3 generations of Family

Filipino Dating: Pamalae-Filipino Way of “Meeting the Parents”

Filipino Dating Culture: Pamalae-Filipino Way of “Meeting the Parents”

The Philippines has one very unique aspect of culture when it comes to relationships and dating.

Filipino dating culture may be in sync with the rest of humanity in the beginning stages of dating and courtship only perhaps a little more conservative. But there is one thing that sets them apart that’s called ‘PAMALAE’. Anyway, before we get to that, here’s an idea how dating, courtship works up until marriage.

Like any other courtship, everything starts with meeting someone right? In the Philippines, the normal case is a ‘friend of a friend’ or colleagues at work or at school, a neighbour- someone they see on a regular basis. Once some interest is established, the next stop would be the asking of the Phone number. This is obviously done by the man and then we are off to the 2nd stage.

Filipino dating culture strongly revolves around the cell phone-calling and texting the one you are interested in multiple times a day is a must. Early in the courtship, good morning messages and the like are sent throughout the day. In my opinion, this is a way of them to say ‘hey, I’m interested you can’t you see’.

Then finally, is the girlfriend/boyfriend stage. The interesting thing is there are so many ways for the guy and girl to enter into a relationship. Option one being the formal ‘would you be my girlfriend’. Option two is the ‘assumptive’ approach where both somehow ‘know’ they are in a relationship without any words. And then option three is the ‘may as well be in a relationship’ where either girl or boy simply points out that they are as good as ‘girl/boy friends’ so why not?

Now as things get serious, the guy would want to introduce his girl to the parents and likewise with the girl. According to Filipino dating protocol, it is expected that the two hang out at either homes and spend time with the family. This I find to the core of Filipino family values. As early as this, parents and family members on both sides are aware of the relationship and hopefully ‘approve’ of it.

Finally, we get to the interesting part-engagement. I know in most cultures, one of a man’s worse nightmares is the proposal and the fear of rejection. Well, in Filipino dating culture, this should be least of your concerns. This is where we talk about ‘pamalae’.

Basically, this is where the man asks for the woman’s hand in marriage. Asks who? No, not just the father like you would expect but it is very serious and important family affair. How does it work? First of all, the man brings along all his close family members and maybe even friends the venue being the girls’ residence. And present also is the girl’s family and friends.

The whole purpose of the event is to talk about your plans as a couple including wedding venue, and the general future of the relationship. It can be very nerve racking as they both sit there and ‘defend their love’. This is also the chance anyone who has something ‘against’ their decision to get married has to speak up and try to ‘convince’ the couple to postpone the wedding. (Talk about being on the hot seat)

Food and drinks are also part of the solemn event and family and friends spend this last meal with their loved ones who are about to enter a different stage in life.

There are so many wonderful cultures in the world when it comes to dating but personally, this pamalae is one of a kind. There is no dowry involved, no scary ritual- it’s the epitome of what true family relationships ought to be like. It is one of the traditions I so much admire.

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  1. Kevin,

    I’m headed back to the Philippines this Friday to meet for the 2nd time, a
    girl I met in a bar in the red light district of Manila this past November.
    She is very cool, beautiful, outgoing, gregarious.

    Ive only been chatting with her online for 2 weeks, but I have met a LOT
    of her friends online via WhatsApp video chat.

    This weekend I will be meeting face to face for hte first time, all of these people.

    Any tips? Presents for parents? Kids? I”m already bringing a laptop and power bank for her, a basketball and sneakers for her son, and some old shoes that were requested by a friend of hers.

    Thanks for a great post.

    1. Hey Doug,

      Wow, hope you have a great time. Enjoy the culture, the food, the sights, and your friends while you are there.
      Any tips? Well, just keep an open mind and have fun. go sightseeing.
      As for Pasalubong (gifts) if her son is of the correct age perhaps some hot wheels would be nice? Make-up/cosmetics,
      perfume, lotion (if you have a bath and body works type store near-by – it is perfect) for the girlfriend(s). Purses are nice (like Nine West/ Tommy Hilfiger you can pick up at discount stores inexpensively).
      For the parents? Hmm.. cash would probably be appreciated. Maybe you can offer to get house items while you are there. Men often like a bottle of local booze.

      I am sure anything you bring will be appreciated and accepted with joy.

      Have a great time!


  2. I have a girlfriend who is half American and half Filipina. She was born and raised in the Phillippines and then came to the US. She spent from birth to about 20 in the Phillippines and the rest in the states, but recently moved back to the Phillippines. Based on our conversations, about five months worth, she seems to be a lot more Filipino than American.

    She is coming to California to meet me in person (we have never met. Only talked and video chat) and will be meeting my family. She says that after that, she cannot stay with me until I go back to the Phillipines and meet her mom to formally ask for her permission for her daughter to come back to the United States. She said it is a formality, and part of the Filipino culture/tradition of dating and courtship.

    Does this sound like something a traditional Filipina would do? I like this woman a lot, I mean a lot, and I want to do the right thing. However, well….I’m kind of nervous…your help would be appreciated.

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