The Traditional and Modern Debut in the Philippines
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 for 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.
- Afterwards, 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 her 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.