Courtship in the Philippines today

A. Definition of Courtship in the Philippines

“Courtship is the best part of a girl’s romance and love life”. This is the reason why in the earlier courting practices there have been a lot of rituals involved. Thus, in those times, before they get married they are able to enjoy the labors of a suitor for her love even if it takes a year or more of courtship.

In the span of courtship, they are able to enjoy themselves by being treated with outmost care and be given with all kinds of presents, from which it can be observed why some young women put off marriage to some late time to enjoy the privileges of being always free to be showered with affection (Molina, 1983).

The kind of rigorous courtship practice that is well supervised by guardians is different from the west and one of these significant differences is dating.

Dating is an art developed in western countries which is not original in itself but part of the courtship system in the Philippines. Unlike in the founded practice of chaperonage, the aim of dating from the western perspective is to “provide an occasion where a man and woman can be alone”. It can be a series of meetings where it would be best for them to develop romance, learn compatibility if they choose to get married, find similarities or attracting spiritual or life values, “mutuality in sexual satisfaction and the meeting of psychological needs” (Molina, 1983).

Also traditional courtship was participated in or controlled by the parents and other kinsmen. This system was rooted in the Filipino view that marriage was a union not only of two individuals but also primarily of their families. Therefore, it was important for a son or a daughter to marry well so that the resulting union would enhances the good name of the family. However, in this generation, single dating is already a normal occurrence but the Philippines had originally developed a number of courting practices before dating came as an influence from the west. Before this modern period, almost every region had a different courting practice handed down to their families to practice (Medina, 2005).

a. Luzon

Luzon provinces or tribes had developed courting practices that were similar to each other since there is closeness of cultures formed in between the provinces. Their courting practices are formed by their life conditions, traditions and resources.

…….The Ilocanos practice “tapat” a simple serenading of one’s love. Serenading is a means by which a suitor would be able to express his feelings for the woman he is courting through singing of romantic songs at moonlit nights with his friends in the accompaniment of a guitar. This is very similar to the balagtasan. It is the responsive song of lovers that the boy starts first then the girl answers in a song too until they arrive at an understanding. Added to this, rooster courtship is a practice wherein a rooster becomes the middleman into the prospective bride’s house where it would be left in the house of the girl to crow for the mornings of the family. On the other hand, the Pangasinense used love potions/ charms or known to them as taga-amo to make the loved one slave of one’s love as soon as it rubbed or drinks from it. Some also are serenading, reciting verses, making love letter, and giving gifts of symbolic objects to make courtship romantic. Palabas is the last way where the boy threatens to commit suicide then the girl saves the day by confessing that she loved the boy all along. The Apayaos practice mahal-alay (liberal courtship) wherein there would be sleeping together in the evening where the boy tests the girl’s feeling if she really nurtures a reciprocal sentiment toward him by stealing beside her in bed. The Bulaceños practice naninilong wherein there is prickling of the girl beneath girl’s house during the midnight by stick and they are talking in whisper. Houses in the provinces of Bulacan were made of pawid and bamboo thus it was easy for the suitor to sneak in the girl’s house. The Palawanons have their own style of courtship which is in the form of riddles they call pasaguli. They use love riddles to test the parents of the prospective bridegroom and if his answer satisfies the prospective bride’s parent they will undergo pabalic which is well related to the dowry system (Anima, 1975). The dowry is usually a marriage settlement consisting of land, house or other goods give by the groom’s family to the new wife (Costales et al, 2007).

b. Visayas

In the Visayan part Cebuanos were the most populous locals. In courtship, the Cebuanos also use reciting of love verses which they call balak. This serenading expresses the man’s love and admiration to the chosen one. Each lyric of the song comprises the appreciation to the nature and some sentimental words of admiration. Love letters which is one of the popular ways of courting wherein they express their feelings in a written way. They do not send it by mail but by someone whom they trust either it is a friend or a relative of a girl. They sent gifts not only to the girl but also to her relatives a sort of “pampalakas”. And like Pangasinense they also use love potions to make woman to fall in love easily ( Quisimbing, 1965). In contrast to the love charms, the people of Leyte strictly practice the courtship norm of paninilbihan. A Filipino man wishing to wed into a traditional family is expected to perform household service to the bride’s family as proof of his sincerity and fortitude. This can include anything from fetching water and chopping firewood, working in the farm as well as running household errands which usually last for about one year. But such test of earnestness does not guarantee affirmative acceptance of the marriage proposal.

