One could argue that pamanhikan is the climax of the Filipino courtship process. The Tagalog definition is this:

pamanhikan png. Paghingi ng pahintulot sa magulang ng babae upang makasal na ang magkasintahan.

Literally, the word means that a man and his parents “go up the stairs of the house of the man’s girlfriend and her parents” to formally ask for the lady’s hand and her parents’ permission and blessings for the two to get married. Pamanhikan (or pamamanhikan) was already practiced even before the Spanish colonial times and essentially includes the following elements:

  • The family of the man goes to the house of the woman to meet up with the family
  • The practice shows respect for the parents of the lady because it is an occasion to seek permission and blessings to marry their daughter
  • In some cultures, the man is expected to do a harana (serenade) or paninilbihan (servitude)
  • The parents of the man bring gifts to the woman’s family (instead of paying a dowry)
  • The parents of the man wait until the parents of the woman initiate the conversation about the relationship of their children
  • Only then will the man speak about his intentions and for his parents to ask the woman’s parents’ approval and blessings
  • The date and time of the wedding is formally set by the parents of the woman
  • The couple becomes engaged to be married

pamanhikanNo matter how modern Filipino courtship becomes, couples should make pamanhikan an integral part of their plans. In fact, the merging of two families make pamanhikan necessary. My advice to those planning to get married: study about the pamanhikan practices in your region. And guys, before you go down on your knee and pop the question, learn about the expectations of your girlfriend’s parents about engagement and pamanhikan.

My wife Dahl and I are grateful to Gene and Letty Duran of Dumaguete City for their graciousness during our pamanhikan last September 3rd. It was not a perfect one–our son Ian did not serenade their daughter Athena, chop firewood or fetch water from the well! But it was a perfect day to agree that the Lord has chosen Ian and Athena for each other. We concluded our pamanhikan with a word of prayer, an element Christians add to enrich this centuries-old custom.

We’re excited about the wedding, and for the marriage, and of course, the grandchildren!

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