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9 Uniquely Filipino Dating Traditions That Millennials & Gen Z Need To Know About

Uniquely Filipino dating traditions

It’s Valentine’s and everyone is either out on dates or wanting to go to one. But a date hasn’t always had the same connotation  we have now. Back then, there’s no such thing as “dating”, only courtship. Let’s go back in time and dive into the world of Filipino dating traditions. These are the kind of traditions that date back to when our elders were young, honoring the rules of courtship.

Whether you’re a millennial or Gen Z, here are 9 uniquely Filipino dating traditions that you need to know about, from serenading to formally courting a potential maiden.

– Before dating –

The time when a man gains the courage to ask a fair maiden out. He will do what he can to gain her attention.

1. Pag akyat ng ligaw (Courtship)

Filipino dating traditions - pag akyat ng ligaw (courting)Image credit: Leo Cloma via Flickr

The first step of dating someone is akyat ng ligaw or courtship. In this stage, the potential suitor should get to know the parents of their chosen maiden. This would be his chance to make a good impression and be clear with his intentions toward their daughter.

Once the suitor “passes”, he’ll be formally introduced to the maiden. In this situation, the suitor should come bearing gifts, not only for the woman they’re courting , but also the family.

2. Harana (Serenading)

Filipino dating traditions - harana (serenade)
Image credit: Hispano Filipino Heritage via Facebook

For the guys, imagine you’re a modern-day Romeo, a guitar in hand and the night sky above you – setting the perfect scene for a serenade. For the women, imagine hearing a man’s sultry singing outside your window, where you’ll find him – your suitor – looking at you in adoration.

In doing a harana (serenade), suitors would sing love songs beneath their chosen maiden’s window, with friends backing them up with accompanying vocals or playing other instruments.

While it’s not usually observed today, a thoughtful harana every now and then can pull at everyone’s heartstrings. It might even get you likes on social media.

3. Paninilbihan (Acts of service)

Filipino dating traditions - paninilbihan (acts of service
Image credit: Sinta & Co. Filipino Weddings

Nothing woos a potential love more than her suitor proving his willingness to serve her family to the best of his abilities.

Whether it’s chores, errands, or helping with family dinners, paninilbihan or acts of service is a suitor’s display of dedication to secure the parents’ permission to date their daughter.

– Dating –

In the process of courting, the man is now expected to pay respects to the elders before going on a chaperoned date with the maiden.

4. Mano

Filipino dating traditions - mano po and pamamanhikan
Image credit: Retro And Soul

While the rules courtship are occasionally practiced in urban settings, they’re more likely to be practiced in rural places. ICYDK, it’s completely normal for Filipinos to live with their families even until they’re old enough to move out.

So it’s only natural that suitors will meet the grandparents too and must pay their respects. In this case, pagmamano is a respectful gesture where you place an elder’s hand against your forehead. For the suitor, doing this doesn’t only show respect to the tradition, but also scores points with the parents.

Remember, Lolo and Lola’s approval is essential.

5. Chaperones

Filipino dating traditions - chaperone
Image credit: GMA Entertainment

In the Philippines, third wheeling was already a thing back in the day. Dating with a chaperone involves the presence of a family member who ensures that the couple’s interaction remains pure and wholesome. The family member, if you will, is the marites who’ll tell the rest of the family about the date.

Although this is less practiced in urban settings, suitors can still expect a protective ate, kuya, or insan to tag along in the first few dates.

– Dating for a while –

By this time, the maiden is now allowed to spend time with the suitor without a chaperone. After spending time together, the man must abide by some courtship rules leading to marriage.

6. Giving gifts

Filipino dating traditions - gift giving
Image adapted from: KO Pâtissier, Lil’ Buds Flowershop via Facebook 

In the Philippines, it’s customary to give your date gifts, big or small. Often times, suitors would opt for flowers, chocolates, or even love letters. Sometimes, all of the above! This particular gesture is a tangible reminder that the suitor can express his admiration in more ways than one. This can also earn him points if Lolo and Lola have a sweet tooth.

This is a dating tradition that we mostly see being practiced today, especially on Valentine’s Day and anniversaries.

7. Hatid-Sundo

Filipino dating traditions - hatid-sundo
Image credit: Mouline Sagun via Village Pipol

Another gesture that suitors would keep in mind is the act of hatid – sundo. It’s where the suitor picks up the maiden from her home and takes her back to it safely after the date.

Because majority of Filipinos now own private vehicles, picking up and driving the date home is the practice we see today.

Resonating with Filipino culture, this reflects the suitor’s gentlemanly manners and gives the family peace of mind knowing the maiden got home, safe and sound.

8. Pamamanhikan

Filipino dating traditions - pamamanhikanImage credit: Mew Dew

In the past, one thing to remember about courtship is that suitors pursue maidens with the goal to marry. Naturally, this is why the family goes through all these efforts to get to know the suitor as much as possible.

Getting to the talks of marriage, this is where pamamanhikan comes in. This is where things get real! Now, the suitor has to win over every member of the maiden’s family. Sometimes, even the extended ones. This tradition involves the suitor formally asking for the parents’ blessing to marry their daughter as a sign of respect and commitment to family values.

This is another tradition that we see being practiced today. The difference is that pamamanhikan no longer needs to happen at the maiden’s family home. Depending on the agreed-upon discussion, it can be held anywhere from restaurants to vacay destinations.

9. Kasalan (Wedding)

Filipino dating traditions - kasalan, wedding
Image credit: Jayzer Abilar Photography via Facebook

Finally, every Filipino couple in the past is expected to take the next big step, hence the kasalan (wedding). For Filipinos, it’s a grand celebration of love and commitment between the suitor and the maiden.

From the traditional ceremonies to the extravagant festivities, it’s a testament to the enduring values of family, unity, and everlasting love.

Filipino dating traditions you need to know

These adorable dating traditions showcase the Philippines’ rich blend of history, culture, and adaptability.

Whether you’re young and new to dating or reconnecting with Filipino roots, these Filipino dating traditions remind us how we should value love, respect, and commitment in every relationship. 

Also, check out affordable Valentine’s Day gift ideas, romantic restaurants in Metro Manila, and date ideas in the metro. For more things to do, head to The Smart Local Philippines.

Cover image adapted from: Hispano Filipino Heritage, Jayzer Abilar Photography via Facebook