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The Debut is an important Filipino tradition

Athena selected purple for her debut’s colour motif. Only her immediate family members were allowed to wear clothes with this colour or any other colours with shades related to purple.  
The Debut
The family of debutante Athena Marie Balajadia, from left, father Adonis, Athena, mother Marie and brother Mark

CARLYLE — Canada has become the home to many people that have emigrated from the Philippines.  

Carlyle is no exception with an estimated 200 of its residents being of Filipino descent. There are several birthday milestones celebrated in the Philippine tradition all over the world.  

One of the most significant birthdays for any Filipino family is the first birthday of their child. This one is more of a thank-you to the parents rather than the child’s actual first birthday.  

The seventh birthday is also an important one. It is usually the age when they first enter a milestone and is supposed to signify some sort of independence. The seventh year is considered the time when they enter the age of accountability.  

For men, their 21st birthday is a special occasion as is the 50th. Most believe that holding special celebrations every 10 years after turning 50 is in order because reaching such a ripe old age must be considered a blessing.  

However, the most special birthday in the Philippines is that of a young women’s 18th. It is called the debut. This event marks their rite of passage from being a girl to becoming a woman, a transition from adolescence to full-blown adulthood.  

In late April, the daughter of Adonis and Marie Karr Balajadia celebrated her 18th birthday in fine Filipino tradition, although it was held a year later due to the pandemic. Athena Marie Balajadia celebrated this centuries-old tradition at the Carlyle Happy Gang building.  

Athena, honoured as the debutante, happily participated in the ceremony. Eighteen roses, 18 candles and 18 treasures were all part of the program. For the roses, this segment required 18 boys to dance with Athena after presenting her with a rose. For the candles, 18 women consisting of female relatives and girlfriends gave Athena well wishes and speeches while holding a lighted candle.  

Their various accolades will, later on, guide her in life. The 18 treasures segment of the debut celebration consisted of 18 of Athena’s closest friends and relatives from both genders who came with gifts to bear. These treasures will play a significant role in her life as an adult, aid her in her journey as a young woman, and would symbolize anything that she may encounter or experience as a grownup.  

The gifts were presented with an accompanying spiel and their content ranged from being wise, creative, or even humorous.  

The most poignant and sentimental part of the debut was the father and daughter dance and is one of the most loved traditions in a Filipino debut. This signifies the initial step the daughter takes into womanhood and the father’s acceptance of that fact.  

Athena selected purple for her debut’s colour motif. Only her immediate family members were allowed to wear clothes with this colour or any other colours with shades related to purple.  

As is tradition, the celebration started off with a prayer. The number of guests exceeded 100. This included those who came in and dropped by, sent their greetings, gave their presents, had supper, and then went back to work or to some other appointment. There were three Filipino musicians who played songs and provided entertainment during the party. Most of the food was cooked by her father. (With the help of some family friends).  

Athena is 19 years old and graduated from Gordon F. Kells High School in 2021. She is presently employed at Carlyle Family Foods, Carlyle Dairy Queen and the Saskatchewan Health Authority. This fall she will be studying for a bachelor of science at Brandon University. 

In December, the next Carlyle Filipino resident to be honoured with a debut will be the daughter of Lynn Alvarez, Jeanne.  

“As December draws near for my daughter’s 18th birthday, I am already starting my preparations,” said Lynn Alvarez. “My daughter Jeanne did not like the idea of celebrating her debut because she was really a bit boyish when she was younger. The thought of the celebration scared her.  

“But when she heard my mom’s plans, her grandmother, on how wonderful the celebration might be, it changed her mind. It brought out a different side of her, the one that wanted to be treated like a princess for just one night. 

“For an 18-year-old girl, a debut, being surrounded by people she loves most, being shown how much she is loved through speech, song, and dance, and being allowed to be a bit whimsy in her makeup and dress, is nothing short of a fairy tale.  

“A girl’s debut marks a very important day in her life. And it is not exceptional because of the fancy venue or the big gown. But it is more about the memory one gets to create with her loved ones, celebrating her 18th birthday in an extra special way. That is something she gets to treasure forever.”