Debut - a Philippine Tradition to Womanhood

12:15 AM

Many young girls dream of having their debut party on their 18th birthday because it is a commonly observed Philippine tradition to womanhood.  It is a coming-of-age celebration since 18 is considered the age of maturity in the Philippines.  It is of note however that male debutantes celebrate theirs on their 21st birthday with less formal gatherings, if they choose to hold a party for it at all.


The Philippine Debut is said to have come from the Quinceanera practiced in countries in Latin America.  It is also signifies a girl's transition to womanhood but at the younger age of 15 or "quinze".  It is also known by some other names including "festa de debutantes", "baile de debutantes", "festa dequinze anos", and "fete des quinze ans".  Some countries have more religious tones than the others but the rites observed are essentially the same.

A typical Quinceanera celebration follows a program consisting of the grand entrance by the debutante, dancing, candle ceremony, toast, cake cutting, and other rituals related to the event.
The debutante wears a special dress for the occasion and her guests are expected to dress as well in a manner befitting the event.  The Philippine Debut observes similar rituals with certain modifications that will make the observation more in keeping with Filipino tradition.

The Rituals of a Philippine Debut

The western world observe a girl's 18th birthday in less formal practices.  A typical Philippine debut celebration is marked by rituals that include 18 members of the entourage, 18 roses dance, and 18 candles.  There have been more recent additions such as 18 treasures and 18 shots.

The members of the entourage shall comprise the participants to the Grand Cotillion Dance together with the debutante and her escort.  The 18 roses dance will require the participation of 18 pre-selected males usually comprised of relatives and friends.  Each male participant will be dancing with the debutante after giving her a rose.  The last dance is usually reserved for the father of the debutante or any father-figure if the former is unavailable for whatever reason.

Pre-selected female friends and relatives shall give the debutante 18 candles with a greeting or a special wish for the celebrant.  The treasures provide 18 special gifts while the 18 shots provides for several toasts to the debutante after every delivery of speech.  The last two are usually comprised of participants in mixed gender.

My Say

There are several birthday milestones observed in the Philippine tradition including the 1st, the 7th, the 18th ( for girls) or 21st (for boys), and the 50th.  Most believe that holding special celebrations every ten years after turning 50 is in order because reaching such ripe age must be considered a blessing.   I have been able to provide my eldest daughter with her debut party during her time and hope that I can provide my younger children the same experience.  Many debutantes and parents are becoming more practical and opt for other forms of celebration which they find more fitting such as travel or a new car for some.

My personal choice in holding a debut party for my children when able is not founded on any desire to indulge in extravagance but more of the need to imbibe traditions in my children's consciousness.  I have often repeated myself in saying that I am still traditional in more ways than one.  These images of my daughter's happiness during that night will remain forever etched in my heart.

That said, I had one more reason why I tried my best to give my daughter a debut party and it is quite simple.  Pure unadulterated happiness borne out of a mother's love - I felt happy seeing my daughter all dressed up feeling like a princess, carefree and having no worries, at least for the night.  I f given the chance, I will do it all over again for my youngest daughter on her 18th birthday and my son on his 21st.

Happy Birthday to my eldest daughter!

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