Traditional Filipino Courting With Modern Music


Marigold Baldonado

Filipino music is often very romantic, as it is even used in harana, traditional courtship singing. In Filipino culture, a person who wants to pursue someone as their lover would sing romantic songs, recite poems, write letters, and give gifts, in hopes of impressing their lover and eventually starting a relationship that could lead to marriage. In modern times, not many people, especially in the United States, still practice courtship; however, love and romance still have a strong presence in Filipino music. Here are some songs that you could play for your future partner. Note that any translations of lyrics shared are rough translations.

Ikaw by Yeng Constantino

“Ikaw” in Tagalog means “you” and in ‘Ikaw’ by Yeng Constantino she sings about how it is you, her lover, who she thinks about all the time and the one she holds dear. The tagalog lyrics, “Ikaw ang pagibig na hinintay. Puso ay nalumbay ng kay tagal, ngunit ngayo’y nandito na ikaw. Ikaw ang pagibig na binigay. Sa akin ng may kapal. Biyaya ka sa buhay ko. Ligaya’t pagibig ko’y ikaw,” are roughly translated into, “you are the love that I waited for. My heart has grieved for so long, but now you are here. You are the love that was given to me by the heavens. You are the grace in my life. You are my happiness and my life.”

Buwan by Juan Karlos

“Buwan” in Tagalog has many meanings, but the one Juan Karlos uses is translated to “moon”. In ‘Bwuan’, Juan Karlos sings about how the beauty and love of his lover can be reached all the way from the moon. The tagalog lyrics, “Ang iyong ganda’y umaabot sa buwan. Ang tibok ng puso’y rining sa kalawakan at bumabalik dito sa akin. Ikaw ang mahal. Ikaw lang ang mamahalin. Pakinggan ang puo’t damdamin. Damdamin aking damdamin,” are roughly translated into,“your beauty reaches the moon. The beat of your heart can be heard from space and comes back here to me. You’re the one I love. You’re the only one I’ll ever love. Listen to my heart and feelings. Feel what I feel.”

Filipino fun fact: In traditional Filipino courting, there are numerous ways in which a suitor tries to gain the trust and love of their lover and future family members. One of which includes paninilbihan, acts of service. Traditionally, it would involve the suitor helping the lover’s family out with home chores to show their worthiness.

Mabagal by Daniel Padilla, Moira Dela Torre

“Mabagal” in Tagalog means “slowly” and in the song ‘Magal’ Daniel and Moira sings about slow dancing with your lover and just enjoying the time you have with someone so close to you. The Tagalog lyrics, “Gusto kitang isayaw ng mabagal. Hawak kamay, pikit mata, sumasabay sa musika. Gusto kitang isayaw ng mabagal,” are roughly translated into, “I want to dance with you slowly. Holding hands, closed eyes, in tune with the music. I want to dance with you slowly.”

Babalik Sa’yo by Moira Dela Torre

“Babalik Sa’yo” in tagalog means “will come back to you,” and in the song ‘Babalik Sa’yo’ by Moira Dela Torre she sings about that exactly. The Tagalog lyrics, “Handa ‘kong gawin ang lahat, makapiling ka lang. Walang hihigit sa’yo, ikutin pa ang mundo. Ako’y babalik, balik sa iyo. Tanging ikaw ang sigaw ng pusa araw-araw. Amini ko na s’yo, ngayon lang nagkagn’to. Ako’y babalik, babalik pa rin sa iyo,” are roughly translated into, “I’m ready to do everything just to be with you. Nothing will exceed you, even if I searched the world I’ll go back, go back to you. You’re the thing that my heart screams everyday. I’ll admit to you, now is the only time this has happened. I’ll go back, go back to you.”

Filipino fun fact: In Filipino media, there are ‘love teams’ – pairs of actors who are consistently cast together as romantic partners in various productions. On my radio show, The Chismis, I mistakenly stated that Daniel Padilla and Moira Dela Torre are a love team. In reality, Daniel is part of a love team with Kathryn Bernardo, whom he has been married to since 2012. However, Moira’s song ‘Babalik Sa’yo’ was featured in a rom-com telenovela called ‘2 Good 2 Be True,’ in which Daniel and Moira played a couple.

