Four Elements of A Traditional Filipino Debut


“It does not matter if you accomplished what was expected if you are capable of more” -Alexa Leigh Corbett

One of the quintessential rites of passage a female Filipino goes through her life is the celebration of her 18th birthday or her debut party. In a sense, it is the symbolic celebration of a Filipino girl’s transition into a woman as well as her formal launch to society. It is a coming of age party that denotes her maturity and her introduction to the modern and adult world. But apart from that, it is also filled with lighthearted and entertaining moments that would make for poignant memories in the years to come. Indeed, it is one of the grandest events that a Filipino girl would look forward to most of her teenage life. In fact, some of these girls have been meticulously planning this once in a lifetime soiree for years–down to every detail.

However, just what is it that makes an eighteenth birthday or debut characteristically Filipino? What are the elements that would make you identify it as one? Well, if you have been to a debut more than once then you may have noticed some similarities among them—some features that are always present. From the debut packages to the event’s program, there are a lot of things that makes an eighteenth birthday debut party truly Filipino, and here are just some of them:

1.) Eighteen Roses

Every Filipino woman selects eighteen of her closest male friends who would normally consist of her male relatives, boyfriend, and her dad. These eighteen lads would present the debutante with a rose as a symbolic favor so that she, in turn, would grant them dance. The usual practice was that it is the debutante’s father who gets to have the first dance and her boyfriend would be the last. However, debutantes can now choose to have a father and daughter dance entirely on its own so that you can give that special spotlight to your father instead of having him join the queue of eighteen roses. If you want a quirky or different twist, there is no absolute need to use roses or even dance the waltz. You can have a choreographed dance and utilize other flowers instead.

2.) Eighteen Treasures

Some of the debutante’s closest eldest relatives and friends are chosen for this segment. This is the part of the program wherein the eighteen selected individuals would bequeath a gift that would aid the debutante in her journey to adulthood. In most cases, the presentation of the gift is usually accompanied with a speech as to why it was chosen for the debutante and how it would aid her in her travails. Additionally, it would also be great if these individuals could impart anecdotes as well as sagely advice to the debutante.

3.) Eighteen Candles

The eighteen candles are symbolic of the light that is going to be guiding you as you take your journey towards adulthood. This is where the debutante chooses eighteen of her closest female friends and relatives who would impart advice, give her well-wishes and share stories along with a lighted candle. Make this part of the program even more festive by giving your candles a creative touch such as placing them in elaborate candle holders, or utilizing lanterns or anything else instead.

4.) Cotillion De Honor

In the debut party, the Cotillion De Honor is one of the main highlights of the event. It is that segment of the debut which marks the welcome of the debutante to adulthood. The cotillion de honor consist of nine female and nine male friends—a group of eighteen people that includes you and your escort. Traditionally, a choreographed dance by the cotillion would signify that the party is about to begin and it is how the debutante makes her grand entrance. Most modern debuts have done away with the waltz and have incorporated modern music, and dance moves into the cotillion dance instead.


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