The Courtship and Marriage Customs of the Waray

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J. Colima Bajado*
The Philippines as a whole abounds in quaint marriage customs and traditions. Written literatures from Fr. Pedro Chirino (1590s), Blair and Robertson, to Gregorio Zaide describe the pre-Spanish marriage customs of the Philippines. More writers like Fay Cooper Cole, John Finley, C.R. Moss and John Garvan have written on the courtship and marriage rituals of the various tribes in the country.  

On the marriage customs of the Warays, some vernacular writers like Iluminado Lucente and Juan Ricacho have written plays portraying the marriage customs and practices of the region. Younger generations in the Samar-Leyte region may not even know how their great grandfathers won the hands of their great grannies, in relation to the present “wer na u, dito na me” trend.  

Tthe Illiterate Way of Courtship
This kind of courtship has been practiced until the early 1900s. According to the narrations of Msgr. Alberto Almarines (1960s), illiterate young men in the rural areas, particularly in the hinterland sitios, observe this way of courtship passed to them by their great grandparents.  

Since they cannot read and write, actions, signs, signals, and even mimicries are flashed as costumarily understood to mean love. The man takes out an inarmidol (crisply starched) white handkerchief and waves it to the woman, who could only give concealed glances. Then the man will kiss the handkerchief and put it over his chest. This is done when the young man does not have the chance to talk to the girl.  

If the girl accepts the love offered, she smiles and nods. When she frowns, she declines the offered affection. And when her face is expressionless, she does not yet know the answer. When she accepts, the man will then ask her hand for marriage. When she shows indifference, he will either wait for the right time or simply forget her.  

The Kulalisi Courtship
This type of courtship commences as a game, and concludes for real. Kulalisi (sometimes spelledculalisi), is a game played after the nightly prayer for nine days of lamay (wake). Unmarried men and women gather in the house of the deceased to say the prayers, after which, the kulasisi game follows to console the bereaved family.  

The kulalisi game is a battle of wits between men and women. One of the elders in the house will act as Hadi (king) that will pair a man and a woman suspected or teased as sweethearts. The challenge to a luwa (verse) is cast by one who wins the draw using a shell called buskay. Then the “luwa” or battle of words (somewhat like Balagtasan), and rhymes, and debates starts. If the challenger is a man and the challenged woman fails to outwit him, the reward is a “make-believe” marriage solemnized by theHadi. If the man is outwitted by the woman, he becomes the woman’s slave and will do whatever the woman desires to let him do, for that night. Most of the “married” pairs in culalisi games become real partners for life. This kind of courtship has been commonly practiced up to the early 1900s.  

Tthe courtship through Panharana (Serenading)
Wooing a woman by panharana is commonly practiced in the whole region up to the late 1990s; some even still practice this in other parts of the region, like Maydolong, Eastern Samar, up today. Serenading is a time-honored way of expressing one’s love and adoration to the accompaniment of a guitar, violin or other string and wind instruments. Moonlight nights are the perfect time for serenade.  

A man sings kundiman (love song) that is rich in lyrical beauty, appreciation of nature and profound sentiment of affection. A suitor who knows how to play a guitar serenades his admired woman by himself, for this is a rapport in his singing of love songs. A group of men serenades when the suitor cannot accompany himself in singing his love songs. The song Mituo Ako ( I Believe) is once a popular serenade song in the Cebuano speaking part of the region, while...
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