Filipino Debuts, Cotillions and Mantillions


If The Daughter is anything, she definitely is NOT subtle. What’s a cotillion, also known as a debut? For Filipinos, it’s a  coming out party for girls, similar to a quinceanera but for eighteen year old girls. These affairs can be extremely elaborate, with choreographed dances, a big reception, formal wear and relatives coming from long distances.  They can cost as much as a wedding. Gene Cajayon made one of my favorite Asian-American movies called The Debut about the events during the day of one such cotillion. But in this article from the San Francisco Chronicle, Cajayon says he is not a fan of the debut as held in the US:

“It comes from the Spanish Eurocentric point of view and there sometimes isn’t anything indigenously Filipino in the ball.”

He also adds that Filipino-American parents are sometimes pressured into having them even if they can’t afford them.

This dad in particular rejects the idea of a debut as I think about impending college costs, but The Daughter will say things like “I’m your only daughter!” or “D. is having one and her family doesn’t have a lot of money.” I’m not sure where she got this idea of a debut in her head as she has never been to one, but it’s probably a combination of going to her classmates’ quinceaneras and the pernicious influence of MTV’s My Supersweet 16 (how I hate that show!)  I’m curious, do other Asian cultures have these kind of events?

Something new to me is a Mantillion: the male equivalent of a debut or a cotillion for the more metrosexual kind of Filipino guy. With any luck, Number One Son and Number Two Son won’t get any ideas.

(Flickr photo credit: ‘El Photo)

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About Jeff

Jeff lives in Silicon Valley, and attempts to juggle marriage, fatherhood, computer systems research, running, and writing.
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