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Should You Still Do the Pamanhikan?

Here's how you can setup your family's formal meet and greet

By Marielle Ong

Our culture has always been known for being deeply family-oriented. Even in the quest to start a new family, we put a lot of effort into making it an inclusive experience for all our loved ones. As soon as the question is popped, some version of a pamanhikan automatically becomes part of the soon-to-weds’ schedule, whether or not you consider it a formal affair. But in these changing times where each generation becomes more assertive of personal independence and gender equality, is there still a place for this practice? Let’s explore the evolution of the pamanhikan.

The Tradition

I’ve seen my fair share of 80’s and 90’s movies that featured the practice in all its romanticized glory. And, yes, it does look a little something like that. Once the besotted couple’s courtship is ready to progress to the next level, the sweethearts get engaged (either verbally or with an engagement ring). Then they plan the pamanhikan. The bride-to-be’s family prepares their home (and their kitchen) for the future groom and his family. In turn, the man and his side of the family arrive at his love’s home bearing gifts, typically of the edible nature.

Family members are introduced, and the couple announces their intention to enter marriage and how they have planned to go about it. With both parents’ blessings, conditions, and advice, the discussion turns to the nitty gritty of the wedding and family life planning. All this happens through the course of a meal. The practice basically serves as a formal introduction and it gets the ball rolling on plotting out the big day’s major details. There’s also the matter of asking for permission to tie the knot.

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The Meaning

Originally, the pamanhikan stemmed from a sense of filial piety. It was a sign of respect to get the blessings of both families in order to move forward with the marriage as planned. This often involved the man discussing with his future in-laws his plans on how to provide for his future family. But this was also a time when gender roles were more strictly defined. There was a clear expectation for the man to provide for his wife, and for the wife to manage the affairs of the household. Couples were generally younger in age and were legally required to get their parents to sign off on their plans.

These days, it’s more of a dual-income household agreement that can be expected from the engaged pair. A dating couple can already arrange casual get-togethers that involve both families, even without the context of an impending engagement. Couples often choose to wed well after their 21st birthdays have passed, so their parents technically don’t even have to be present at the wedding for it to proceed.

Needless to say, the purpose of the modern day pamanhikan has shifted over the years. It now focuses on the families bonding and being on the same page with the wedding planning. And that’s no small feat, considering how a disagreement in wedding details amongst the future in-laws can significantly affect the couple’s budget (and sanity).

The Modern Twist

Enter today’s version of the pamanhikan. It is now quite common to see newly engaged couples hosting the gathering themselves. Where it was once the SOP to have a nighttime event, the pamanhikan can now be a lunch, dinner, or merienda meeting. For the sake of convenience and practicality, a restaurant usually serves as the perfect venue for everyone to get familiar minus the effort of preparing a meal. Of course, both parties can still bring food for everyone to share. It’s an appreciated gesture, but not strictly required. If the families haven’t met previously, it can still be a little awkward. But at least the casual setup and neutral grounds might help ease the tension.

Should a home visit be agreed-upon, then perhaps getting a caterer or ordering food will still keep the meeting a hassle-free event. Now that dining out is not well-advised, holding the pamanhikan at home might be a better option. There’s also the option of doing one virtually, in order to follow safety protocols and in the event that some immediate family members are part of the vulnerable. Your best bet might be to order food trays have them delivered to both homes.

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The Verdict

With the new interpretation of the pamanhikan being put into practice, there seems to be no harm in arranging an informal get-together of the families—if only to figure out who’s who before the big day. It might also be wise to bring together both families soon after the engagement even just to celebrate privately, as the wedding will most likely be the first of many occasions in the future newlywed’s life where both families will be present at the same time.

It’s also helpful to sit down with both families separately to get their perspectives on wedding traditions, in case one party or another is on the conservative side and expects there to be a pamanhikan. That way, expectations can be managed. Ultimately, as with any other wedding tradition, it is at the discretion of the engaged couple if they find it plausible or practical.

Would you still plan a pamanhikan? Share this article with a couple planning their pamanhikan!