A 1931 Anthropology paper entitled “Customary Laws in Calaca, Batangas1,” written by one Marcela Endaya, presumably a native of the town, offers a cultural glimpse into life in the province almost a century ago. The paper is part of the Henry Otley-Beyer Collection of the National Library of the Philippines Digital Collections.
A few of the customs listed by Endaya ought to be familiar to many readers because these are still observed by many Batangueño families even in the present day. The rest, however, will provide some novelty and even seem quirky by today’s standards of behavior.
The customs were written well enough to cite verbatim in this article, with my annotations in brackets [ x ] whenever I feel them necessary.
|Image credit: The Luther Parker Collection of the National Library of the Philippines Digital Collections.
A man or woman is not supposed to marry a near relative especially a first cousin. [This practice is called “cousin marriage” and customs vary from culture to culture. There is a scientific rationale behind this because offspring of such marriages “may have increased risk of genetic disorders2.” In the present day, Philippine Law considers void marriages between blood relatives up to the fourth degree.]
|Cousin marriages were a no-no, particularly between first cousins. Image credit: DIY Wedding Favor Tags.
An engaged lady is supposed to be reserved and inattentive to other young men. It is also expected that she should be engaged but once. [What Endaya probably meant was that a lady was not expected to break off an engagement to be married.]
Widows and widowers
Widows or widowers ought not to marry immediately after the death of their husbands or wives. The length of time expected of them to remain single is one year after which time they may marry or not. [I believe this custom is still generally observed up to the present day.]
After the wedding feast
After a wedding feast, the bride was supposed to stay at the groom’s house for three or more days after which time she could go home to her parents. [In a 1916 paper3 about marriage customs in San Jose, Remedios Q. Kalalo noted that the groom was also expected to stay overnight at the bride’s home after the wedding.]
Marriages in the family
Two members of a family like a brother and a sister may not marry within the same year. [I have personally heard of similar superstitions saying to have two weddings in a year within a family brought bad luck; but my guess is that this custom had a more practical reason. Weddings, even in the present day, can after all be very expensive affairs.]
A prisoner in her home
When a girl is married, she should confine herself to the home. She should not take active part in society. [I have not seen anything similar in the marriage customs of other towns in Batangas in other Anthropology papers in the Henry Otley-Beyer Collection, so this must be local to Calaca. It does sound a tad harsh, practically rendering a bride prisoner in her own home.]
|Once married, a woman was expected to stay in her home. Image credit: The Luther Parker Collection of the National Library of the Philippines Digital Collections.
Canes and mustaches
Carrying a cane or wearing a mustache is the privilege of the educated and the wealthy only. [The carrying of a cane was probably copied from European gentry4; but it is a tad more difficult to establish the connection between the mustache and education or social class.]
The color black
Colored stockings could not be used when wearing black dresses or black ones when wearing white shoes.
One is supposed to wear black in case of the death of a relative as a sign of sorrow or sympathy with the bereaved family. [By no means unique to Calaca, wearing black to indicate that one is in a period of mourning is customary to many cultures around the world5.]
Girls below thirteen years were not expected to wear topknots especially when going to parties. They should wear the queue. [The topknot hairstyle is tying the hair on top of the head so that it looks like a bun. What Endaya probably meant by “queue” was tying the hair into a single braid.]
|Young girls were not allowed to wear their hair in a topknot (above). Image credit: Hairstylesexpo.com.
The neighbors’ help
When a feast is to be held inside a house, the neighbors were supposed to help in the preparation of the food and in the arrangement of the house. They were also expected to give something like chicken eggs and other things that could be used during the feast. [This is something that is still observed even in the present day, and particularly so in rural communities.]
Another beautiful custom which showed Filipino hospitality was the practice of giving to the occasional visitor, foreigner or not, the best that the home had: the fattest chicken for dinner, the cleanest blanket, the softest mat, the cleanest glass – everything that was best. [Another thing not unique to Calaca. My mother kept all the imported stuff in one cabinet and these were brought out only when there were important visitors. We had to make do with the cheap stuff.]
Notes and references:1 “Customary Laws in Calaca, Batangas,” by Marcela Endaya, 1931, online at the National Library of the Philippines’ Henry Otley-Beyer Collection.
2 “Cousin Marriage,” Wikipedia.
3 “Marriage Customs in Batangas,” by Remedios Q. Kalalo, published in 1916 and is part of the H Otley Beyer Collection of the National Library of the Philippines Digital Collections.
4 “How and where to wear a cane,” published 2008, online at Gentry Style.
5 “Mourning,” Wikipedia.