Cultural Exploration: Filipino Debuts

Here is an inside look into mine.


Filipino debuts celebrate a girl’s eighteenth birthday. I had mine recently, which ended all too quickly. Writing this article is my way of reliving it.

Anastasia Gobot, Opinions Editor

For many Filipino girls, turning eighteen and having a debut is a life-long dream. Like quinceañeras and sweet sixteens, debuts are a grand celebration of a young lady’s passage from childhood to womanhood. Here is a look into mine.

Event #1: The Welcoming of Guests

I solidified my theme the day I turned seventeen. I wanted my debut to look like a Secret Garden because it made sense for me to have a spring-type of theme. Guests entered and found their seats, not before receiving a key hung on a moss-covered board paired with their name on a piece of parchment and a personalized note from me.

Event #2: The Grand Entrance of the Debutante

I waited in the green room until my emcees, who I have been friends with since we were children, announced my entrance. I walked into the large room to “Thunderstruck” by AC/DC with my little brothers escorting me. We agreed earlier in the day for them to play the air guitar.

Event #3: The Prayer

Most Filipinos are Christian due to Spanish colonization. Because my parents have many Filipino friends, more than half of my guests were Filipino. It was natural for us to start with a prayer, which my godfather led. He prayed for me and the food.

Event #4: Dinner and Entertainment

There was rice, stir-fried vegetables, beef brisket, cordon bleu, pasta alla puttanesca, and Filipino spaghetti. We served lechon too, a suckling pig roasted whole and a staple at many major Filipino celebrations. While the stereotype that all Filipinos can sing isn’t true, I would be lying if I said that most of them can’t. My Filipino friends volunteered to perform for entertainment and did not disappoint. A few of them played piano, guitar, bass, and drums.

Event #5: The Cotillion de Honor

A cotillion is a formal dance performed by the debutante and 17 of her friends, nine being guys and eight being girls. Traditionally, the cotillion is a waltz, but my friend and I decided to mix it up with a mash-up of pop songs. She and I choreographed the dance months prior, and members of the cotillion practiced every weekend leading up to the debut.

Event #6: The 18 Roses

This ceremony is performed with the 18 guys closest to the debutante, who each dance with her and give her a rose as an act of affection. It’s a cheesy tradition, so I asked my friends and brothers what song they wanted to dance to to alleviate the awkwardness. Ultimately, I got a mix of Ice Spice and TikTok trends. I also danced with my dad, which was fun because we decided to do a surprise performance of Far East Movement’s “Like a G6.”

Event #7: The 18 Candles

This ceremony is done with 18 girls closest to the debutante, and each comes up to her with a candle to share a message or wish for her. It’s often a tear-jerker at debuts, and mine was not an exception. After all the candles were lit, guests sang “Happy Birthday,” and I blew the candles out.

Event #8: The Debutante Speech

In the end, I gave a thank you speech and a little performance singing “I Wish You Love” by my favorite artist, Laufey.

Event #9: Dancing

It isn’t a Filipino party without line dances involved. We taught the steps to “Todo, Todo, Todo” by Daniela Romo, “September” by Earth, Wind & Fire, and much more to those unfamiliar. We ended the night with sore feet and wide smiles.