(Feature below first heard on air in a two-part special feature on Kultura Filipina broadcast over 702 DZAS. Transcripts reposted with permission. Copyright© 2000 Far East Broadcasting Company Philippines & 702 DZAS All rights reserved.)
According to Filipino writer Tetchie Herrera, wedding practices in the Philippines differ from region to region or from one ethnic group to another within the same region.
The Ilocanos, Pangasinenses & Tagalogs
The Filipinos in Luzon such as Ilocanos, Pangasinenses, and Tagalogs share an interesting wedding practice. This is the pinning of peso bills on the bride’s gown and the groom’s suit while the couple dances. A contest is held between the bride’s family and the groom’s family as to who pins the most money on whose clothes, the bride’s or the groom’s.
After the dance, or series of dances, they unpin the money and figure out who won, and loud applause goes to the winner. The money is then combined and given to the couple to spend as they wish.
Many Western practices, however, have been adopted in Filipino weddings. These include the couple cutting the wedding cake and giving each other a bite, letting loose a pair of doves and tossing the wedding bouquet to unmarried women as a way of predicting who the next bride will be. In some instances, the ceremony of the groom removing the bride’s garter from her thigh and tossing this to the bachelors is done to see who the next groom will be.
The Aetas of Zambales
The Aetas of Zambales, also in Luzon, have a totally different set of wedding practices. In the wedding ceremony, the couple eats from the same plate and they take turns feeding each other.
Although monogamy is the rule in the Aetas’ culture, a man is allowed to have more than one wife if he can accumulate enough “bandi” or bride price. This bride price may include arrows, bows, bolos or large knives, cloth, and money. The wedding day can only be fixed when the bride’s family is paid the bride price.
The Aetas practice divorce. The bride price is returned to the man if the bride is at fault. However, it is forfeited if the man is responsible for the marital break-up.
The Igorots of Mountain Province
The Igorot tribes of the Mountain Province have a wedding practice called the “trial marriage.” The Sagada Igorot, for instance, have a ward or “Dap-ay” where boys at an early age live and sleep with their agemates. This ward is connected to one or more girls’ dormitories called “ebgan” used for courtship.
In this dormitory, the girls gather at night to sleep and to be visited by their suitors. When a boy develops a real attachment to a girl, they live together in a trial marriage until the girl becomes pregnant.
The young man then sends gifts to the girl’s family. Chickens are sacrificed and omens are read. When all the signs are favorable, the wedding ceremonies take place. In these ceremonies, the couple drink from the same cup, eating rice together, and make rice offerings.
The Bataks of Palawan
The Bataks of Palawan also practice different sets of wedding arrangements. At the actual wedding ceremony, the couple sits on a mat laid on the ground. Between them sit a dish of cooked rice, a coconut shell filled with water, and two cigars.
The bride’s maid and the best man take turns handing handfuls of rice shaped into balls to the bride and groom respectively. The couple then feeds each other and drinks from the same cup and smokes the same cigar. The marriage is thus solemnized and the wedding follows.
The Muslims of Mindanao
The Muslims of Mindanao, like in many other Oriental cultures, pre-arrange marriages. A betrothal is arranged by a man from the boy’s side. This man visits the girl’s parents and informs them of the boy’s honorable intentions.
If the girl’s parents agree to the union, the village headman is informed and he relays the news to the boy’s parents. The headman then presides over the negotiations for the settlement of the dowry. The dowry includes money, clothes, and jewelry.
The engagement period and the actual wedding ceremony begin and end with a lavish celebration highlighted by a feast, a parade, music and dancing.
To this day, the wedding practices of Ilocanos, Pangasinenses, Tagalogs, Aetas, Bataks, Muslims, and Igorots continue, handed down from their ancestors.
Now here is a trivia question: Why does a bridegroom have a best man at his wedding?
According to Pinoy trivia master Bong Barrameda, the practice is believed to be rooted in ancient pre-historic marriage by capture, when a man seized a woman and carried her away by force. He would logically, under such circumstances, select a faithful friend to go with him and ward off attacks by the woman’s kinsfolk or perhaps by her other suitors. The term “best man” is of Scottish origin and came into popular use in the 18th century.
= = = = = = = =
For more information about the different courtship, wedding & marriage practices in other regions in the Philippines, read Courtship and Marriage Rites in the Philippine Provinces.