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Courtship and Marriage Rites in Philippine Provinces
feature originally appeared in NY. Pilipinas!

Perhaps of all customs and rituals, none is as important to a society as courtship and marriage. For it is in these events that a culture secures its continuity. Ties are created, where previously there were none. Families clans are united. And through the observance of traditional courtship, the individuals find a bond, not only to each other, but to generations past... ancestors who have lived and loved and forged relationships in like manner.

This page takes us through the different kinds of courtship practiced in the Philippines today, culminating in the grand wedding. The nuances of these customs vary from region to region -- yet all of them are marked by a heady mix of enigma and excitement, nervousness and negotiation, ceremony and celebration.

Olog - The Betrothal House
Ifugao, Mountain Province

There is a practice among the Ifugaos of northern Luzon of segregating "marriage-able" girls in a communal abode called "Olog" or "Agamang". (The marriageable boys are accommodated in another communal house called the "Ato".) The boys from the "Ato" regularly visit the "Olog" and performed the first stage of courtship known as the "Ca-i-sing." They unburden their feelings in native songs rich in meanings and insinuation. The girls respond likewise in native verse. All these are done under the watchful eye of the "Olog" head -- an elderly and married woman or a childless widow who keeps the parents of her wards informed of the developments of the courtship.

The practice, unique to our Northern Mountain Tribes is also known as "Ebgan" (Kalinga) or "Pangis" (Tingguian).

Tapat - Courtship Through Poetry and Song
Ilocos province

"Tapat" is practiced in small towns of Ilocos. A young man employs music and verse to declare his attraction to his lady love. The would-be suitor (sometimes with a friend in tow for moral support) goes to the girl's house and serenades her from her window. The lady then answers in a song--usually one that suggests that the man has a long courtship ahead of him. The man then counters with another song this time more passionate. The musical repartee goes on and on until an "understanding" is reached.
This practice is also known "harana" in the Tagalog regions. Among the Maranaos, the practice is known as "Tubad-tubad" wherein playful verses are exchanged between the two would-be lovers.

Bisperas - The Eve of the Wedding
Province of Batangas

This is an old custom peculiar to Batangas. The day before the wedding, an entourage consisting of the groom's parents, relatives, "abays", "ninangs" and "ninongs", and others concerned with the wedding walk in a procession from the groom's house to the bride's house. The purpose of this journey is to deliver all the ingredients to be used in preparation of the wedding feast. Everything from the cows and chickens, to the vegetables and rice, down to the condiments and the cutlery are carried in the procession. Upon arrival at the bride's house, refreshments are served. Then the elaborate preparations for the reception will be proceed thereafter.

Pamalaye - The Formal Proposal
Province of Cebu

Among the traditional Cebuanos, the asking of the girl's hand in marriage is no simple matter. The entire family of the man troops the girl's home, bringing with them musicians, gifts, food and wine. The discussions regarding the marriage are deputized to a "Mamamae" and a "Sagang" whose main qualifications are great skill in the art of debate and rebuttal. They represent the interest of both families and are empowered to make binding contracts regarding the dowry. The reaching of an agreement between the families is the high point of this custom called the "Pamalaye", and lavish festivities ensue.

Among the Ilocanos, this is known as "Tampa" or, the more formal arrangement, the "Danon." To the Tagalogs, it is "Pamanhikan." It is "Pasaguli" to the Palaweños and "Kapamalai" to the Maranaos.•

Pangagad - Bride Service
Province of Leyte

In Leyte, in lieu of paying a dowry, 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. This usually lasts about one year. This is more of a test period--as the rendering of the "pangagad" still does not guarantee irrevocable acceptance of the marriage proposal. Thus, it is appropriately known as "Paninilbihan" (being of service) or "Subok" (trial) to the Tagalogs. In Bicol, it is called the "Pamianan."

Pangalay - The Wedding
Tausug

Of all social events, perhaps none is more elaborate than a wedding. And of all Filipino weddings, perhaps none is as full of color, splendor and pageantry as a Tausog wedding. On the eve of the affair, a cacophony of native percussion instruments--"agong", "kulingtang"and "gabbang" announce the impending wedding. Everyone in the village, young and old, are invited. The ceremony proper is performed by an "Imam" or Muslim priest. After readings from the "Koran", the groom puts his "fingerprint" on the forehead of the bride. This gesture formally seals the marriage. Like all weddings--lavish feasting, singing, dancing and marry making ensue. And the entire tribe celebrates the joy and love and life.

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For more information about the different courtship, wedding & marriage practices in other regions of the Philippines, read Philippine Wedding Practices.

Related Link: IFUGAOS PRESERVE WEDDING CUSTOMS -Inquirer (August 3, 1999)

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