c. Mindanao

People in Mindanao have cultivated very daunting traditional courting practices one particularly the Tausogs. The Tausogs have different kinds courting practices such as the palabas and magpasumbahi which means reckless courtship. Magpsumbahi also known as sarakahan tupul, is a dangerous form of courtship wherein life is at stake and the prosecutor could be the prospective daughter’s father if he refuses the offer. In this scenario, a man threatens to directly stab his heart in front of the lady’s father bringing with him a barong and then he will ask the hand of his daughter and if the father refuses the man permits to smite him down with the barong. But after the intimidating courtship practices, the Tausogs are known to celebrate the most elaborate, full of splendor and pageantry kind of wedding ceremony. Another is the Bagobo tribe wherein they use a spear or knife in courting which they send to the house of the prospective bride after it has been inspected. For them, the acceptance of gifts means acceptance of the suitor (Anima, 1975). Alternatively, the Muslims of the south have pre-arranged marriages but has elaborate rites before marriage takes place. These rites, even as pre-arranged, are means to get a prospective husband or wife and such engagement takes place in the betrothal. After the boy informs the parents of the girl of his noble intentions a betrothal takes place. It is a formal state of engagement to be married, the families of the girl and boy negotiate for the approval of the lady’s parents and then both families discuss if their son and daughter are fit to be husband and wife. After the agreement of the girl’s parents of the union and the boy then informs his parents the village headman who shall preside over the settlement of dowry which includes money, clothes, jewelry and other considerable wealth. After this engagement period, this will be followed by an actual wedding ceremony that begins and ends by a lavish celebration of feasting, dancing and music (Mojul, 1999).
To this day, the wedding practices of Ilocanos, Pangasinenses, Tagalogs, Aetas, Bataks, Muslims, and Igorots continue, handed down from their ancestors.

B. Modern Courting Practices in the Philippines

Courting from the 19th century Philippines, as we inherited well from the Spaniards, taught us the Maria Clara style of conservatism and repressiveness. In such ways, no emotion of submissiveness and affection to the wooing of a bachelor can be shown. But this repressive kind of behavior has been abandoned long ago as the reality of technological age make communication faster and closer. (Solis, 2007, para.5). Technology has become one of the major factors why the traditional type of courting drifted to the type of courtship the Philippines exhibit now.

a. Mobile Courting or Texting

It is apparent that today, old styles of courtship have been replaced by the modern lifestyle of the 20th century. The twentieth century has greatly influenced the country with the use of the cellphone since its arrival into the country for almost 10 years. The country’s status in cellphone use especially in texting as GMA quotes it from Joy Weaver “texting is a way of life”. It’s maximization for communicating with anyone anywhere has also reached to creating a custom of courtship in the Philippines through texting (Rules of thumb, 2007)

“People want to talk to other people – not a house, or an office, or a car. Given a choice, people will demand the freedom to communicate wherever they are, unfettered by the infamous copper wire. It is that freedom we sought to vividly demonstrate in 1973,” said Martin Cooper. He added, “As I walked down the street while talking on the phone, sophisticated New Yorkers gaped at the sight of someone actually moving around while making a phone call. Remember that in 1973, there weren’t cordless telephones, let alone cellular phones. I made numerous calls, including one where I crossed the street while talking to a New York radio reporter – probably one of the more dangerous things I have ever done in my life.”( http://www. /Rule of Thumbs Love in the Age of Texting-washingtonpost_com.html). The invention of cellular phones apparently helped in the transition of society, from 1973 to the present. From cellphones down to analog phones and to the smallest unit of phones we have today, change is in effect.
Upon approach of the cell phone technology in the Philippine, adaptation has become very rapid. The cell phone industry in the Philippines became prolific because people realized well the convenience of communicating cheaper and wider through text messaging. Thus in the advent of the of the third generation cellphones, we have been tagged as the texting capital of the world. This is for the most reason that texting is the cheapest way to communicate to as many persons possible and most of the Philippine population using cell phones can’t afford of unlimited talk time. But through text messaging, many are able to nurture intimacy by frequency of contact and express themselves more openly in a very convenient way thus helping in creating a new and more suitable doors for courtship to take place (“Mobile dating”, 2007).

• Advantages

The change in society became rapid as humans maximize the use of technology. This is very obvious in the lifestyle portrayed by westerners who have well developed information technology systems and industries. Thus, the westerners, especially women, became more career focused (Reuters, 2005).

a. More convenient way to communicate

We are offered the chance to get a partner that is compatible to our preferences in the most convenient way, empower women to initiate relationship and furthermore supplement in an adapted way of communication in courtship that create real romantic relationships (Solis, 2007).

