Thursday, January 24, 2008

Pamalaye

Last week I had the pleasure of experiencing a dying Filipino custom for the first time and all because I have this rare ability to smell food 10 kilometers away. Actually, I just happened to drop by a friend’s house and was happily surprised that her table had been richly laden with all of nature’s goodness as well as all of its evil—the kind that kills your heart after pleasuring your taste buds. 


Unfortunately, strangers were blocking the way. I was told that the obstacles to my happiness were my friend’s boyfriend’s family members. I had stumbled upon a pamalaye, the part of an engagement where the parents or family members of the groom formally ask for the bride’s hand in marriage. 

Apparently, among traditional families in the Philippines, wedding arrangements are discussed in between mouthfuls of insanely superfluous food. In the past, the man’s family solely sponsored the food.

My friend’s pamalaye was obviously organized hurriedly. If it had been planned and announced I would have known better than to show up salivating. I later learned that my friend’s decision to marry faster than you can say I-hate-your-cooking-future-mother-in-law was not because of temporary insanity but because she was already three months pregnant. In the Philippines of long ago, a situation like this would’ve ensured that the couple could officially choose their mode of death. They could die by clan firing squad, cord-free bungee jumping or social stigma.

These days, there is less disapproval over getting pregnant out of wedlock and getting married because of it. Since I don’t want to turn this post into a morality issue or a venue for comments on why you hate your mother-in-law, I would just like to leave my readers with a few questions to mull over. 

1. Is it absolutely necessary to get married if you get pregnant? There is no divorce in the Philippines. What are you going to do if you find out your husband likes guys better or is an escaped inmate of a mental ward?
2. What can you say about enacting a law that will make family member background investigations mandatory before couples marry? Marriage in the Philippines is also is a form of social survival. You don’t marry an individual; you marry families, cousins, the in-laws of in-laws and their pets.
3. Do you agree that you shouldn’t get pregnant if you are not emotionally or financially ready? Would you volunteer not to get laid-- ever-- to avoid pregnancy?

By the way, you might want to know that:

1. At least six out of seven of my guy pals who got married just because their girlfriends got pregnant are not happy. They frequently sing the line, “Regrets, I’ve had a few….” in dark videoke bars and then choke and switch to another song.
2. I didn’t get pregnant before I got married. I can almost hear you say, “So what?”
3. There was no traditional pamalaye before I got married. I had no idea there was such a thing because I lived under a western imperialist's rock. I told my mom I would marry, or else…
4. My daughter’s life is hers. She can decide to get pregnant out of wedlock if she wants to as long as she made a conscious decision to do so OR she and her boyfriend have paychecks that can rival the Sultan of Brunei’s OR they can work harder than underpaid, overworked third world production workers. Her boyfriend must also be a good, clean, respectable man and not the spawn of the Alien and the Predator.

*Photo credit: download-free-pictures.com

7 comments:

  1. Hey GraceMags,

    I'd like to feature you and your blog in the next Nostalgia Bloggista! Shoot me a quick email at: nostalgiamanilamail[at]yahoo[dot]com and I'll email you the details.

    Keep up the good work! ;)
    --NM

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  2. I like the way you write. Glossy style, real heartfelt input, which shows. A class act.

    Have you ever thought of getting an agent and going for something bigger that just plain old blog writing?

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  3. Having grown up under "western imperialist rock", despite my Asian descent, I don't quite understand pamalaye or arranged marriage. I still believe in the idealistic view of marriage, which is a union of two lovers. I also quite like it for its practical side - tax breaks. The idea of getting married because one's pregnant would be quite hard for me to swallow - especially if the couple is neither mentally nor financially ready. I don't think it's fair for the child not the couple.

    But like you said, if one deviates from the norm (i.e. marriage), then they'll be branded for life. It doesn't give much of a choice to the parents nor the unborn child. It's either a do or die situation. In that case, I guess saying 'I do' is better than saying 'I die'.

    ReplyDelete
  4. hi. jack. thanks for the comment. it has always been my desire to write a book or something but i just really don't know where to start.

    writers here in my country also don't have things easy. i mean, it's far harder for us to make it big than those in western countries. most people in my country are not readers. it's a reflection of the level of financial poverty that we suffer. (basic needs first before intellectual pursuits.)

    i can still dream though. i will never stop trying to become a great and well-known writer someday. wish me luck. i need lots of it :)

    IVY, thank you for dropping by. i guess we both live under similar rocks huh? :)

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  5. Same lang ba ng Pamamanhikan ang Pamalaye? Paano nga kaya kung makasal ang isang babae tapos "bi now gay later" pala ang asawa nya. Katuwa siguro yun.

    Paano ba masasabi na pwede ng magpakasal?

    Siguro pag kaya ng magtiis sa biyenan.hehehe

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  6. First of all, doing it with a guy and getting pregnant is a disservice to your own family. I mean, they've raised you up with all they could hoping you could build a nice life for yourself and then you just burn all those years of blood, sweat and tears by getting knocked up. Nice. I wouldn't be surprised if my mom disowned me if that ever happened to me, God forbid.
    Secondly, I think marrying the idiot that impregnated you just makes it easier for the both of you to share in the responsibility of your offspring. It would be hard for the mother to a.) raise the child herself b.) raise the child with another man who is not her biological father and share custody with another man who is technically not part of your family. All in all, I think if a woman had a child out of wedlock, she has a responsibility to suffer the consequences. A long cold empty marriage is better than abortion anyway.

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  7. true, true. you have a point there :)

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