When it comes to weddings in the Philippines, we have cultural practices that set ours apart from the rest of the world.
For engaged Filipino couples, there is one important tradition that they look forward to with either nervousness or excitement (or both) — the pamamanhikan, aka the practice of asking the bride’s family for approval.
Before you start planning for your budget wedding in the Philippines, here’s what you need to know about this tradition, from what pamamanhikan means to how to do it right.
So What is the Meaning of Pamamanhikan?
Pamamanhikan is derived from the word “panhik,” which means to climb or ascend the house’s stairs.
The idea of climbing the stairs and asking the family for one’s hand in marriage has to do with the architecture of Filipino homes in earlier days. Most houses were elevated, with a flight of stairs leading up to the front door. A man had to climb these stairs before he could propose to the family of his bride-to-be.
The closest contextual English translation to pamamanhikan is probably “to implore” because the Filipino tradition involves some kind of appeal or pleading before obtaining the parents’ blessing.
Before Pamamanhikan: Paninilbihan
Before a man could ask for a girl’s hand in marriage, he had to undergo another task called paninilbihan (servitude), which is a Filipino tradition done during courtship.
The soon-to-be-groom proves his intentions by doing household chores, such as fetching water, chopping firewood, and getting coconuts. According to Filipino elders, this is a way for the groom to show how responsible he is.
Some say this practice is a dying one but it is very much alive in men who subconsciously practice paninilbihan through modernized chores (e.g. electrical and car repairs).
After this practice, the groom-to-be is ready for pamamanhikan.
What Happens During the Pamamanhikan?
So how does this Filipino marriage tradition work? What does one do in pamamanhikan? How is pamamanhikan done?
The process starts with the groom asking the parents of his chosen bride for her hand in marriage. If they approve, the groom and his family would then visit the bride’s family (usually at dinner time) for their first official meeting.
The meeting often starts with a basic introduction of the family members, especially if they have not met. Afterward, both families discuss the fundamentals of the wedding, such as the date, wedding venues, the and guest list, among others.
Traditionally, the groom’s family shoulders the wedding expenses. But most modern couples are comfortable with splitting the wedding payments. These particular details can be discussed with the family during the pamamanhikan.
The agenda of the meeting depends on whether the families already know each other. If this is the first time they’ve met, the focus of the meeting will be them getting to know one another. On the other hand, if the families are already well-acquainted, they will focus more on the wedding plans.
Some More Details
There are many facets included in the pamamanhikan. The most notable are:
- If the meeting takes place at the woman’s home, her side of the family prepares the food. The groom’s family may also bring some food.
- There is no written rule that encourages both sides to present gifts. In practice, however, this often happens. Sometimes, the groom’s family brings gifts.
- In the past, the location of the pamamanhikan frequently took place at the woman’s home. But plans can change, especially if the bride-to-be’s home is too small to accommodate guests. During such cases, the couple hosts the meeting in a restaurant with a private room. This allows for a quieter environment for discussion.
Do We Still Need Pamamanhikan Today?
Short answer: yes. The long one: it’s up to you.
Pamamanhikan is not a requirement to tie the knot, but it’s a tradition that demonstrates the respectful nature of the man and echoes the values of the Filipino family. No matter how modern the world has become, there is still beauty in honoring family traditions. The best feeling in the world is knowing you have your family’s support and love as you enter another chapter in your life.
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