Faith and Spirituality

Love for God or love for jowa? When Ash Wednesday falls on Valentine’s Day

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

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Love for God or love for jowa? When Ash Wednesday falls on Valentine’s Day
Based on our informal poll, 'love for God' conquers all

For Valentine’s dinner, we’re having… what, fasting?

It’s a test of will for Catholics on Wednesday, February 14, as the start of the season of Lent – Ash Wednesday – falls on Valentine’s Day this year. 

For Catholics, Ash Wednesday is the start of Lent, a 40-day penitential period marked by prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. On this day, they have their foreheads marked with ashes to symbolize repentance from sin, and are required to abstain from meat (for those 14 years old onwards) and to take only one full meal (for those 18 to 59 years old) as a form of sacrifice. 

Valentine’s Day, the feast of the third-century martyr Saint Valentine, patron saint of lovers, is a day when romantic partners give gifts and go on dates in a celebration of love.

So what goes first for Filipino Catholics on February 14 this year: love for God or love for jowa (a colloquial Filipino term for a romantic partner)? Or does February 14 this year simply mean, uhm, payday?

We posted informal Facebook polls as early as January 5, and here’s what we found:

  • love for God (care emoji): 981 votes
  • love for jowa (heart emoji): 59 votes
  • mag-abang ng suweldo, or to wait for one’s salary (cry emoji): 161 votes
  • puwede all, or can it be all (thumbs up emoji): 566 votes

Hands down, for our followers (as of Saturday, February 10), “love for God” wins.

Our poll is still up, by the way, and you can still vote! Click and share the link below:

Why Ash Wednesday falls on Valentine’s Day

But why, in the first place, does the day of ashes fall on the day of hearts this year?

Lent is a preparation for Holy Week, which commemorates Jesus’ passion and death, which in turn leads to Easter, the celebration of Jesus’ rising from the dead.

Easter is a movable feast, and it falls “on the first Sunday following the first full moon after the spring equinox,” according to Encyclopedia Brittanica. The phases of the moon, in other words, are used to calculate the date of Easter – and this BBC article tells us about computus, a complicated method to determine this date.

It all boils down to the fact that the observances preceding Easter – including Ash Wednesday – will have to change each year and adjust accordingly.

The last time Ash Wednesday coincided with Valentine’s Day was in 2018. Citing researchers, the Catholic publication The Tablet said that before the current century, this coincidence last happened in 1923, 1934, and 1945. Ash Wednesday will fall on Valentine’s Day again in 2029, said The Tablet, “but that’s it for this century.”

Well, that only matters if one observes Ash Wednesday or Valentine’s Day.

If not, there are other things to celebrate on February 14: It’s also the birthday of Filipino stars Kris Aquino and Heart Evangelista, and Korean singer Jaehyun

And how can we forget: Happy 100th birthday, former senator Juan Ponce Enrile! –

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Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email