Breaking down the Debut

Posted on
May 22, 2023
Breaking down the Debut

While there are many different birthday traditions around the world, there may be none quite as grand as the debut—a special birthday celebration for girls in the Philippines when they turn 18 years old.

What is the Debut?

The debut, or a girl’s 18th birthday celebration, is a significant milestone in the Philippines. The parents of the debutante often prepare a traditional coming-of-age celebration, a formal event that marks the transition from adolescence to adulthood.

This once-in-a-lifetime event is often held in grand venues, and the guests usually come in formal attire. The debutante wears a formal gown (or several formal gowns throughout the night). Because of the significance and formality of the event, it is often considered as important as a wedding celebration.

Who Attends a Debut?

The debutante and her family usually invite close relatives, her classmates, and other friends to the debut. Also invited are the debutante’s godparents and some of her parents’ friends.

What Happens During the Debut?

The debut is a time to honor the debutante, and this is done in various ways.


Several weeks or months before the debut, most debutantes go through a photoshoot similar to that of a wedding photoshoot. The debutante has several outfits and poses prepared. Some of them even have a video team to commemorate this unforgettable moment.

Speeches from Family

One of the debut's highlights is the speeches from parents, grandparents, godparents, and other close relatives. These speeches honor the debutante’s achievements and highlight her goals and dreams for the future.

The debutante sometimes gives a speech, in turn, to express her gratitude and appreciate her guests for coming.

18 Symbolic Gifts

Another highlight of the debut is the 18 gifts. These gifts are traditional customs and rituals the debutante and all her guests usually look forward to. Some of these include the following:

  • 18 roses dance - This part of the program is done by the debutante and several male relatives and friends. It usually starts with her father, then brothers (if any), cousins, and other schoolmates and friends. Each one takes their turn to give a rose to the debutante before dancing with her for a while.
  • 18 candles - During this part, the debutante’s female friends say their messages or wishes to her.
  • 18 treasures - In some debuts, the debutante’s parents select family members and friends (like the debutante’s godparents) to give her special gifts.
  • 18 toasts - Special friends and relatives give a toast to the debutante.
  • 18 songs - If the debutante loves music, she asks family members and friends to dedicate a song to her during the debut.
  • 18 blue bills (P1,000) - Sometimes, the debutante is given 18 P1,000-bills by family and friends.

Note: The guests are usually informed before the event that they are part of the program so they can be prepared.

Lavish Meals

No celebration is complete without a meal, and in debuts, mealtimes can be just as lavish as weddings. Sometimes, they include traditional Filipino dishes and delicacies or the debutante’s favorite dishes.

Various Entertainment

During the debut, there can also be live music, performances, and other forms of entertainment to serenade the debutante and the other guests.


Overall, the 18th birthday celebration is a significant event in the Philippines, as it celebrates the coming of age of young women. It’s a time for family and friends to come together to honor and celebrate the soon-to-be woman—her achievements, her dreams, and everything about her.