Many cultures have ways to honor young women as they come of age. In some Native American cultures, girls are celebrated at the onset on menses. In American culture, a girl's "sweet 16" is often a family affair, harkening back to the debutante balls of the deep South. In Latin America, a girl is honored on her 15th birthday with an elaborate celebration called the quinceanera. In the Philippines, women are honored on their 18th birthdays in a tradition known as the debut.

The Debut

When a Philippine girl of a certain economic standing turns 18, her family usually throws her a large party at which she is the center of attention. The celebration resembles a wedding in some ways, and includes the girl's family and friends. Feasting, dancing, speeches and toasts, gifts and symbolism are woven into the event. While modern debutantes can decide which traditional elements they want in their own ceremony, there is usually en emphasis placed on the number "18." For example, the debutante may choose 18 of her closest friends to form her entourage. A traditional waltz involving the debutante and her father or boyfriend is also customary.