Moms and Dads
Filipino Love Traditions to Spice Up Our Valentine’s Day
Filipinos have different ways to express love to their significant others and loved ones on Valentine’s Day! Let us count the ways.
If we were to look at the Filipinos’ history in the arts, we’d discover that a lot of their works had love as their muse. Many poems and songs—written in both Filipino and English by local writers—conveyed feelings of love, especially since we know that love is abstract and that Filipinos love to sing.
Even artworks and choreographies have told many love stories, time and time again!
Although times have changed and we find ourselves too busy, there are ways to adapt classic Filipino love traditions to spice up your Valentine’s Day celebrations.
1. Serenade (Harana)
Serenading by the window, also popularly known as harana, was a traditional favorite back in the day. Why? because it showed how love made one brave enough to express their love in front of everyone. Wooing a woman through harana, however, had to follow a set of protocols; most of these coming from Spanish influence (Lacuna, 2022; Pilapil, 2023).
The instrument needed to be a guitar because that fit the song’s mood and tone. Plus, it also had to be done exclusively at night (because singing in the heat is horrible!) and people were believed to be more romantic at night. But if one couldn’t sing, friends could help out too!
The thing is, singing by the window at night might be a little creepy in today’s time. Why not sing a song that meant much to our relationships in the comforts of our own home or living room? If we can’t sing then, we can rely on Spotify or YouTube to find the song. There are so many artists making covers nowadays that even songs that were originally rock music have acoustic versions!
2. Riddle Courtship (Pasaguli)
Filipinos practiced the art of Pasaguli or Riddle Courtship, wherein the couple would send each other riddles to learn more about their partners and their parents. Some say that the practice often happened in Palawan; wherein, it’s also normal to expect a dowry after the Pasaguli (Iode, 1992; Torres; 2019).
But today, Filipinos still use these riddles and have adapted them by adding hugot (emotionally deep) lines to convey not just love but heartbreak too!
Riddles are always fun brain teasers for the family. When kids and teens are always asking moms and dads how they met, riddles are one way to get their brains racking!
3. Spoken Poetry (Balak)
Balak in Tagalog may mean “plan,” but in Cebuano, it’s a form of spoken poetry where a man would express his love in the most flowery way possible. It’s probably why Filipinos have so many poems about love; some of them probably started as simple declarations before they became cultural pieces.
And back in the day, the more grand the poem, the more sincere a Filipino man’s love was for a lady.
Unfortunately, many modern Filipinos today frown on that practice because of the changing times. Times have made people more cynical and less prone to believing in the “magic” of love. There’s a lot of hard work to be done—that we know is true. But it wouldn’t hurt to believe at least a little that Fate put us together with our partners for a reason.
And if we’re in the mood to write poetry to accompany the gift we’re giving, that makes the gift feel more authentic. But if Time and schedules are against us, there’s no shame in looking up a poem and quoting the author. Pablo Neruda has 100 love sonnets to choose from and José de la Cruz (AKA Huseng Sisiw) has a few, too!
4. Love Letters
Filipinos enjoyed sending their loved ones letters because not all declarations of love could be done in public. Not everyone had the confidence to do so. Love letters serve two purposes: 1) a safe space to convey one’s romantic feelings, and 2) a souvenir for the receiver who would be the one to decide if the feelings are authentic and genuine.
The act of exchanging love letters became a big thing, especially during the Spanish era. Dr. Jose Rizal was famous for such and would often enlist his friends to deliver his love letters to the women he loved. Once the woman received it, she would write a letter containing her feelings—either rejecting them or accepting them—while asking the friend to deliver it. Talk about wingman duties!
But because of emails, text messages, and the “Save the Trees” movement, people are not too fond of using paper. These messages were more instant—offering almost immediate gratification while love letters’ appeal came from the suspense of what their contents were.
However, it’s still sweet even if we’re living in the same house as our partner. They may not say it but those are the ones they keep, not the flowers.
How the Filipinos’ expression of love has changed…
Technology such as dating apps, social media, and even online games have changed how Filipinos express their love to their loved ones. Songs are easy to find on streaming websites, riddles can be lifted from books and other writers, and AI can be prompted to write love letters!
But the important part of using these modern-day tools to spice up Valentine’s Day is knowing that technology only does 50% of the work. The rest of the courtship comes from us and when our kids see that we still court one another even if we’re “til death do us part,” it teaches them that there are just some expressions of love that never get old.
lode Reinker, M. (1992). Riddling in Folk Narratives. AUTHOR Ichioka, Cynthia S., Ed. TITLE Stories from around the World: An Annotated Bibliography of Folk Literature. INSTITUTION Hawaii Univ., Manoa. School of Library and Information Studies., 83.
Lacuna, I. L. (2022). Kundiman and catastrophe: The torrential aesthetics of the folk kundiman. The Cordillera Review, 12(1 & 2), 13-38.
Pilapil, A. (2023). The Harana Singers of Nova Scotia: Transnationalism, cultural identity, and collective music-making in a Filipino choir.
Torres, I. (2019, March 20). Filipino Dating: Evolution of Courtship in the Philippines. Medium. https://firstname.lastname@example.org/filipino-dating-evolution-of-courtship-in-the-philippines-b4881a69aeee#:~:text=%2DPasaguli%20or%20Riddle%20Courtship.&text=In%20this%20wooing%20form%2C%20parents