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The Traditional and Modern Debut in the Philippines

Julia Barretto @ 18 debut gown.

Julia Barretto @ 18 debut gown.

What Is a Debut in the Filipino Community?

When Filipinas reach 18 years of age, it becomes one of their major milestones in life; it signifies their step into the world of adulthood, or their coming of age, as they say.

The Filipino community will already treat them as “dalaga,” meaning a single young Filipina who has passed the stage of puberty or an eligible young Filipina. Accordingly, the parents will now allow their daughter to start dating someone and have a boyfriend. It’s like the parents’ or guardians’ public announcement that their daughter can now be courted by eligible young men or bachelors.

In light of this, the parents will do their best to organize a celebration. A traditional debut is composed of programs that take place during the celebration. However, today, twists and gimmicks have been added. "The once overly formal celebration has become fun and exciting yet fairly expressive and descent."

The Traditional Debut

  • The parents give a message to the debutante and the guests.
  • 18 pre-selected males among the debutante’s friends and relatives will compose the 18 roses. They will dance with her one by one to waltz music, and then each will give her a single long-stem red rose.
  • The last dance is always reserved for the father, or a father figure in case of the biological father’s absence. In some celebrations, the father-daughter dance is separate from the 18 roses, while some have both.
  • Next, 18 pre-selected females will deliver a message about their relationship with the celebrant. Finally, they end it with a special wish for the celebrant’s success, health, future, etc., before lighting a candle.
  • In the event that her father or grandfather isn’t present, the debutante will be given 18 white roses. This will signify his presence in one of the most important celebrations of his daughter’s life.
  • The entourage, including the debutante and her escort, will participate in a “Cotillion”, a dance that’s rehearsed for months prior to the celebration and also performed in the tune of waltz music. This is considered a very significant part of the debut.
  • The celebration ends with the debutante giving a speech regarding her life experiences, what she learned up to this point in her life, and finally thanking her family and everyone who supported her throughout her journey into adulthood.
  • Afterward, everyone will be invited to dance in the center, like in a disco. Even though this is entirely optional, most debuts are incomplete without a disco party after the event.

The Modern Debut

The debut modern version still incorporates the traditional components, but it is given some twists:

  • For the 18 roses, the first dance will be the debutante’s father, and the last one will either be her special someone, suitor, or best friend.
  • There is a new program named 18 shots wherein the participants will give a speech just like in the 18 candles, but this time they will wish the debutante a good future with a toast and a shot of an alcoholic drink.
  • Another new program is the 18 treasures or 18 symbolic gifts. In here, the debutante’s friends and relatives give a gift, along with a short explanation as to why that certain gift was chosen.
  • Modern debuts have different themes, such as a costume party where the entourage dress up as characters based on the theme, like superheroes. There are also debuts having runways like a fashion show, modeling or something, and the debutante, along with the female members of the entourage, show off their extravagant outfits. Traditional debuts always have a ball theme.
  • In some instances, the debutante will pick the best-dressed guest for the females while her escort will choose that for the males, and then the winners will be asked to ask a question about each other and then dance romantically.

What's Common Between the Modern and Traditional Debut?

  • Both traditional and modern debuts always have a grand entrance, where the debutante either marches down a long set of stairs or through a procession along with the entourage.
  • There is also an audio-video presentation that shows the important milestones of her life. Photographers and videographers are hired to document the debut.
  • Dinner will be served at the organizer’s time of choosing, and there is also a cake-cutting ceremony.
Julia Barretto @ 18 debut, March 10, 2015.

Julia Barretto @ 18 debut, March 10, 2015.


rochelle villahermosa on April 27, 2018:

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Read More From Holidappy

oh my gosh it's so beautiful i like it so much

mae on March 07, 2018:

is it matrilineal or patrilineal

Aeva Gono (author) from Philippines on September 02, 2015:

Hi ladyguitarpicker ! Yeah! I think dating is best when you're of legal age. Thank you :)

stella vadakin from 3460NW 50 St Bell, Fl32619 on September 01, 2015:

The Philippines have some wonderful traditions. I wish the girls here did not date until 18, what a great idea. Great hub, shared,

Aeva Gono (author) from Philippines on August 07, 2015:

Yeah! Sure! Thank you also for taking time to read my hub Marilyn Fritz. Indeed a wonderful beautiful celebration! Filipino girls are always looking forward to it!

Marilyn from Nevada on August 07, 2015:

How beautiful, and wonderful in celebration! The gowns are stunning, and it must be a life experience for the girls who are becoming adults. Thank you for sharing such a delightful ceremony with the world!

Aeva Gono (author) from Philippines on August 06, 2015:

Yeah! :) Lovely ladies!

Esmé from South Africa on August 06, 2015:

I don't wear dresses a lot but they sure look pretty.


Aeva Gono (author) from Philippines on August 06, 2015:

Yeah, love dresses right? esja

Esmé from South Africa on August 06, 2015:

Hell, I like those dresses!

Aeva Gono (author) from Philippines on August 05, 2015:

Hi BlossomSB! Thank you :) It is my happiness to share some of our precious and beautiful traditions here in the Philippines. Your debuts are also pretty exciting too! I think that's a lot of fun, celebrating along with others :)

Aeva Gono (author) from Philippines on August 05, 2015:

Hi MsDora! Yeah both are exciting! I will be writing more of our traditions soon :)

Bronwen Scott-Branagan from Victoria, Australia on August 05, 2015:

A lovely article and the photos are beautiful, too. Thank you for sharing. We sometimes have Debuts, too, but they are often with quite a number of girls making their debut at the same time. However, it is still a very important occasion for them - and for them to remember in later years.

Dora Weithers from The Caribbean on August 05, 2015:

Both versions of the debut sound exciting. A worthy tradition! Thanks for sharing it.

Aeva Gono (author) from Philippines on August 04, 2015:

Hi tajoo! Thank you so much! Yeah, beautiful ladies too, right? :)

Syeda Akhtar from Shenynag, China on August 04, 2015:

Beautiful article, and thanks for sharing this beautiful tradition.

Aeva Gono (author) from Philippines on August 04, 2015:

Hi Poetryman! Yeah, the ladies are indeed lovely in their gowns :) They are beautiful at 18. :)

Aeva Gono (author) from Philippines on August 04, 2015:

Hi Phyllis! Yeah, thank you so much :D I will be writing more about our cultures and traditions here in the Philippines soon :)

poetryman6969 on August 04, 2015:

The young ladies look beautiful in their gowns.

Phyllis Doyle Burns from High desert of Nevada. on August 04, 2015:

Eva, I enjoyed learning about the debut - how lovely the young ladies and gowns are. The traditional and modern debut are both very interesting. It is so good to learn about traditions of your culture.

Well done on the hub. Voted up and shared.

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