In the Philippines, the debut signifies womanhood. Coming of age is a major milestone and thus, must be celebrated.
A debut is not complete without the 18s or the 18 rituals or symbols. These rituals too, however, are evolving as the modern debutantes are making their own unique 18s.
For any debutante, choosing which 18s would make the final cut is crucial during the planning stage because of the preparations that each entail. For instance, the persons involved are pre-selected.
The classic ones are the 18 roses, 18 candles, and 18 treasures. These are every debut’s staple.
18 roses. The 18 roses symbolize the woman’s readiness for romance. She dances with 18 men who will give her a rose each before dancing with her. The 18th rose is usually reserve to the most important man in the debutante’s life or the special someone in her life, often the boyfriend or suitor. The first rose is the father’s while the second to third roses are for the siblings if she has any, followed by male cousins and friends.
18 candles. The 18 candles symbolize the lass’s journey to a bright future. Eighteen women will be selected, saying their speech one by one while holding a lit candle come the debut party. After the address, the candle will be placed beside the cake for the debutante to blow out after the 18 women have finished. The mother usually lights the first candle, then the aunts, female cousins, and so on.
18 treasures. The 18 treasures symbolize things that the debutante needs to succeed on her toward womanhood. Eighteen people will be chosen to give a gift to the debutante. While handing it, the person will give a speech on why he or she picks that gift for her. The gifts are intended to be treasured and cherished for the rest of her life hence the name.
In some instances, the traditional rituals are given new names such as 18 sweethearts for 18 roses and 18 sparklers for 18 candles. The idea is the same, though, the debutante and planners only concoct the new traditions to suit the chosen theme.
The last one, 18 treasures, is also called 18 symbolic gifts while the 18 shots is the newest addition.
18 gifts. An offshoot of the 18 treasures, the 18 gifts are gifts that the debutante immediately needs. Any gift will do, and any important person in the life of the debutante can be included in the 18 gifts. In most instances, if there is an 18 treasures, there’d be no 18 gifts because they are technically the same.
18 shots. A toast or a drink is taken to honor the debutante; this is called the 18 shots ritual. Eighteen important people are chosen to honor the lady of the night. The people need to finish their well-wishes first before the actual toasting. Alternatively, each participant may propose the toast and drink it right after the speech.
You can spice up the party a bit by letting the people choose their own drink without them knowing what they’d be drinking.
Further, the debutante can choose whatever she can think of. The perfect examples are the 18 sweets, 18 cupcakes, 18 chocolates, 18 shoes, 18 bags, 18 songs, 18 bills, 18 butterflies, and 18 sweet thoughts.
18 sweets. Sweet moments shared with the debutante are shared with the others through 18 sweets. The debutante will also choose the 18 people to be included in the list.
18 cupcakes. If not the 18 sweets, the 18 cupcakes is used. The idea is the same, sharing with the people the sweetest times spent with the debutante a la tell-all manner. The debutante may eat the cupcakes one by one, perhaps after the speech.
For these two, it can be combined wherein the 18 sweets would include cupcakes. Or it can be a whole new, different tradition such as 18 chocolates. For some, it should be 18 memories – the sweetest ones shared with the debutante.
18 shoes. The journey to womanhood is never complete without the right pair of shoes. True they say that good shoes take you to good places. This is the idea behind this ritual. After all, a lady cannot have too many shoes.
18 bags. This always accompanies the 18 shoes. Again, a woman can’t have too many bags either – there’s a bag for every occasion.
18 songs. For a music lover debutante, the 18 songs other people would dedicate to her will be deeply appreciated. Each person will choose a song for her and tell the debutante why he or she chooses that song through a speech while the selected song is being sung or played in the background.
18 bills. Or, 18 blue bills to be exact. The bill refers to a one-thousand-peso bill that will be given to the debutante. That’s why some people call it the 18 thousands. How she uses the money will depend on her although it is highly advisable to save the money first for future endeavors.
18 butterflies. Modern debutantes also chose symbolic elements such as butterflies. She needs to select 18 people who will receive a butterfly each. They need to say their wish for the debutante before releasing the butterfly.
18 sweet thoughts. Another ritual for the millennial debutante is the 18 sweet thoughts. Family members and friends tell the woman about what they think of her. If not thoughts, they can share 18 quotes that best depict who she really is.
Some debutantes opt to have 18s consistent with their party theme. One is the 18 performances for a Broadway-themed debut and 18 tickets to a travel-themed debut.
Some celebrities chose to create their own rituals.
18 dedications. KC Concepcion chose 18 people in her life and decided to say a short dedication to each person. Photos are shown in the presentation.
18 blessings. Janelle Salvador said no to a lavish debut and chose to give to the less fortunate. She called this her 18 blessings.
Again, your choice of 18 rituals will depend on your theme. As a debutante, you have the privilege to include as many as you want. Be realistic and reasonable about it, though.