It was home away from home for so many who attended the Filipino Debut, pronounced de-boo, Sunday. The 11th annual celebration hosted by the University of Maryland’s Filipino Cultural Association honors four people each year who have not had their own coming-of-age ceremony at 18. The night was marked with live performances from the debutants’ class, heartfelt messages and food. 

The transition into adulthood is a time in a person’s life that is so special and is celebrated within so many cultures but when you are away from your family and friends, it can be harder to celebrate this transition in a young adult’s life. 

“There are some people who are homesick, and for me, my family is in the Philippines, so I had to bring just my friends. I barely have any family here,” junior art education major Shara Lei Balancio said. “It’s very important to have a community that does debuts for you. … It’s important for your culture.”

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Traditional debuts feature various customs, traditions and rituals to signify the transition into adulthood. Many of those same practices were seen at the FCA’s debut. Debutantes are escorted into the venue, there is a cotillion dance, an 18 roses dance and 18 candles.

Creating a sense of community on the campus can sometimes be challenging, but with an event like this, it wasn’t just a celebration of the person, it was a celebration of the community. 

“I feel it’s also along with the community, it’s not just about the debutant,” junior computer science major Therese Martin said. “It’s about the most important people in their life … it is just all this community coming together for the debutant.” 

Maintaining a sense of home and identity can be challenging when some are miles away from family.

“It’s not very often that you find Filipinos in Maryland, so having such a large organization in a big community like this … I feel like we’re all family … I can’t imagine having a family like this on another college campus,” junior architecture major Glean Villanueva said.  

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Villanueva explained how organizing a community like this on such a big campus means a lot to people.

“A lot of people in this [organization] are from different states; they’re far from home, so I know that it means a lot that they can find a new home,” Villanueva said.  

Transitioning into adulthood is by no means an easy feat and comes with fears, anxieties and struggles. Finding people to connect with and share those experiences with is so important.

The evening was a beautiful celebration of what it means to have family and home even if that means creating it on a college campus.

Touching tributes and performances were the highlight of the evening. The debut Sunday night is a reminder that you can build community anywhere, anytime.