On her 18th birthday, a Filipino girl is usually expected to have a debut ball.
The informant is my maternal grandmother, who was born and raised in the Philippines, and still continues to live there. She celebrated her debut in 1956. For her, the ceremony was a special and important occasion that allowed her to celebrate her birthday with friends and family members in a grand and unforgettable manner.
In Filipino culture, the debut represents a coming of age ritual. Since the age of adulthood for Filipino girls is 18, the debut is held on their 18th birthday. The debut holds a significance similar to the Quincenera (age 16) for Mexican and other Latin American cultures as well as the sweet sixteen for some North American cultures. As in most coming of age rituals, the celebration marks the crossing of the threshold between childhood and adulthood, and in this specific case, childhood to womanhood. After the debut, the debut celebrant is recognized by her society as an adult woman.