Filipino Courtship: Then and Now

The Freeman - - LIFESTYLE -

Courtship among Filipinos tra­di­tion­ally cen­ters on re­spect for the woman and her fam­ily by strictly ad­her­ing to set so­cial rules for pur­su­ing a lady. This prac­tice, which dates back to the Span­ish times, pro­hibits men from be­ing too ag­gres­sive even when they want the lady very much. The Filipino way of courtship is prob­a­bly among the most ro­man­tic in the world.

A man can­not just ap­proach and talk to a lady in the street and ask her num­ber or ad­dress. If a young man sees a lady he likes, he should seek out the help of a go-be­tween, usu­ally a com­mon friend of both fam­i­lies of the man and the woman, to ask the per­mis­sion from the girl’s fa­ther to visit them in their house. It is a gen­tle­manly thing to do, so the par­ents will most likely ap­prove un­less of course the lady is still of a very young age.

When the ap­proval is ob­tained, the suitor can then come to the girl’s house with the go­b­e­tween who will ini­ti­ate the in­tro­duc­tions to the fam­ily. In turn, the par­ents will prop­erly in­tro­duce their daugh­ter to the man. At this stage, the suitor is ex­pected to bring "pasalubong" or gifts to the fam­ily and a spe­cial present for the girl he likes. This he will have to do ev­ery time he vis­its the girl's house.

In court­ing the Filip­ina lady, the man has to court her whole fam­ily as well. Dur­ing the first visit, the man and the woman will not be left alone; the girl’s fam­ily will be around as two get to know each other. It will be an in­for­mal chat­ting and in­tro­duc­tion be­tween the suitor and the fam­ily, and mak­ing clear of the suitor's in­ten­tion to pur­sue the host fam­ily's girl.

Af­ter the ini­tial visit, the suitor is then ex­pected to woo the girl by show­ing up in her house more of­ten and estab­lish rap­port with her fam­ily. Dur­ing this stage, he does the "paninil­bi­han" or servi­tude to the girl’s fam­ily. He does var­i­ous house­hold chores at the girl’s home in or­der to show to her and her fam­ily his sin­cere in­ten­tions and love for her. The chores he does would in­clude chop­ping fire­wood, fetch­ing wa­ter from the well, clean­ing the yard etc. It is a way of say­ing, "I will do any­thing to prove my love for you."

At night, the man will do the "ha­rana," singing love songs from the house yard with a gui­tar and some of his friends serv­ing as back-ups. They will sing and wait un­til the lady fi­nally opens the win­dow and in­vites them into the house. They will then be served with light snacks and the man and the woman then talk in the pres­ence of the girl’s par­ents and the man's friends. It is deemed in­ap­pro­pri­ate to leave an un­mar­ried cou­ple to talk un­su­per­vised.

The tra­di­tional way of court­ing a Filip­ina in the tra­di­tional sense is a long and ar­du­ous process. It is ex­pected of the woman to play hard-to-get. No mat­ter how much she likes the man, she has to show ut­most re­straint and dis­in­ter­est. Girls are made to be­lieve that men will value them more if it takes ut­most ef­fort to win their hearts.

So, af­ter a long pe­riod of “paninil­bi­han” and “ha­rana,” the girl may fi­nally ac­cept her suitor's love. The cou­ple may now start dat­ing in pub­lic but al­ways in the com­pany of a chap­eron. The man will still con­tinue to come to the girl’s house and help out with the house chores.

As soon as the man feels he is ready to get mar­ried, he and his par­ent's will have to come to the girl's house, for his par­ents to for­mally ask the girl’s hand in mar­riage with their son. This stage is called "pa­ma­man­hikan." On this oc­ca­sion, the man’s fam­ily will bring with them spe­cial food and presents to give to the girl’s par­ents.

It is com­mon prac­tice for the two fam­i­lies to agree on a dowry, money or some­thing valu­able to be given to the girl’s fam­ily. As soon as an agree­ment is reached, the date of the wed­ding is set, a ring is pre­sented to the girl and the cou­ple is said to be be­trothed. Then, a small feast is held with both fam­i­lies par­tak­ing of the food brought by the boy's fam­ily.

While much of the tra­di­tional Filipino courtship re­mains to this day, there have since been mod­i­fi­ca­tions and "evo­lu­tions" that have given way of a more mod­ern ver­sion. Mod­ern Filipino courtship is char­ac­ter­ized by the lib­eral at­ti­tude of to­day’s Filipino youth. These days, sin­gle Filipino men and women may al­ready min­gle in pub­lic. And courtship has be­come more le­nient among young­sters. Ca­sual or chance meet­ings by a man and a woman can al­ready spark a se­ri­ous pur­suit of the woman’s heart.

Of course, many par­ents still want their daugh­ters to be courted in their house. But young peo­ple now do it any place where there’s a chance. Some girls them­selves pre­fer to meet up some­where else in­stead, away from the watch­ful eyes of their par­ents.

To­day, Filipino courtship no longer has a pat­tern of pro­ceed­ing. It could start from a group date where friends would pair them­selves up and tease one another. Or, friends would play match­mak­ers and set a cou­ple up and leave them on their own to talk by them­selves and then start go­ing out on a date.

The loos­en­ing of the Filipino courtship rules is due in good part to the in­flu­ence of western tele­vi­sion. Many ro­man­tic re­la­tion­ships no longer end up in mar­riage. The ca­su­al­ness of the process seems to ex­tend the time it takes for the cou­ple to fully trust each other for a life­time com­mit­ment.

For their part, the mod­ern Filip­inas have come to have a strong prac­ti­cal mind of their own and won’t nec­es­sar­ily be tied to tra­di­tion. Many of them have the bravado to re­ject a suitor who does not live up to their stan­dards. How­ever, there are still girls in the ru­ral Philip­pines that re­mains to ad­here to the tra­di­tional way of Filipino courtship.

By and large, the days of “paninil­bi­han” and “ha­rana” are gone. These days, it is good enough that a man shows up in a lady's house and bonds with the woman's fam­ily. He is no longer ex­pected to do servi­tude for his love.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Philippines

© PressReader. All rights reserved.