No labor of love to celebrate Valentine's Day
By Stevie Emilia
JAKARTA (JP): Lovers, get ready to spoil the one who sends your heart racing with thoughts of the birds and the bees. Valentine's Day on Monday is the special day when love is cherished and treasured by those in love.
Couples get the message to express their love on Valentine's Day loud and clear, mostly through the advertisements and promotions. Urbanites, from teens to adults, know the day, although many have sketchy knowledge about its history and meaning.
Exchanging cards with messages of devotion, sending flowers, chocolate, candy, special gifts, or indulging in a romantic candlelight dinner are the most popular expressions of love on Valentine's Day.
But many devout Muslims in this country are unsure if they can be part of the festivities as Valentine's Day was originally a Christian celebration, hence the name St. Valentine's Day.
The Indonesian Ulemas Council (MUI), Indonesia's most authoritative Islamic institution, has not issued a specific edict (fatwa) on whether Muslims may take part in Valentine's Day celebrations, although it issued one in 1981 banning Muslims from participating in Christmas-related events.
"We could do nothing about it (Valentine's Day), but we should underline that Valentine's Day is a religious celebration of another faith. So, despite the absence of a fatwa on the matter, Muslims are advised not to take part in the celebrations," one of the MUI chairmen, Amidan, told The Jakarta Post.
Aside from the gray area on religion, Valentine's Day fever has hit urban dwellers, especially the affluent.
Upscale hotels, restaurants, cafes and entertainment venues in Jakarta are aggressively offering a wide variety of programs to rake in the love-besotted's rupiah.
Le Meridien, for example, is offering a spa treatment to those who want to give something a little different but special to their loved ones.
It is divided into three different packages with enticing names: Tender Loving Care -- a three-hour treatment which blends an affusion shower with aromatic salt glow and spa pedicure for the price of Rp 240,000; Love Passion, a deep-cleansing facial and scalp massage with hand and foot massages for two and a half hours (Rp 270,000); and Care and Caress treatments, consisting of a body wrap and relaxing scalp massage with spa manicure for two and a half hours (Rp 225,000).
Le Meridien's Spa manager Nuning Ariyani said many couples tried the special packages, available throughout February, to get themselves ready for a Valentine's Day dinner.
"We try to offer something different. With these treatments we will really pamper them, showing that we care," she told the Post.
For couples wanting to celebrate Valentine's Day with the stars, Hard Rock Cafe in Thamrin, Central Jakarta, or Hotel Mulia Senayan in South Jakarta may fit the bill.
Hard Rock Cafe will put on its Indonesian Divas Love Songs, featuring Ruth Sahanaya, Vina Panduwinata and AB Three, on Monday evening.
"These divas will not only create a romantic Valentine's, but also rejuvenate 'old love' through eternal hit love songs," gushed the cafe's public relations executive Affi Assegaf.
At Hotel Mulia, pop singer Krisdayanti will feature selected love songs at Cascade Lounge on Monday evening, while at its CJ's Bar, World Premiere Band from Boston and Bolts and Nuts: Match Your Date game will entertain the guests in love.
The hotel is also preparing Italian and Californian-style Japanese cuisine for those seeking to prove that the way to someone's heart really is through their stomach.
Hotel Mulia's public relations officer Elvera Nuriawati said the hotel scheduled the celebrations simply to spread the message of love.
"We know that there's still restrictions for Muslims to take part in Valentine's Day celebration ... but we focus more on its meaning, the day of love. With these programs, we appeal to people to show their loved ones that they care," she said.
Some people may want something a bit more memorable. If you are one of them, you can go to Plaza Indonesia to have your photo taken for free at Lamoda's Valentine booth and "win romantic prizes", as the management has promised. The offer is valid until 3 p.m. on Saturday.
"Not many couples have had their photos taken yet," said Plaza Indonesia's event organizer, Nani.
Apart from the photo session, the plaza is also holding a Valentine & Flower Festival until Feb. 14 and fashion shows at Lamoda on Feb. 12 and Feb. 19 at 3 p.m. Couples who want to know their future can have their fortunes told from Feb. 12 to Feb. 14.
If all the offers do not sound right for your taste, a romantic break on an island in Pulau Seribu (Thousand Islands) with your loved one might be hard to refuse.
"This Valentine's Day is quite a busy day," said PT Pantara Wisata Jaya's marketing officer, Sagino.
At Rp 1.75 million per couple per night, the offer does not only include accommodation, transportation, breakfast and lunch, but also a romantic candlelight dinner, Starlight mini-cruise and snorkeling.
If you do not have a boyfriend or girlfriend or a family, it's all right because you still can have fun.
Single party lovers can go to Jalan-Jalan cafe in Menara Imperium Penthouse in Kuningan, South Jakarta, to take part in its Broken Hearts Party on Saturday night. A large pin with "I was with a Broken Heart Party at Jalan-Jalan" will be waiting for them.
For the seriously brokenhearted, carrying love letters or pictures of their former lovers might bring them luck.
The cafe's marketing and communications manager, Brigitta Lisa, said those visitors who could present love letters or pictures of their former lovers and let them be torn apart by a shredding machine in front of the audience, would not only get a free extra drink, but also a chance to win a grand prize. They will also be able to share their tales of lost love in the Letting Out Contest.
On Sunday evening, a comedy and cabaret show inspired by Runaway Bride, which starred Julia Roberts and Richard Gere, will be performed by cross-dressing comedian Tata Dado.
Saying Jalan-Jalan was on the "cutting edge" of Jakarta's nightlife, Brigitta said the restaurant always tried to hold unique events that raised people's curiosity.
"Most venues hold Valentine's Day celebrations, but we organize something against it, against Valentine's Day."