This texting custom of courtship in the modern age opened more doors to the possibility of younger age groups to participate without hindrance from parents and more experience for romance. This texting prelude is usually followed by a date, wherein the text mates would agree to meet at a certain time and place. Dating is one of the crucial stages in courtship wherein social interaction between partners will be enhanced and compatibility will be fostered. In the western orientation, this kind of courtship through text messaging is called mobile dating, only it is part of the an e-business in the United States just like online dating (“Mobile Dating”, n.d, para1,3). Similar to the Philippine setup, through the capabilities of a mobile phone,

It is part of the Filipino culture to interact socially. Yet, telephone industry was monopolized by one major company, to some extent, by the powerful PLDT, thus prices and availability of telephones has always been limited to the very few. Though, after some deregulation of the telephone companies, some new companies have entered the market making telephone access to quite a few more. Still, for the average tao, an in home phone, land line, is not an option, it requires credit, steady job, and other things, a lot of especially younger Filipinos don’t have.
( http://www.livinginthephilippines.com/style14.html).

These information leads to the affirmation that texting is indeed more suitable to the Filipino society and social condition now a days.

b. Practical Reasons

These advancements due to technology make our life easy at the same time fast-phasing and due to these reasons, it seems like everyone should incline to the rush so that people should not left be behind.

Technology seems to be a great factor now a days, Mrs. G. Gosgolan indicated that “youth of today want things to be instant, the value of patience is now lost. They want to know right away the result even if they are not sure on what they are heading for and also for practical reasons. (Personal interview, February 2, 2009).

• DISADVANTAGES

Increase the numbers of Divorce cases

Traditions and customs are upgraded to a different level of approach. In the west, one of the effects of technology lifestyle is the increased number of divorce cases because commitment to an individual is being left out (Epstein, 2007). Because of the advancement offered by the technology there are cases in which due to the less knowledge one has to his partner, compatibility is now at stake and with this thing involve the relationship of the couple would be affected that often times will lead to divorce. Such dispute of custody is evidently happening in the Filipino society because of the instant and easier ways to acquire things and even relationships then end things instantly. Young adults today, who manage an instant lifestyle have a hard time to cultivate the values of hard work, sincerity and fortitude in reaching goals and most importantly, building relationships (Personal Communication, February 2, 2009)

B. Online Courting

Aside from mobile courting, online dating is a new dating approach that allows exclusive use of an internet service to get a potential mate (Reuters, 2005). Because of the very influential west to the Philippine culture, it didn’t take time for the Filipinas to adapt in this kind of match making. “Up to 100,000 Pinays are listed in 200 Internet dating sites” as of 2005. USA, which is the prime market of bachelors of online matchmaking found ways to get Filipinas as potential mates because most them are divorced to less traditional and career-focused western women who find them less good looking and imperfect (Reuters, 2005, p.A1). In the Philippines, online dating is a close of concept of “women’s liberation which emphasizes freedom from the traditional restrictions in sexual and social behavior which has recently manifests itself in dating patterns” (Medina, 2001, p.80). Today, patterns of initiative are no longer clear cut which is well exploited by Filipinas in online dating. It is clear that their aim in online dating is not only to get a foreign date but to the goal of courtship, which is to get married to a rich foreigner. This proves that “it is not uncommon nowadays for a woman to encourage the man or even initiate courtship” (Medina, 2001, p 80).

Love cultivated by courtship

Love cultivated by courtship

44 Comments

  1. lala said,

    May 24, 2009 at 6:19 am

    how richour culture is. so sad the old courtship in our country is seldomly practice. how we can bring back the old practice. :D

    • sarahgats said,

      June 11, 2009 at 1:03 am

      sorry that it took me too long to reply. First, I thank you for taking your time in reading the article. Its a product of a college research. To bring back the old practice was the goal of the reasearch actually. As to how, ….is hard to answer. haha! Probably we Filipinos should be educated differently again by our parents, the media and school institutions. Parents as time goes by become very unstrict to their children as to how they participate in cultural values. Advancing has brought more problems actually in health than humans could handle. I’m getting too far ain’t I. Hahaha!.

  2. hello there! said,

    November 30, 2009 at 4:00 am

    I find this entry interesting. I’m a college student and I’m conducting a reseach about the Effectiveness of Courtship through the Internet and Text Messaging in the Philippine setting. If you don’t mind, could you please share with me the sources of these information you have here? (eg. reliable websites, books, news paper etc.,)

    I’m looking forward to your reply. Thank you and have a nice day!

