Defining certain things could complicate things, depending on the point of view or belief – things could mean differently. Say, for instance, courtship. In some religious groups or practices, courtship is said to be where a man and woman seek to determine if it God’s will for them to marry each other. The parents, some mentors or other couples in their group helps them through guidance – they help them have a deep, meaningful friendship that would eventually lead to marriage.
That is one way of seeing courtship, while for Gen X or millennials, courtship is a stage which they undergo before a couple officially dates each other. The man would give gifts to the woman he likes, get on dates with her, and even visit the woman in her house from time to time – all for being officially dating.
Sometimes this is one-sided because courtship meant a man is choosing a woman he likes but the feeling does not necessarily have to be mutual for courtship to start. Some courtships end in being let down because the woman does not like the man who’s courting her.
Courtship, when you think about it, is an essential part of building successful relationships. Maintaining courtships for longer periods is not as evident nowadays, but important nonetheless. Commitment and romance are two different things but are needed for relationships to survive. Friendship, along with courtship, serves as stepping stones and foundation for these relationships.
Modern courtship is way different than the Filipino courtship traditions we used to have. For the most part, we are given an idea as to what it looked like from our grandparents or our parents who tell us that “that’s not how your Lolo used to court me,” or “your Papa used to do this for me while he was courting me.” And they give examples as to how they did things before.
As a result, people are astounded as to how different these courtship styles are. But, when you think about it, they have similar goals but different approaches. Like how people solve math problems, they have different solutions to the same problem, but when studied well, they surely get the same answers.
What is Filipino Courtship?
Filipino courtship is modern courtship but old school style. Unlike how we see courtship today, Filipino courtship would usually require hard work, perseverance, and tons of commitment. It requires time, energy, and effort that does not compare to simply ordering flowers and having it delivered to the lady’s house or work. Courtship in the most traditional Filipino manner is showing the woman you adore (and her family), how much you are willing to give – usually, physically, for you to be able to get her sweetest ‘yes’.
Although it might not be recorded, there are different traditional practices of courtship in the Philippines. Since there are different tribes and groups of people in the country with different practices, you are assured of a unique approach to courtship from say, Aetas to those in the city. All of these unique and traditional practices are usually seen if you truly immerse yourself in a community in the Philippines.
Here are a few things of what a usual Filipino courtship tradition comprises, in no particular order.
Harana is the most popular Filipino traditional courtship practices. Harana or serenade is where a man would sing love songs outside the woman’s house where he awaits that she opens her window to see and listen to him sing. Sometimes, a man comes alone or tags a friend or two to accompany him in singing. After which, he (or they) are welcomed to the house.
This is my favorite Filipino courtship tradition because it is probably the sweetest. Of course, you can wish that the man singing to you have a nice voice, to begin with, but for the most part, if the man (in today’s culture) would do this, and they can’t sing, he hires or asks someone to sing for him. Not the original thing to do if you consider how it was done before, but it’s sweet nonetheless.
In Filipino movies, if the woman does not like the man who serenades her, she would not usually open up the window, and is not welcomed inside the house. How about that?
Paninilbihan a.k.a. slavery. Nah, just kidding. Paninilbihan is servitude. As the courtship progresses, the man will do some paninilbihan in the woman’s house. This is to show her and her parents that he has good intentions with her that he is allowing himself to do some of the housework for them. Unconventional and not so applicable today, but still works!
Usual acts of paninilbihan include fetching water from the well (since the water did not come from taps just yet), chopping wood, and pounding rice. Today, men who do this would usually do some cleaning or cooking inside the house. Washing of the car or watering the plants count too.
During courtship, men are not allowed to approach the women they like directly on the street. Usually, they would ask help from a common friend who serves as a tulay or bridge to talk to the woman or to ask permission if he’s planning to visit her in her house.
Sometimes, this tulay is also the one who gives the gifts directly to the woman instead of the man.
Gifts are not requisites in courtship, but it has been a practice that men bring thoughtful gifts like flowers or love letters when visiting a woman’s house. This has been an ongoing thing, but we are not sure if this counts as buying the woman’s affection. Haha!
Today, chocolates or cakes, and stuffed toys are brought as other options or a part of the thoughtful gifts women get from their suitors.
5. Chaperoned Dates
As mentioned above, men are not typically allowed to approach women directly during courtship, especially in the public. How much more during dates, right?
During courtship, when the woman accepts the man’s love, they could go on dates, but not without a chaperone. Even if the couple is already in a relationship, they are not left alone together, for the most part, this is for the security of the parents. They are usually the ones who suggest or impose who the chaperone would be. This is also helpful, especially when they need to be home at a particular hour, the chaperone makes sure that they follow that.
Pamamanhikan is the last part of the traditional Filipino courtship. When the man and woman are ready to get married, the man brings his parents (or relatives) to the woman’s house to formally ask for her hand in marriage. The man’s family usually brings food with them. And if both parties agree to the engagement, the parents will then start discussing wedding plans.
Today, this is still very much alive and practiced. There may be a bit of revision as to how this is done, but today, in the Philippines scene, this is still practiced and encouraged.
The traditional Filipino courtship sure is not easy, but if a man truly loves a woman (during those times), his love will endure the long process of courtship. As they say, true love is worth all that.