Back When ‘Uso Pa ang Harana’: Everything About the Traditional Filipino Courtship

Filipino Courtship

Before the internet and smartphones, the Philippines had a very rich dating tradition—and a rather strict one too. But it is through this tradition that our lololola, nanay, and tatay grew fond of and fell in love with each other.

Now your grandparents are probably too old to have the energy to share what courtship was like in the ancient times. Worry not, this article will take you back in time.

Back in Time: The Traditional Filipino Courtship

Back then, your younger grandmother was never permitted to leave home wearing short skirts, tube tops, and block heels and with no chaperone, especially when she was about to go out on a date with your teenage grandpa. Times then were very strict that it felt like even in breathing, there were rules to follow.

But, as what they say, love conquers all. Because when it comes to it, grandma and grandpa braved the heavens and went on to write their own love story even when a number of things were disallowed and there was little to no freedom.

How? Let’s take a trip down memory lane and revisit the times when Filipino courtship was very much a thing. Here’s how a typical dalagang Pilipina and a maginoong binatilyo overcame the rigidity of twentieth-century rules and sung their way to a happily-ever-after.

1. Harana

There’s no better way of winning a maiden’s heart than singing a song for her through harana or serenade. Under a starry night, a young boy carrying a guitar, with his friends accompanying him, sings a beautiful song while the young lady peaks at her window to listen. A modern version of the harana also came in later in the 1970s, where the suitor brings a cassette player and sings with the background music.

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2. Liham

Forget smartphones and social media, your ancestors only had liham, or letter, to communicate back then. Filipinos were so good at writing letters before, not to mention they have superb penmanship. Most of the time, suitors write a letter to the girl they like and wait for her response.


Try asking your grandparents if they kept a love letter given to them. Read one and you’ll definitely feel romantic excitement with every sweet word written.

3. Aakyat ng Ligaw

Aakyat ng ligaw can be taken literally if the maiden’s house had stairs. The suitor visits the girl’s home every night and must ask her parents if he could be gifted the chance to talk to her. If they allow it, her parents must be watching nearby. Sometimes, the boy brings flowers and chocolates as presents.

Aakyat ng Ligaw

4. Pakitang Gilas

Fetching a girl with an expensive car was not how your grandpa proved his good intentions. He shows his sincerity through doing difficult household chores such as chopping firewood, harvesting rice, and herding the water buffalo. This stage is called pakitang gilas.

Pakitang Gilas

5. Length of Courtship

Back then, men were taught patience since traditional Filipino courtship was a lengthy process. It takes years to get the sweetest yes of the girl of their dreams because of their Maria Clara or hard-to-get attitude.

Length of Courtship

Filipino suitors invest presence and effort in the maiden they like. Yes, life is easier with technology, but their generation is more than blessed to have experienced the purest kind of love that grows over time with its absence. If only the traditional Filipino courtship stood the test of modernization, our generation would have known that things worth having are worth waiting for.

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