    • December 9, 2009 at 7:52 am

      same here.. my study is about media’s role on the evolution of Philippine courtship. Ur article’s pretty good and well researched.. =)

  3. rachel said,

    January 24, 2010 at 2:23 pm

    hi….i’m making a research paper for my psychology class and i would like to ask for your permission to use your paper as one of the sources.also, if it’s ok, could you send me you real name so i can put you in the citation? your response is highly appreciated. :D

  4. rachel said,

    January 24, 2010 at 2:23 pm

    btw, my email ad is yoj_lehcar@yahoo.com

    thanks! :D

  5. doods said,

    February 7, 2010 at 9:58 am

    i find your article very interesting. it gives a bird’s eye view of the status of courtship in the philippines.

    i have this idea of conducting research as to how prevalent are these courtship practices in philippines. i assume you know this, but right now there are few quantitative studies conducted in the philippines regarding courtship style. perhaps i would be more interested on what percentage of the population is practicing either the traditional or modern courtship style.

    i hope you could help me in this. please send me some of the reliable references you have. rest assured, i will acknowledge you once my research will push through. thank you and God bless.

  6. eugene said,

    April 16, 2010 at 1:31 pm

    i just meet her when i get a job. were on the same building.
    and i felt something special about her since the firs time i saw her lovely face.
    i court her after that i tel her that i love her so much, but instead of hoping that she fell the same way, she just simply laugh at me and say its to complicated. i hope you would help me how to win her heart.

    waiting for you reply. huge:

  7. July 18, 2010 at 9:20 am

    […] ^ Courtship in the Philippines Today, SarahGats’s Blog, sarahgats.wordpress.com, March 29, […]

  8. July 21, 2010 at 2:40 am

    Thank for those articles it helps me a lot in making my research work.

  9. hood said,

    August 22, 2010 at 3:45 am

    hi :)..i have a question… where did you get your references? just askin because im doing my thesis about courtship in the filipino culture and im looking for references. i hope you could help me. :)

  10. September 27, 2010 at 9:54 am

    […] Spanish Influence, muslim-marriage-guide.com 10.  ^ Barong Tagalog, philippines.hvu.nl 11.  ^ Courtship in the Philippines Today, SarahGats’s Blog, sarahgats.wordpress.com, March 29, 2009 12.  ^ Hunt, Dee Dicen and Cora Sta. […]

  11. Diana Jane Luib said,

    November 28, 2010 at 12:29 pm

    Hi, I am a college student BS Occupational Therapy in UP Manila. I am interested with your cited books. If you don’t mind can you send me or post the books and resources you cited here? Thank you.

  12. December 2, 2010 at 8:24 am

    of course internet dating is the trend these days, you can meet lots of people on the internet “’

  13. eridcozy said,

    January 3, 2011 at 9:00 am

    All About Dating

  14. jayrel10 said,

    April 5, 2011 at 8:17 am

    a very interesting blog indeed…. :)

    • sarahgats said,

      April 12, 2011 at 3:56 pm

      i was not able to maintain this blog for long.. haha! this has been a product of a hard worked research..

  15. sarahgats said,

    April 12, 2011 at 3:58 pm

    OMG.. It took me too long to approve and reply on all the comments.. haha! I hope I would be able to post another research. :)

  16. sundari said,

    July 27, 2011 at 9:14 am

    I am having a hard time writing an article about courting girls or filipinas in a traditional and modern way. thanks for this article and also how sad that the traditional way is not practice by our citizens. :p

    • sarahgats said,

      October 2, 2011 at 8:00 pm

      Goodluck with your article! :)

  17. mizpah said,

    September 5, 2011 at 1:26 pm

    great job! :) i’m also in the process of writing about virtual relationship, most of my respondents are 15-18years old, and all of them had relationships for almost 5? err. i prefer the traditional way.

    • sarahgats said,

      October 2, 2011 at 7:59 pm

      good luck with your research.. I really posted this research on a blog site so that it will be available to future researchers.! :)

  18. cantdecodehim said,

    October 2, 2011 at 2:26 pm

    Hi… Could i ask a question? I really expect an answer, especially from Filipinos. I have a Filipino man as a friend. We met a year ago in my church. He is 14 years older than me. I got a hint — and i know that he likes me, but sometimes he ignores me :( My question is, is it possible that he just tried to seem normal and not showing any attraction to me, or he felt that i was just too young for him, or he felt that he was too old for me, or the fact that i am an Indonesian girl? Please tell me what you think because i can’t keep my mind off him, i think i love him. He’s the most honest and the most perfect man in my eyes…..

    • sarahgats said,

      October 2, 2011 at 7:57 pm

      I think Filipino men would like to have an international love. They will take pride in dating foreigner. What Filipino men usually do to a girl or a woman they like is ask them if they already ate.. a couple of times.. if you tell them you haven’t, they will ask you for lunch or dinner. And I believe Filipino men prefer younger women. Don’t give up on him if you really like him.

