By Ana Maria Villanueva-Lykes
Back in the day, women hid their smiles behind lace fans. Today, girls hide behind profile pictures doctored by Photoshop. There was a time when men would agonize to hear the “matamis na oo.” Today, guys will celebrate a mere “K”. After all, a “K” can mean “Ok, I will go out with you.” And this single character can eventually lead to “I do”. How the Filipino love language has been reduced to a letter is a love story in itself.
Although Filipino courtship has greatly evolved since the days of Maria Clara, how women are regarded has always been a constant. Filipinas are mostly considered as the homemaker, but they are highly revered and treated like queens. And they see this treatment with indifference knowing that they are entitled to this kind of worship.
Filipinas cannot let on about their feelings. They are expected to be coy and pakipot. It would be scandalous of her to show any interest, much more to make the first move. But even before any move is made, permission first needs to be obtained.
Courting the parents
It is customary for the gentleman to request approval from the lady’s parents. In fact, back then, when one tries to win the affection of his love, he is really trying to win the heart of the family. Often, this takes years – months of cutting wood for the family, days of following her around like a dog even though she pretends that she doesn’t see him, and hours of professions of passion through the harana.
When a man endeavors to serenade his object of desire, he is aware of the risks, mostly involving a pot full of piss thrown at him. A persistent admirer will take it as a sign to come back another day, to finetune his guitar or perhaps his voice. A shine of hope comes from a light lit in the window. Darkness means despair.
The Filipino mating ritual, like a ridiculous dance of hide-and-seek, showcases the Filipino’s dogged, and at times almost shameless, determination and the Filipina’s cruelty. Even though her coyness can be endearing, it is a manipulation of her admirer’s feelings. But in spite of the indifference, he must carry on. Tampo is an invitation for the man to appease and please even when met with a cold shoulder. If he misses the sign of a “tse”, then he may have completely lost his chance.
The torpe is empowered
Fast forward to a few decades, the permission now comes from the woman itself. Even today, some men will ask the girl, “Pwede ba kita ligawan?” Absurd as it seem, it is a practical approach, because a “no” will save the man from the effort of having to start the long and tedious dance.
Often times, the barkada is also part of the mating ritual amongst young adults. A guy who chooses to sit beside a girl for no reason at all can fall prey to the tuksuhan. An “uuuy” can either elicit vehement reactions or cause one or both to look at the other differently. The girl blushes and the boy laughs to appear cool. Other times they engage in harutan and before long they are HHWW (holding hands while walking). If the teasing doesn’t do it, the tulay bridges the gap.
Today, technology acts as man’s best friend. With the internet, even the torpe is empowered. Suddenly, the mahinhin makes the first move with a “poke”. Online, searchers, admirers, and stalkers alike are afforded some anonymity. While in the past they wait for a glimpse of her on her way to church, veiled under lace and false mystery, today devotees can ogle care of Google. The computer screen becomes the altar.
No more cold stares
Suitors no longer have to suffer a cold stare or a cringe. An unanswered email or a silent phone is easier to swallow. If they are basted or rejected, tears remain unseen. Nothing lost but the hours spent at the internet café or the countless text messages sent. After all, a “miss kita” still costs a peso. Unless of course one is registered in “unli-text” and when one is courting, he better be. Because nowadays, K begins with SMS. When a girl gives her number, it’s almost synonymous to “K, pwede ka manligaw.” But if a masculine voice picks up on the other end instead, then one should take a hint: she didn’t give the wrong number by mistake.
Those who had NBS (no boyfriend since birth) can now change their status to “in a relationship”. Never mind that they’ve never met when every night they exchange <3s and virtual hugs that feel so much better in the imagination than in real life.
Back then, if one is less than attractive, he wouldn’t stand a chance to show his beautiful personality. Today, a little a little vintage effect on the picture can render one “like”-able on Facebook. And hours of chatting later, the beauty within outshines the pango nose.
Dating sites have never really taken off in the Philippines. The average Filipino cannot afford the $30 monthly fees. Love comes without a cost in free social media sites.
Like many inter- racial marriages, Aileen met her husband online. She saw his name on an ICQ chat room. ICQ is the first Internet-wide instant messaging service that brought people together before the pokes and the tweets began. She had thought his name was interesting with “Hayo” meaning “nickname” in her Visayan dialect. This urged her to say hi. Outside cyberspace, she wouldn’t have dared to even look her crush in the eyes. Soon constant chats turned emoticons into real emotions, bridging distance and cultures. Today, they are happily married with two kids.
Others go online not only to find love but also in search of a better life. The internet becomes a vast ocean where a rich foreigner can fish for a Filipina in distress. Maya is a single mother and has found herself an American to finance her’s and her son’s education. Unfortunately for her, the courting didn’t last till graduation. No problem. All she had to do was go online again and before long, she found herself a papa-san. Mr. Korimoto does not chop wood for Maya and her son, but he would make sure his Yen would see her march come graduation and maybe eventually down the aisle.