“How do we give our daughter a Filipino debut in Canada?”

18 roses for the debutante

Riza Fe Belleza writes: “We live in Canada and my daughter’s turning 18. How do we give her a traditional Filipino debut?”

Party planner Chacha Datu of Lifestyle Party Planners says
: Congratulations! Your daughter will soon enter the adult world as a young lady! 

In the Philippines, debutantes get to celebrate their special day exclusively, unlike in other parts of the world where the new 18-year-olds join other debutantes as they are presented to society as a group. 

A traditional Filipino debut program would consist of the Cotillion de Honor dance, 18 Roses and 18 candles/wishes. Through the years, though, 18 treasures, 18 shots and even 18 thousands have been incorporated into the program.

The debutante is presented in a lavish gown fit for a princess. The gown is one element in the party where you can emphasize your Filipino theme. Perhaps you could have a modernized terno made for your girl. Or use Filipino fabric such as jusi or pina for the gown’s detail.

The Filipino debutante enters her party on the arm of an escort—usually a brother, male cousin, or even a close friend. Coordinate their outfits by having your girl’s escort wear a barong.

Read up on how to do a Debut Makeover.

Play a kundiman for the Cotillion de Honor.
Many are familiar with this highlight in a debut party. This is, traditionally, a waltz danced by nine pairs of the debutante’s friends or relatives. The choreography for this dance is usually done to depict courtship among the dancers.

What better way to incorporate your Filipino theme by playing a well-loved kundiman for this dance instead of the usual European waltz? (If your daughter’s friends are game, you might also consider getting them to dance the tinikling. That would be a lot of fun, for sure.)

Dress up the 18 roses.
The 18 roses segment of the program is another dance, traditionally, that the debutante does with 18 important men in her life. The first man she’s ever known—her father—starts off the dance by giving her a rose before dancing with her. The debutante is then passed on to the next gentleman, her sibling or grandfather, and so on.

To get the Filipino theme going, perhaps dress up each rose with abaca wrapping material.

Use Pesos for 18 thousands.
The 18 Thousands segment is something that is going to delight the debutante as well as her parents. Eighteen members of the debutante’s older-generation relatives and friends of her parents each give the debutante P1,000, along with a special message.

Try to actually give her the money in pesos and not in Canadian dollars. If she grew up in Canada, she’s probably never even seen Philippine peso bills.

Give Pinoy-flavored 18 Treasures
For this part of the program, 18 friends individually offer their presents to the debutante. If your daughter grew up in Canada, give her presents that tell her about her heritage. How about a pair of dangling earrings made of original pearls? Or a CD (or digital playlist) of songs by OPM artists? If your daughter’s into cooking, give her a cookbook of Filipino dishes.

Drink up with lambanog.
As Filipino debutantes turn 18, some are granted their first taste of alcohol; thus 18 Shots. This part of the program is usually participated in by the debutante’s friends. Each one is given a shot of a cocktail or alcoholic beverage. Before each participant downs it, he or she gives a message to the debutante. This message can be funny, touching, or may come in the form of a wish. And then each participant drinks up. The debutante gets to go bottoms up with everyone after the 18th shot.

Let these young people taste what real Filipinos drink. Give them shots of lambanog.

The bottom line is, this is your daughter’s debut and no one else’s. Give her a party that she’ll truly remember.


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