesos, you have a plethora of other options to consider when gaming.
If both of you have personal computers (say for work or school) powerful enough to run basic multiplayer games, then that's a first step. Examples of fun co-op games recommended for couples that are accessible via PC include Portal 2 (P335), A Way Out (P999), and Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime (P419.95).
Mobile games readily playable on everyday devices like smartphones and tablets usually are also able to boot affordably, if not free of cost. Such couple-friendly titles include the likes of Mario Kart Tour, Cooking Battle, and Sky: Children of the Light, all of which are free, by the way.
To paraphrase, maybe having Player Two is better than just Player One.
"Dadalhin kita sa aming bahay/'Di tayo mag-aaway/Aalis tayo sa tunay na mundo" stands out as one of the best examples of romantic lyricism, if only because the joy of staying indoors means not having to spent a single cent.
This might feel like a cheap, effortless solution because it is. To be fair, a home date is about as thoughtful a gesture can get to both halves of a couple who recognize Valentine's Day as "petsa de peligro" (a day before the 15th payday).
A magical place with magical charms, the great indoors offer infinite opportunities for amusement—at least to those with imagination. Such options could be wholesome or otherwise.
Pop a comfort movie (e.g. The Notebook, A Walk To Remember, Dear John, etc.) that you've seen many times already, or perhaps a trending TV series (The Last of Us, The White Lotus, Wednesday, etc.) that you need to catch up on.
Finally, simply recognize that there is beauty even in a mundane setting not at all different from one's home.
A host of local attractions might seem like a tourist trap, but only for the uninitiated.
FYI, you don't have to spend on anything other than fare and entrance fees when going on dates at museums, historical sites, and other local attractions.
Just pack a quick and filling lunch for you and your partner before you embark on your day's journey. After all, it's not like such places are known for their distinguished food. More likely, they are known for their overpriced offerings.
Commutable destinations where you would spend just a few hundred pesos max on the fare and entrance fees include Intramuros (P75 to P425 depending on the number of sites entered) and the National Museum of the Philippines (free entrance).
The only real way to overshoot your budget for this date is to book a tour against your will. Beware of scammers who will charge overpriced or hidden fees.
A walk to remember
The final date suggestion is a walk in the park—literally.
When all else fails, it's free to walk anywhere so as long as you are not trespassing or have to pay an entrance fee.
Avoid walking in a high-traffic commercial area like a mall to avoid window shopping, as you can expose yourself to unnecessary purchases or just feel bad about not being able to afford anything.
Instead, walk in a publicly accessible area like an open-air park full of people living their best lives.
Recommendations include the Ninoy Aquino Parks and Wildlife (P30 entrance), La Mesa Ecopark (P50 entrance), and the Arroceros Urban Forest Park (free).