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Courtship in the Pre-Colonial Philippines

Courtship in Filipino is panliligaw or panunuyo is the manner of persuading a woman to develop a romantic relationship with a guy with a view to marriage. In Filipino context it involves the usual dating, sending love letters, and the traditional harana or serenade. Harana is an old Filipino tradition of courtship in which a man expresses his love in a song to a woman while standing underneath her window at night. The practice of harana is believed to have started in 19th century and was inspired by Spanish folk songs. Sadly, haranqa almost non-existent today. It exists today only in movies, school activities, the stories of those who experienced it and to those who are willing to hire modern haranistas to serenade their loved ones along with flowers and chocolates and other gifts. The practice of harana has evolved over time.

Harana

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The culture of courtship already exist in the pre-colonial Philippines. Back then, courtship is costly and grueling. Paninilbihan or the custom of requiring a guy to work for the woma’s family before marriage was prevalent in pre-colonial times. The tasks may include chopping wood, house repairs, plowing the field, fetching water, and others. It usually took months or even years before the girl’s parents were finally convinced that he is the right man for their daughter.

In the Visayans marriage customs, dowry or bigaycaya was always given by the man to the girl’s parents before marriage. The amount was determined beforehand at the time when they discussed the marriage arrangements. The dowry was set based on the rank of the contracting families. Pasonor refer to some gifts of gold, jewelry or a piece of land, in the event that the bride’s parents asked more than the ordinary sum.

Marriage-in-Pre-Colonial-Philippines

Image courtesy of http://www.spot.ph IIST

Bigaycaya also included panhimuyat, a sum that had to be paid to the mother of the bride in return for the nurture and education she gave to her daughter. Pasoso was the sum given to the chichiva, or nurse who took care of the bride when she was young. If the bride had no parents or guardians, she herself received the dowry. However, she was never without a relative or a chichiva that nourished and took care of her, who will get the dowry just as if they were the true parents.

We can view panhimuyat and pasoso as mere payments for the services rendered but I think the more objective lens to view them is through the lens of gratitude – they are means of appreciating the mother or the chichiva for nourishment and taking care of the daughter until such time that she is ready for marriage. A Way of giving thanks for all those sacrifices.

Today, courtship has widely evolved with the emergence of modern technology and the internet. With it is the rise of virtual relationships like international online dating and matchmaking, texting, chat applications and video calling. Developing romantic relationship became almost instant if not an overnight process. This recent development has raised concerns from different sectors of society. A popular noontime show even use it as the moral lesson in one their segments, sending the message that love and romantic relationships is not like instant noodles, those who are in love should wait for the right time and, that courtship involves hard work and much effort.

In the Bible: Jacob Worked for Rachel’s Hand in Marriage (Genesis 29:15-30)

In Harran, Jacob met and fell in love with the beautiful and lovely Rachel, daughter of his cousin Laban. He was warmly welcomed to Laban’s family, but was asked pay an exhorbitant price for Rachel’s hand in marriage: Jacob would have to work as a shepherd of Laban’s flock for seven years. The annual remuneration for a shepherd in the Bronze Age was about 10 shekels; thus, seven years of work as a shepherd was really a hard labor.

When Jacob had completed the seven years , Laban delivered him the older daughter Leah instead and spend his wedding night only to find out at dawn that it wasn’t Rachel. Laban had to explain that according to their tradition, the oldest daughter should marry first. After the week-long wedding parties for Jacob and Leah were over, Laban gave Rachel to Jacob as a second wife, but he would owe him another seven years of labor. National Geographic tag it as “The Bible’s original love triangle.”

From the ancient times to the contemporary days, the concept of courtship entails hard work, sacrifice, patience, and willingness to wait for the right time.

Sources:

MySword for Android. Riversoft Ministry, 2011-2019.

http://www.gutenberg.org. Project Gutenberg. The Philippine Chronicles by Juan Francisco de San Antonio. Philippine Islands, Vol. XL.

www.lexico.com

www.nationalgeographic.com

www.asianjournal.com

www.medium.com

www.spot.ph

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