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Debutante A Filipino 18th Birthday Tradition

One of the most celebrated events in a Filipina’s life is her debut. Called such, mainly because it is a symbol of “coming out” into the world of adults. It is when a young lady emerges from childhood to womanhood, and the society rejoices about it.

While other countries are fond of celebrating Quinceaneras or the celebration of a girl’s 15 years of life, in the Philippines, it is the 18th birthday that matters the most. Thus, throwing a debut party or a grand birthday bash has been a trend over the years.  It is a tradition of celebrating womanhood, independence and readiness for romance.

Just like how a Filipina is set to engage into a new phase of life, the celebrant or the debutante is expected to have a grand entrance, dressed in a sophisticated, intricately-designed dazzling gown. As the guests awaits her entry, the people likewise welcome her into the wonderful world of adults and independent individuals.

The 18 RosesThe 18 Roses

Perhaps the most remarkable part of each debut party is the giving away of 18 roses.

They are tasked to dance with the birthday celebrant after handing the rose, one after the other. These men are symbolically the protectors of the debutante who is about to embark on a new journey, where she is expected to mature. The Philippines is known as a family-oriented country. This is one of the reasons why mostly—if not always, it is the father who gives the 1st rose to the debutante. This is also a symbol of the father releasing her daughter into the society as woman capable of making her own choices, taking risks, choosing friends and stepping towards achieving her dreams. This, as well, comes with an acknowledgement that the debutante is now an independent person who is able to withstand the challenges that the society might throw her way. Other than the father, brothers, relatives and friends may also present roses to the debutante. If she has an escort, the latter usually gives out the last piece. The escort, more often than not, is referred to as the debutante’s special someone.

The 18 CandlesThe 18 Candles

A debut party becomes more meaningful with the messages of relatives and friends who light up the 18 candles.

This is the part of the program wherein the debutante receives words of wisdom and encouragement on how to succeed in the challenges she is about to face in the stage called “adulting”. The candles represent the light that will guide the debutante’s path as she progress towards maturity. It is but important for a Filipina to receive these advise that will help her become a woman the society is expecting her — someone who understands equality and holds accountability as a contributor to the country. Likewise with other birthday celebrations, once the candles are all lit up, the debutante blows it off as a symbol of acceptance and acknowledgement of advice.

The 18 TreasuresThe 18 Treasures

Celebrations like this will never be complete without presents. The 18 Treasures may be simple gifts but becomes extra special because

This is a short part of the program wherein the personality of the debutante is revealed to the guests. It is because these 18 endeared individuals are tasked to say their well wishes and state the reason why they chose a specific gift for the debutante. Each treasure is sure to reflect the values, traits, hobbies, interests and sometimes, secret aspirations of the celebrant. More often than not, this is when the party is filled with tears and laughter.

A Filipina is known to draw her strength from the people she comfortably shares her uniqueness with. So regardless of age and gender, the 18 Treasures are presented by the people who makes the debutante feel accepted and loved in the society she lives in.  Each treasure is considered a token of friendship. Each giver is a symbol of a shoulder the debutante can lean on when things gets overwhelming in the journey called adulthood.

The 18 Dollar BillsThe 18 Dollar Bills

As with any tradition, debut rituals have emerged over the course of time.

This is the part of the program wherein the debutante receives 18 pieces of 1,000-peso bill from her parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, godfathers, godmothers and pre-selected adult family friends. “Blue Bill mainly because it is the color of the 1,000-peso bill.

The Grand CotillionThe Grand Cotillion

For grand celebrations, a cotillion dance is a prominent part.

A grand cotillion dance can be at the first or the last part of the program. However, this formal waltz or dance number requires long days, if not months of practice. Considering that the debutante and her peers are young adults who engaged in numerous activities and are tied up with their schedule, rehearsals has become an issue, over time. In the Philippines, this part of the debut is often scraped off from the program but the idea of young people dancing waltz or tango is rather pleasant.

A debut is a once in a lifetime event, an every girl’s dream and indeed, a pivotal moment to every Filipina’s life.
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