But in the provinces, courtship rituals in the Philippines are just as varied as the numerous ethnic groups that populate the archipelago. In keeping with our Valentine's theme for the month, let's look at some of the more interesting ways Filipinos express their love.
The Rooster Courtship of Luzon
In some parts of Luzon, suitors leave a rooster at their beloved's house, so that whenever the bird crows in the morning, the woman and her family are reminded of just how strong the man's love is. We're not sure what happens to the rooster once the woman says "Yes," but we assume the rooster is intended to serve a "higher purpose" sometime in the future.
The Love Potions of Pangasinan
As far as Pangasinenses are concerned, love potions are an effective (and legitimate) way to win someone's heart. In Pangasinan, the lovesick rub a potion called taga-amo on their beloved's skins, hoping that it'll cause that person to return their affections. The taga-amo also has a liquid version, for the sake of suitors who can't physically touch their beloved for one reason or another.
The Ca-I-Sing of the Ifugao
This ritual is also called ebgan by the Kalingas, and pangis by the Tingguians. Here, the lovers are separated into "houses": the ato for the man, and the agamang or olog for the woman. The man visits the woman to sing love songs to her, and the woman replies with love songs of her own. The ritual is overseen by a childless widow or a married elder, who keeps the lovers' families informed of the progress of the courtship.
The Mahal-Allay of the Apayao
For Apayaos, physical strength trumps beauty when assessing how marriageable a woman is. Apayao women are often responsible for the kaingin (the systematic cutting and burning of trees for cultivation) on their men's farmland, so it makes sense for men to marry women who have a sturdy constitution. Also, if a man's property is larger than what one wife can handle, he can take more wives to have more helping hands.
The Riddles of Palawan
In Palawan, a suitor's worth is measured not by their looks, wealth, or hard work, but by their parent's ability to answer love riddles. Called pasaguli, this courtship ritual involves the bride's parents posing riddles to the groom's parents, who must answer them all correctly lest they lose a potential daughter-in-law. If the pasaguli goes smoothly, the man's family can negotiate a dowry with the woman's family through a process known as pabalik.
The Pangagad of Leyte
In Leyte's more traditional communities, suitors practice the pangagad, or serving the prospective bride's family for about a year before they get married. A similar practice is observed in the Tagalog and Bicol regions, where the suitor's servitude is referred to as paninilbihan and pamianan, respectively.
The Magpasumbahi of the Tausog
Also known as sarakahan tupul and palabras, the magpasumbahi can endanger a suitor's life if he's not careful. In this type of courtship, the suitor goes to his beloved's father, asks for his beloved's hand in marriage, and threatens to stab himself with a barong (a type of knife) if he is refused. If the father says no, the suitor gives him permission to strike him down with the barong. But if the father says yes, an elaborate wedding ceremony will be held afterwards.
The Maratabat of the Maranao
This form of courtship is unusual in that it's founded not on love, but on hate. If a woman's family wrongs a man's family, she is obliged to marry the man so his family's honor can be restored. However, she may refuse to have anything to do with her husband after the wedding, in which case the dowry given to her is returned to the husband's family.
Other Courtship Rituals Unique to the Philippines
Because Filipinos are very family-oriented, courtship rituals usually involve the lovers' close friends and relatives as well as the lovers themselves. The friends and family members do what they can to bring the couple together, like "teasing" them about their not-so-subtle displays of affection, or setting them up on dates. If the courtship leads to a happy and successful match, the "wingmen" have every reason to congratulate themselves on a job well done.
As cultures converge and diverge, so do the rituals and practices they share with each other. Whether you consider the abovementioned rituals strange, fascinating, or a mixture of both, there's no doubt that they grant valuable insight into the psyche of a people.
What other courtship rituals in the Philippines do you know of? Let us know about them in the comments!