Amid heart-breaking prices, Guamanians are celebrating hearts in more practical ways than one
By Gina T. Reilly
Nate Pangelinan of Tamuning has been looking forward to Feb. 14, the day he planned to propose to his girlfriend of four years. He was imagining a quiet romantic place, a table for two with a bottle of wine. Right after Christmas, he started scouting for a restaurant, and started saving up for a ring, which would come with flowers and chocolates.
However, Pangelinan lost his job two weeks ago. He decided to just postpone his dream date on hearts day. Right now, a bouquet of roses is beyond his means.
Pangelinan’s situation is not unique nowadays. Even the fully employed agonize over the unabated inflation that shot up the prices of even basic commodities such as eggs, which sell for $9.99 a tray.
A lot of couples are under pressure but not certain how to celebrate the holiday that is notorious for extravagance. For businesses, Valentine’s Day— like every other highly commercialized holiday— offers an opportunity to reap a fortune.
Valentine’s Day is always associated with grand gestures –chocolates, romantic dinners, bottles of bubbly. What’s not to love about this day of hearts? Ah, the price tag of everything.
A dinner for two at a hotel restaurant can cost up to $400, depending on the dishes and the brand of wine you pick. While regular restaurants may be more affordable, the prices of their holiday menu specials are not a holiday to one’s wallet.
“Do I have to observe that day?” Dededo resident John Camacho asked. He looked at me blankly when I asked him how he will celebrate Valentine’s Day this year.
“I have problems affording our bills ‘til our next paycheck. My wife and I understand that we can just ignore Valentine’s Day because there are needs that we have to prioritize over flowers that wither the next day or expensive chocolates that can cost as much as my kid’s milk,” Camacho said.
“Roses are red and so is my pocket,” Barrigada resident Tony Lizama quipped. While he wants to give his wife a fancy gift, Lizama said he may have to just try it next year. “My wife would be happy if we can just go watch a movie, buy some popcorn and enjoy our time together,” he said.
Besides Mother’s Day, Valentine’s Day is another red-letter day holiday when flowers are in huge demand and prices are incredibly steep.
At PayLess a bundle of three roses costs $57 and a dozen-rose bouquet cost $174. At Toves Flower Shop, a dozen-rose arrangement cost $225. Prices get higher during the Valentine's week.
“The demand is still high but there’s little supply, making the prices of flowers go even higher by as much as 300 percent compared to last year,” said Joy Funtanilla, owner of Flowers and Favors, a wholesale company that supplies imported flowers to Guam retailers and flower shops.
Funtanilla said flower suppliers are struggling to keep up with the high freight cost. She also attributed the flower shortage to the pandemic.
“Producing flowers takes years, and during the pandemic, farmers from Columbia and China had difficulty with few workers or no workers at all,” Funtanilla said. “We are just starting to feel the impact of the pandemic in this industry.”
The iconic “Will You be My Valentine?” greeting card has been part of the love celebration ever since 1847 when the first card was manufactured.
With prices of Valentine cards ranging from $7 to $12 apiece these days, Jaeden Hose of Tamuning chooses to be creative. By making his own personalized greeting cards, Hose said he could strike this item off his limited budget.
Last year, Hose and his girlfriend Kailee celebrated Valentine’s Day at a mid-priced restaurant in Hagatna. This year, they might just stay at her house and share a home-cooked dinner.
He is still looking forward to buying her favorite chocolates. While he raises his budget for flowers a little bit this year, Hose is not certain how many roses he can get for $50. Instead of buying her another fuzzy stuffed toy, Hose said he will give her a painting he will make himself.
Amid the economic downturn, couples are still expected to celebrate the love-filled day this year. As early as Jan. 20, hotel restaurants on Guam are 90 percent booked for Valentine’s Day dinner specials.
In 2022, the National Retail Federation estimated that the average American spent $175.41 per person on Valentine’s Day gifts, up from $164.76 in 2021.
But some Guamanians opt to be practical. Pangelinan and Camacho said they might skip Valentine’s Day this year and will just look forward to next year. “There’s always Feb. 14 every year, and there’s no law that requires us to spend extra to celebrate it,” Camacho added.