Metro Manila · Birthday celebrations in the Philippines
Filipinos love big festivities with family, friends, and neighbors, so children's birthdays are always a good opportunity to throw a party. There are a couple of birthdays that are particularly important: the 1st, the 7th, and – for girls - the 18th birthday. Here is our Megacitizens guide on how a proper celebration should look like.
The first birthday of a baby is already quite a big-style party. The birthday child may perhaps not care too much about all the people in the house, but for friends and relatives it is a nice occasion to gather and celebrate the healthy development of the baby in the first twelve months. To ensure a long life of your infant, serve long Pancit noodles on the birthday party and do not cut your infant's hair before this day!
In the Philippines, the seventh birthday is often a grand celebration with dozens of guest. If the house or apartment is too small, parents typically rent the function room of their condominium tower or subdivision or they reserve space in the nearest (fast food) restaurant. Many restos and catering companies offer themed "7th birthday party packages" - just inquire with your favorite restaurant!
Special activities like face painting, magicians, and balloon twisting are standard on these kiddie parties. The cake should be big, colorful, and preferably feature the latest cartoon hero of your child. Birthday girls are typically made-up like little princesses, with a tiara and a voluminous dress.
The reason for the high significance of the seventh birthday in the Philippines is not quite clear. However, seven is the age when kids have just entered elementary school, so it somehow symbolizes the threshold from infant to the more grown-up (school-) child.
18th birthday ('debut')
Even though both girls and boys enter legal age when they turn 18 in the Philippines, this birthday is only a big deal for women. They have their debut, a large coming-of-age celebration. The traditional debut is very ritualized: The debutante has a hand-picked entourage of 18 individuals with which she performs traditional dances, speeches are held, and symbolic items such as 18 flowers and 18 candles play an important role as well.
Young Filipino men have their debut only on their 21st birthday, but with hardly any formal celebration.
One word of advice that applies to all birthdays and other celebrations
Gifts are usually only opened when the guests have left already. That way, nobody gets embarrassed if they could only afford a small gift, and nobody has to fake it if they don't like a gift.