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Courtship in the Philippines: The Traditional Way

“Panliligaw,” or courtship used to play a vital part in traditional Philippine society. What we know as courtship today is far more laid back than what it used to be.

In the past, gender roles were strictly followed. Women should never make the first move. On the other hand, men had to prove their true love and intention not just to the woman they love but to her family as well. Because of this, courtship used to last a long time, even up to a year.


Courtship was so important before that every region in the country had its own version. To give you an idea, here are four of the most popular form of courtships then.

  1. Harana

Harana is the most portrayed form of courtship on Philippine TV. Here, a suitor visits the home of the woman he’s courting and serenades her. While the Filipina sits pretty on her home’s balcony, he sings romantic songs while playing guitar. Sometimes, he’ll bring a friend to sing with him or provide moral support.

Harana is usually done at night. Traditionally, songs sung during the Harana contain a proclamation of love. And of all the traditional forms of courtship, harana is the most familiar among the younger generation.

  1. Paninilbihan

Paninilbihan is another custom that revolves mainly around the Filipina’s family. Here, the family measures the man’s dedication in his pursuit. He performs acts of service to her family like doing most of their household chores.

He will chop firewood, fetch water from the groundwater well, cook meals, help with laundry, and more. The family will then judge whether the man’s intentions are sincere and measure his dedication. Then, they will assess whether the suitor deserves to date their daughter.

  1. Pasaguli

Pasaguli, or Riddle courtship, was among the most popular courtship practices during the 333-year Spanish reign. It was most prominent in the province of Palawan.

Here, the suitor will confess his love in the form of riddles. He will perform these riddles not just in front of the woman he holds dear, but in front of their parents. Depending on his performance, they will either praise or critique his riddle piece.

If everything goes well, both parents will proceed to discuss the dowry settlement. Dowry is the man’s gift or offering to his future in-laws. This gift can be monetary, like gold or silver, or property like land or rice fields.

Pasaguli is no longer practiced. But it bears a close resemblance to the millennial’s “hugot” talk.

  1. Balak

Balak is a traditional Filipino courtship method that was widely popular in the Visayas region.

It is the practice of reciting poetry to win the heart of a woman. The man spends a long time creating a wonderful poetry piece — carefully picking powerful words that rhyme with each other. Every word should describe his overflowing love for the woman he intends to marry.

The man can choose to “balak” in two ways. He can either perform it in front of her, like reciting a poem. If he’s too shy, he can write the piece down and let the woman read his confession in silence.

These are just four of the many courting traditions in the Philippines. While formal courtship is no longer frequently practiced nowadays, the fact that it helped shape the Philippine dating landscape still remains.

This story was originally published on Medium: Traditional Forms Of Courtship In The Philippines

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