Traditional Ways of Meranao Courtship
TRADITIONAL WAYS OF MERANAO COURTSHIP Introduction: Marriage in Meranao society is not just a simple romantic one-to-one relationship between boy and girl; rather, it is a fusion by defiant ties of two families seeking to establish socioeconomic and political relations with one another. I. Courtship A.
Selecting a mate B. Courtship prior to marriage C. Manifesting the intent for marriage D. Deliberation of the proposal E. The engagement period
F. Training to assume rights and duties INTRODUCTION Marriage in Meranao society is not just a simple romantic one-to-one relationship between boy and girl; rather, it is a fusion by affiant ties of two families seeking to establish socioeconomic and political relations with one another. Traditional marriage has therefore always been contracted through parents, although the practice is slowly becoming modified to conform to the times.
It is, therefore, clear why the reckoning of the salsila genealogical record, occupies a significant niche in the Meranao mind. In fact, in considering marriage, what the pananalsila ‘salsila expert’ says or reveals about the lineage of the parties concerned can become crucial in the decision to proceed with the marriage or not. It is part of one’s group consciousness or pride (maratabat) to see the individual’s marriage establishes strong family relations.
The study will only focus to the traditional ways of courtship and marriage of Maranao and on how courtship and marriage happen. The objective of this study was to know more about the traditional ways of courtship and marriage of Maranao man and woman because the time is now escalating the western influences and it causes forgetfulness of Maranao culture. The study was made possible to the internet websites, books, magazines, and news. I. Courtship A.
Selecting a mate The Meranao courtship may start either prior to or after marriage. There are proofs to show the existence of courtship prior to marriage. There are a number of cases in which the couple does not see each other until their wedding day because their selection of a partner is usually undertaken by parents, kin, or the community. In some cases, children may be betrothed as infants or promises may be made between families regarding children still unborn.
Even children who are allowed to confide to their parents their wish to marry, because of personal attraction, is subject to the decision of the parents or kindred. Arranged marriage is prevalent in Meranao society because of family social and economic factors which are given prime importance, that is, marriage is seen as an institution establishing a union between two families. It is a bond uniting two families in which the sharing of problems and happiness is the major consideration.
Thus children to be “married off” are always told the practical reasons for the union such as: the other family can give you happiness, or can bring up; it has many members who help one another, who do not bother their in-laws, who belong to the royal blood; the intended spouses will be a good wife or a husband, responsible one, and many others. These social and economic considerations subordinate the romantic factors in marriage, although the latter is not totally ignored. The marriageable children have themselves no much choice in the marriage.
Meranao parents who “marry off” their children usually do not ask for their approval. The prospective spouse is usually chosen first from among the relatives. If no relative qualifies the search movies on to the neighborhood and if there is no one there either continues on to other people elsewhere. Meranao do not like their children to marry non-Meranao women, but especially non-Meranao men. Deviats of this norm have been made almost outcasts of the society. Consciousness of kind is very strong among Meranao.
Because of the practice of arranged marriage, actual courtship of the individual bride herself may continue or begin after the wedding ceremony. This is the boy’s task, with his parents and in-laws acting as the pressure group for the girl’s acceptance of the marriage. The mechanism or procedure is not established, as it is based on individual personal ability or patience. B. Courtship prior to marriage Courtship prior to marriage is given importance in Meranao society. It is highly regulated, which practically makes it a very delicate task to handle.
There are norms that must be followed. Violation of these norms brings violence in the community. As already stated, courtship is either an individual or group endeavor. As an individual work, it is expected of a man not of the woman and, traditionally, the act is not primarily directed at the latter herself. It is may be directed at her guardians, kin or any other influential person who has the say in the conduct of her marriage. If ever it is directed at the girl, her influential kin must not be disregarded or the boy will meet obstacles when his marriage is proposed.
