By Allyza Quirante
With people hooked to their smartphones 24/7, it’s no surprise that there is an app for almost anything you could possibly imagine, including finding your next Valentine’s date. The concept of having a dating app isn’t a shocking evolution, considering that online dating has already existed in Western countries during the humble beginnings of the Internet in the ’90s. Despite its prominence abroad, the presence of dating apps in the Philippines raises interesting questions. Will dating apps replace our well-known tradition of courtship? What roles do panliligaw and pamamanhikan play in modern-day Filipino romance? Uso pa ba ang harana?
There are a number of free dating apps to sign up for, but one of the most well-known dating apps today is Tinder, mainly because of its user-friendly features. Signing up for an account is as easy as logging on to the app with your Facebook account and mobile phone number, and customizing it with your photos and a short description. From there, the app generates potential dates you can either accept or reject by swiping right or left, respectively. Other dating apps including Bumble, Happn, and Filipino Cupid have also made their debut in the Philippines with a gradual increase of user sign-ups.
According to Tinder’s tagline, meeting your next date is just a swipe, match, and chat away and, true enough, people enjoy the convenience of app-generated dates that suit their preferences. Even though there is the stigma of associating dating apps with hook-up culture, amazingly, some users have expressed that they are openly looking for a serious relationship in the app. Using the app as a means to get to know other people beyond your circle of friends from school or work has helped pave way for modern romances, especially among Millennials. The app also allows women to make the first move to contact a man they have matched with, which is socially acceptable inside the app. All of these advantages sound too good to be true, but it’s inevitable that technology also has its limitations and quirks.
Catfishing, which is luring someone into a relationship with a false persona, is a common occurrence in dating apps, often leaving victims emotionally burned out. It’s also inevitable to come across people who are on dating apps for rather unusual reasons that the system could not filter out, such as users who are using the platform to advertise a product or other services. Nonetheless, most users have decided to look past these limitations, making sure to be keen about their interactions in the apps.
Compared to the straightforward nature of dating apps, our tradition of panliligaw is known to be more subdued and discreet, but this has gradually changed across generations. Apart from the customary harana, suitors have found other means of expressing their love and affection for the person they’re courting. Two people going out on a date is now more casual, as opposed to the formalities couples had to go through before, such as suitors visiting the woman’s family to ask for a date. Parts of our tradition have changed for the better, lessening society’s expectations on how women should respond to suitors in a manner that is “hard to get” and mahinhin, allowing women to openly express how they feel. Despite these traditions developing, it’s still a heartwarming sight to see when couples practice pamamanhikan with each other’s families as they announce their engagement. Evidently, Filipino couples young and old, still have a high-regard for nurturing a healthy familial bond, which is a factor in practicing these traditions. There are several couples who prefer taking it slow, gradually getting to know each other and each other’s families, before deciding to finally settle down.
Finding “the one” has never been an easy feat, whether you meet someone on your next night out with friends or through an unexpected Tinder match, kindling a newfound romance is ultimately a choice. Although we may not practice the method of panliligaw and pamamanhikan strictly, parts of our tradition are still present in expressing our love for our significant other, whether through simple or grand gestures. Recently, actor Guji Lorenzana shared that he met his wife through Tinder by asking her out on a date, which led to them dating for two years before tying the knot. Their relationship is a testament that there will always be room for both dating apps and courtship in our society, and it’s all a matter of preference of finding that sweet spot in between that works for both of you. With the limitations of dating apps, the hesitance for some to subscribe to these apps is understandable, but there are also notable success stories of finding someone you could have a meaningful relationship with. For those who have been considering signing up for a dating app, perhaps this is a sign that it’s the avenue you’ve been waiting for to usher romance in.