      • cantdecodehim said,

        October 16, 2011 at 3:05 pm

        Thank you so much for the answer, sarahgats :)) I tried to give him more attention, asked him about his family, learned few common words in Tagalog and his reaction was all positive to me! He’s not trying to push me away or anything! I’m so happy about it, he even said that I’m beautiful…again. Hehe, he makes me feel crazy! I promise i won’t give up on him because i just realize that i wasn’t like him – i fall in love with him… I’m sure about this because i never feel this way to anyone before. Btw, he never text or call me unless if it is about something important in our church. Is it normal? Or maybe some Filipino men don’t really text the girl they attracted to? Or maybe he’s just too shy or what? Anyway, sorry for the late reply, because i really really forgot to check my email! And sorry for the long writing here, i hope i don’t make you bored. sorry, can’t help it, I’m just a falling-in-love girl!!

  19. meeee said,

    October 11, 2011 at 12:16 pm

    hi. I’m doing a research paper about courtship. I found your article very informative. May I use your paper as a source? If you would agree, can you please send your full name to my email ninafritzie.bruce@yahoo.com. thanks a lot!

  20. October 14, 2011 at 4:55 am

    hi,. we’re doing a term paper about courtship before and today.. can you allow us to make it as a pattern?.. we’re from rizal technological university..thanks in advance. :) Godbless.

  21. Vina Cumba said,

    October 20, 2011 at 3:49 am

    hi there! i am currently conducting a research about the comparative analysis on the evolution of courtship from the modern to the traditional practices and its effect on modern-day teenagers lives.
    I like your entry. can you please share with me the sources of these information you have here? (eg. citations, reliable websites, books, news paper etc.,)

    I’m looking forward to your reply. Thank you so much ahead! :)

  22. December 18, 2011 at 2:53 am

    It is a marvelous blog site and a wonderful overview listed here.

  23. December 30, 2011 at 11:19 pm

    filipina women are sincere and honest.

  24. January 26, 2012 at 3:04 pm

    Hi. I find your blog really useful for my thesis. Do you mind sending me your sources? Please..

  25. tricker said,

    February 20, 2012 at 4:38 am

    courtship must take in serious objective not like just you like the girl for nonsense reasons,

  26. Ms. Heartbreaker said,

    March 1, 2012 at 11:28 am

    ,,,this article really helps me in my research paper….,well,:) i have now i can make a strong defense in my paper……..thanks a lot!

  27. Shashi Lee said,

    March 1, 2012 at 11:40 am

    hi! I request in your next article, to please put what are the difference between traditional and modern Filipino courtship. because I know I can get more info. from you. your such an excellent researcher.

  28. ber said,

    March 26, 2012 at 4:12 am

    Hi there! Can i ask something about the statement you said about attempting to commit suicide? Thank you. I just want to know where you got that notion since you didn’t include any references here in your article. I would be very glad if you respond to this message positively. Thank you~

    • sarahgats said,

      September 10, 2012 at 11:58 am

      it took a long time before the reply.. its about certain tribes in the Philippines long ago that its part of their culture to threaten the person whom they court , that they would commit suicide. I think currently it still does happen, in Antipolo, there is a similar incident.

  29. dj said,

    March 27, 2012 at 7:17 pm

    mind if i take a part of it ? it just a research paper.. dont worry i will give credits for you.. your a big help for my research paper tnx

  30. April 21, 2012 at 12:07 pm

    […] ng isang lalaki at isang babae ay hindi lamang pagsasama nila, kundi pagsasama rin ng mga pamilya (Sarahgats’s Blog, 2009). Kumbaga, kung ikaw ay lalaki, hindi lang ang ini-irog mo ang pinapakasalan mo, kundi maging […]

  31. Lolipop said,

    July 29, 2012 at 8:20 am

    wow its awesome for me to read this article, at last I have solve my problem as my project

  32. Noranics said,

    August 18, 2012 at 1:06 pm

    Wow! What a great job! :)) hands down to you. I really had a great ime reading your blog. :))

  33. roxy said,

    August 30, 2012 at 2:29 pm

    hi! ur blog really helps me in my thesis. would you also mind sending me your references? please. i will give credits for you too. looking forward to your reply. thanks so much

  34. September 10, 2012 at 8:38 am

    thank’s I got a lot of lessons about Local Customs of Courtship and Marriage..now I have my Assignment

    • sarahgats said,

      September 10, 2012 at 11:55 am

      don’t forget to quote the correct source. ;) Goodluck to your assignments. ;)

  35. sarahgats said,

    September 10, 2012 at 11:58 am

    For further questions.. follow me on twitter Saigatdula :)


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