In the rural areas, it is usually done at a nocturnal visit in the house of the girl, in a gathering, or in the working place. The boy must behave in the most acceptable manner without showing any aggressiveness to the girl. When he comes up in the house, he is not entertained by the girl but any old folk in the house, particularly the girl’s mother. He may be served cigarettes or a betel quid or, nowadays, a snack. This encounter is usually characterized by a display of skills in pananaroon or tobad-to-bad (short poetic love poem in classical Meranao language) by both parties.
In most instances, this tobad-to-tobad triggers the boy’s emotion to propose marriage by requesting or confiding to his parents or to his close relatives about his wish to be married off. It may also scare him so that he will disappear from the house especially if he finds the situation not suitable. In the past aside from the vocal renditions, musical instruments have been employed to convey the sentiment of the both parties. In this case, the boy and the girl enjoyed themselves but they were left alone since the activity was a group endeavor. The girl had her company; so had the boy.
Her parents would even participate. The musical instruments were either the insi (bamboo flute) or a three-string guitar called kotiyapi or the musical activity could have been a kalilang (playing of musical instruments composed of two big gongs, 7 small graduated gongs and a drum). A boy may also express his love by sending a kirim (highly poetic love letter) to the girl. This kirim, however, is not kept confidential. The girl shows it to her companions, to her mother or to other old folks, not only because there is pride in having received it but also to solicit opinions on how to handle it.
Aside from nocturnal visit, a boy can also court in any appropriate gatherings, as in a kanggawi or a vigil or in group games by boys and girls; or in a kalilang, where boys and girls exhibit their expertise (a practice inhibited since Martial Law). C. Manifesting the intent for marriage When the parents like to marry off their son, they usually look for a go-between to do preliminary negation, called the kapangakap o kapanokatokay (literally, “knowing”). This go-between talks secretly to the parents of the girl regarding the intent.
As go-between, he may be frankly told by the parents of the girl not to pursue the intent in some reasons, or he may be made to feel their openness to the proposal. Whatever may be the result, the go-between conveys it to the parents of the boy in euphemistic language. If the result of his preliminary talk is negative, he does not openly tell the parents of the boy so, in order to avoid embarrassment. He finds other reasons to explain why their intent is not viable. But if the result has been a positive, he tells to pursue their intent.
Thus the next move of the parents and kin of the boy, accompanied by the go-between, is to visit the girl’s parents. In this visit, they may not mention anything about their intent, or formally propose the marriage of their son. This procedure is called kapangilaylay (citing). In opening the proposal, the spokesman of the boy’s parents, usually the go-between, states their intent by saying: “We come here because of our intent to let [mentioning the name of the boy] live with you, if you do not mind. ” Later, he states the betang they can afford.
He does not say it explicitly in plain language but expresses it as a lot (potluck) of the boy. The girl’s parents or their representative makes a response, which is neither acceptance nor refusal, but a deferment of their decision on the matter. The delay may be days, weeks or months, depending upon the time they need to convene their relatives who will decide the matter. But, before they make the response, they claim the kawasa tig or diyalaga. This is an amount ranging from P100 and up for the opening of the discussion for marriage; some say it is a token of honor to the bangsa (descent) of the girl.
But actually, the amount is used to defray expenses incurred during the discussion of the marriage proposal. D. Deliberation of the proposal and the taalik After the girl’s side has decided on the betang, it conveys the decision to boy’s side, or both parties come on a set date to formally deliberate on the matter. If they meet on cetain date to deliberate on it, both parties bring their maongangen (a person who has wisdom in public speaking). In this open meeting, both parties display their poetic and oratorical skills.
The girl’s side formally states its response to the proposal. The boy’s side may ask for postponement in order to study some point in question, say the betang, or bargain secretly if there has been no prior bargaining made. Usually, however, they readily accept the response of the girl’s party. This smooth agreement in the open is made possible because there usually has been already a previous underground negotiation and agreement made with the go-between before the formal opening of the public ceremony.