Pasilyo by SunKissed Lola

“Pasilyo” in Tagalog means “hallway” or “aisle” and ‘Pasilyo’ by SunKissed Lola is a wedding song through and through as it talks about the sureness of love on the big day. The Tagalog lyrics, “‘di Maikukumpara. Araw-araw kong dala-dala. Paboritong panalangin ko’y makasama ka sa pagtanda. Ang hiling sa Diyos na may gawa apelyido ko’y maging iyo,” roughly translates into, “incomparable. I carry it with me every day. My favorite prayer is to grow old with you. The prayer to God that’s made true. My surname will be yours too.”

Uhaw (Tayong Lahat) by Dilaw

“Uhaw (tayong lahat)” in Tagalog means “thirsty (everyone of us),” and in Dilaw song ‘Uhaw (Tayong Lahat),’ he sings about the thirst for love, kisses, and dancing. The Tagalog lyrics, “sabik na mahalikan. Mayakap ka’t masayaw sa ulan. Ang mundo’y gagaan, mundo ko’y gagaan. Miligaw man ng landas ay, hahanapin ang kalsada patungo sa’yo. Ikaw ang daan,” roughly translates into, “I am eager to kiss you. Embrace you and dance with you in the rain. The world will be lighter, My world will be lighter. Even if I’m lost, I will find the path that leads to you. You are my way.”

Habang Buhay by Zack Tabudlo

“Habang buhay” in Tagalog means “foreve,r” and in Zack Tabudlo song ‘Habang Buhay,’ he sings about how looking into his lovers eyes time stops and he wishes to be with them, just them two together, forever. The Tagalog lyrics, “pag nguminigiti ka, para bang may iba. Pag tumitingin sakin. Mapapupungay mong mga mata. Wala akong takas sa nakakalunid mong ganda. Halika nga,” roughly translates into, “whenever I see you, the world moves in slow-motion. Whenever you smile, there’s something [That draws me in]. Your eyes, so tender. I can’t escape from your drowning beauty. Come closer, won’t you?”

Filipino fun fact: Many of the songs mentioned in the article were ones I discovered through Tik Tok. Although it’s often joked within the Asian American community that Fil-Ams are the most ‘toxic’ of Asians, I’ve found that hearing the younger generation sing love songs in Tagalog has given me some hope.

Mahika by Adie Janine Berdin

“Mahika” in Tagalog means “magic” and in ‘Mahika,’ sung by Adie and Janine Berdin, they sing about the magic of love and how it’s so strong that it makes them want to confess their love. The Tagalog lyrics, “ibon sa paligid, umaawit-awit natutulala sa nakakaakit-akit mong. Tinafangi, napapangiti mo ang aking puso. Giliw, ‘di mapigil ang bugso ng damdamin ko. Mukhang mapapaamin mo, amin mo, oh giliw, nagpapahiwatig na sa’yo ang damdamin kong napagtanto na gusto kita,” roughly translates into, “birds around, singing-singing in dazed because of your attractive being. You make my heart smile. Darling, can’t stop my overwhelming feelings. Seem like you’ll make me confess, confess, oh darling, I’m trying to tell you my feeling that has realized that I like you.”

Isang Anghel by Zild Benitez

“Isang anghel” in Tagalog means “an angel”. Unlike the other songs in this article, ‘Isang Anghel’  by Zild Benitez is different in type of genre as it’s more rock sounding compared to the others. Zild sings about how he doesn’t want to die yet if the world has his lover in it and how his lover brighteness his life during the darkest of times. The Tagalog lyrics, “kahit na mahirap ang mabuhay nga sa lupa. Pipiliin daigdig sa kahit anong planeta pa mahalaga’y kasama ka,” roughly translates into, “even if life on earth can be exhausting, I’ll still choose this world out of all other worlds as long as you’re by my side.”

Best of luck to all of you who continue the tradition of Filipino courtship because we all know that today’s love is difficult and complicated.

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