[In this article: Batangas Province, Taysan Batangas, marriage customs Batangas, sabugan custom, dapitan custom, bigay kaya custom]
In studying the antiquated courtship and marriage customs and beliefs of the different towns and cities of the Province of Batangas, one can either be struck by how familiar they sound even in contemporary times or how totally peculiar they seem. Customs and traditions that were said to be observed in one town might also be mentioned with slight variations in others. That said, there were others that have become totally forgotten in the context of contemporary times and, therefore, seem unusual.
The same may be said of the old courtship and marriage traditions in the small municipality of Taysan. From the so-called “historical data1” of the town1, we obtain olden traditions about courtship and marriage that used to be observed by inhabitants of the town. Most will sound familiar to regular readers of Batangas History; but there will be others, like the “sabugan” (literally, scattering) wedding tradition, that will be somewhat different from those observed in other towns2.
In Taysan in the olden days, any man who was smitten with a woman did not go and try to woo her immediately as one would expect in the present day. Instead, he first talked to his own parents who, in turn, would talk to the parents of the woman. If the woman’s parents had no objections, he would be expected to go to the woman’s home every day “to do all the man’s work3.”
Essentially, he was wooing the parents rather than the woman with whom he was smitten. He was allowed to see her – which was inevitable since he stayed for all intents and purposes in her household – but was not allowed to talk to her. This stage of the courtship was locally called the “serbe,” probably adopted from the Spanish “servir” or to serve; or in Tagalog, “silbi.” This arrangement went on “for almost a year.”
THE BRIDE PRICE
When both the woman and her parents found the suitor acceptable, before they could be married, both sets of parents sat down to discuss the “bigay kaya” or the “amount of dowry that the bridegroom should give to the young woman’s parents.” This custom of the groom paying an expected amount to the parents of the woman was also observed in other towns of Batangas and probably other provinces as well.
It has to be pointed out that the author’s use of the word dowry was erroneous, dowry technically being the “wealth transferred from the bride’s family to the groom or his family4.” The “bigay kaya” custom was, to be more precise, called the bride price or property, money or gifts which went the opposite direction5.
In Taysan in the olden days, or so the source document said, the wedding could be simple or elaborate, depending on whether the families were “poor” or “well-to-do.” It was “usually performed in the bridegroom’s house.” This is a curious claim because according to the historian Manuel Sastron, Taysan had a church and a priest from the Order of the Recollects late in the 19th century6.
Presumably if the families of the bride and groom were well-to-do, the wedding was accompanied by feasts. There were singing and dancing. Among the highlights of the day, however, was a custom called the “sabugan,” which the author described as
“The bride and groom were seated by a table with things to sell, very often ‘kalamay’ (a native cake made of glutinous rice), suman (a rice cake wrapped in banana leaf), cigars and bread. All friends and relatives of both bridegroom and bride bought anything they liked. What was very funny was that the things sold were very dear (i.e., expensive). It was just a sure way to get money for the couple. Oftentimes, it (i.e. the sales) reached from hundreds to thousands of pesos.”
Another custom observed in Taysan was the “dapitan” (from the Tagalog word “dapit,” meaning “near” or “towards”7), the transfer of the bride to the bridegroom’s house, accompanied by all his relatives. Meanwhile, the man was left behind in the bride’s house. More about this custom from the author:
“…during this ‘dapitan,’ a certain utensil, usually a pot, was thrown down at the ground and if it was broken into several pieces, it was said that they would have many children. When the girl (i.e. the bride) reached the bridegroom’s house, she sat on the floor at the center of the house. The she gave all the money (from the ‘sabog’) to her mother-in-law.”
Notes and references:1 “Historical Data” refers to documents required of Department of Education Districts around the country in 1951 by the administration of then-President Elpidio Quirino to reconstruct local histories destroyed during the war.
2 Most of the information contained in this article is taken from the “Historical Data of the Municipality of Taysan,” online at the National Library of the Philippines Digital Collections.
3 The phrase “man’s work” as used by the author in the source document was ambiguous. It was possible he meant that the suitor was expected to do the work of the father or any type of work that a man would be expected to accomplish within any household.
4 “Dowry,” Wikipedia.
5 “Bride price,” Wikipedia.
6 “Filipinas: Pequeños Estudiosy Batangas y Su Provincia,” published 1895 by Manuel Sastron.
7 “Search Query: Dapitan,” online at TagalogTranslate.com.