What is a Dalaga, you say? Well, a Dalaga is a single woman. Usually it is a young woman, maybe a teenager. There are two things that make a female a Dalaga. First, they have already had their first menstruation. Second, they are single. I suppose a woman who is older can also be a Dalaga assuming the meets the first two criteria.
Our daughter became a Dalaga this year. She is only 12 years old (almost 13), but I can definitely see a big difference in her level of maturity since she became a Dalaga. She is visibly more a woman now. Before she was a girl. The difference seems to have happened literally overnight, before my eyes. It’s amazing to me.
In Philippine culture, becoming a Dalaga has serious implications. A close friend of mine has two daughters who also underwent that change this year as well. One of the girls is a bit younger than our daughter is. She still seems like a child, a youngster. However, when a youngster becomes a Dalaga her behavior must change.
I was kind of surprised when the mother of this other girl was talking to me about her daughter recently. The mother told me that her daughter recently came home from school a bit late because, as the daughter said, she was “playing with her friends” after school. The woman went on to tell me that since her daughter was now a Dalaga, she was not supposed to be playing anymore, she was now a young woman after all! And, I believe that she is 11 years old, possibly 12.
Seeing the changes in my own daughter this year has really opened my eyes. Having several friends who have daughters in the same stage of their lives gives me a broader perspective to see how my own daughter’s life is different now. Philippine society expects a girl, once she has undergone the change that makes her a Dalaga, to act like a lady. Even if her age is still very young, she cannot act like a child any longer.
Just tonight, I was watching our daughter. She is taking on more of a womanly role in the house. She helps a bit with the cooking, cleaning up, and everything else around the house. Today, she helped with washing clothes too. Our boys spent the afternoon at the swimming pool enjoying themselves. Our daughter, though, chose to stay home and help around the house a bit. In the States, I could not imagine a 12 year old girl being offered to go swimming, but choosing to stay home and wash clothes. I find it kind of amazing, and a window on Philippine society.
For those reading this who don’t know, our daughter is adopted, by blood she is really our niece. I only mention this because our kids are more American, but our daughter has never been to the States, and lives a more Filipino life. It is in her blood after all, and I enjoy watching her and observing differences between her and our sons. Some differences are because it is the difference between a male and a female. Other differences, though, are cultural. I am amazed by both. Firstly, we never had a girl before, so watching our daughter grow up is eye opening to me. It’s different from a young boy growing up. The cultural differences are naturally of interest to me, because I consider myself a student of the culture here, trying to learn as much as I can.
By the way, just as a side note, boys, when they reach a similar age and are single are called Ulitawo in Bisaya, or in Tagalog it is called Binata. So, we have two sons who would be considered as Ulitawo now, a 17 year old and a 12 year old. Watching them mature is also an interesting experience, but from what I can tell at this time, the maturing of the boys does not have as many cultural aspects.
So, it’s interesting times in the Martin household these days.