Everybody knows that what is publicly displayed has been already privately agreed upon. When both parties have agreed on the betang, the taalik is set. It is usually chosen by the boy’s side with the consent of the girl’s kin. It is may be several days, months or years hence, depending upon the capabilities of the boy to put up the demanded betang and/ or the maturity of prospective bride and groom in the case of children marriages. When the taalik comes and the boy’s parents wish to move it for some reasons, they may ask for postponement.
They are allowed postponement three times but for each one, they are required to put up part of the betang to make sure they do not back out of the agreement.. The interim before the taalik is time for both parties to observe one another’s characters, and the boy and his parents’ opportunity to prove their best to their prospective in-laws so that when the wedding comes, they may be able to reduce the betang if they connot completely put it up. It is also time for them to pool together resources to meet the betang, that is, to collect the expected share of every relative in the betang no matter how poor the may be.
If the boy’s side fails to put up the betang on the final date, the marriage proposal is annulled, especially if the girl’s parents do not give it any further chance. If this happens all the expenditures of the boy’s side are forfeited. On the other hand, if the girl’s side rejects the proposal before the taalik has came it shall refund all the expenses of the boy and pay a fine imposed for the breach of contract, unless there is a grave offense committed against the girl of the family honor and integrity, such as oral defamation, slander or some other insult.
The fine shall be determined by the taritib and igma or by amicable settlement by the go-between through the kokoman a kambatabataa. E. The engagement period While waiting for the taalik to come, many things are expected to happen. The relatives of the boy may perform the kapaniwaka or siwaka. This is a gift-giving of raw food by the parents of the boy to the parents of the girl. In the past, it is composed mainly of betel nut and leaves, lime, tobacco (or imbama) and other items in bundles or sacks. Kapaniwaka is believed to be determinant of status of both parties.
It carries with it prestige: the greater the items given, the higher is the prestige of the giver and receiver. Kapaniwaka actually is a courtship mechanism designed to win the love of the girl and her kin. Aside from the kapaniwaka, the boy may start eating with girl, a ceremonial act and status called kaatoang. The prospective bride and groom eat from a brass tray (tabak); in the urban area a table is used. During first meal together, chaperons accompany them. After sometime, the two are left alone at the meal, but they are always under watch secretly by the people in the house.
This situation makes the boy extra careful in his dealing with his sweetheart. Before the boy can eat with the girl, however, a leka sa dulang (literally, opening of the food on the tray) is asked of him by the guardians of the girl. This is an amount which varies from one place to another and the family of the girl. It ranges, however, from P100 to a few thousands. In the past the claim is isa tao (literally, one person) or one person which can be substituted in cash (paras). F. Training to assume rights and duties
When the proposal for marriage is accepted, rights and duties of both parties defined by the tradition take effect. Neither of them can back out the agreement, otherwise a fine shall be imposed on the violator without a substantial ground. The boy has the right to sleep in the house of the girl and show his best behavior to the girl and her parents, not only to win their love (so that if there is a little difference in the betang he can bargain for it), but also as a kind of training for him be treated with even more difference than one’s own parents.
During the boy’s first night in the house, he is given the best available malong (circular blanket with openings at both ends) as his souvenir which he uses during the engagement period and keeps for himself. The gesture symbolizes honor and welcome. The boy’s permission must be sought when the girl goes out to attend some gathering or to some important business. He is expected to accompany her not only to ensure her safety but to provide for her financial expenses, if any.
If the girl is attending a social gathering like kalilang, he must go with her, because if she plays the kolintang he is expected to accompany her on the agong, otherwise he will be demeaned if some other boy plays the accompaniment. This practice appears to have died out since the Martial Law period. The girl’s failure to seek the permission of the prospective husband can be a ground for breaking the proposal, or else the parents of the girl are fined a certain amount (sala) to be negotiated by the go-between or to be determined by the datu in the community, in accordance with the taritib and igma.
This practice is not strongly adhered to in recent time especially in the City. The boy may help this prospective parents-in-law in their work. This is highly recommended in order that he would gain their esteem and appreciation. He is also expected to provide some assistance in the form of foodstuff, like rice or money. If the girl smokes, he has to bring her cigarettes.