National hero Jose Rizal gets a lot of credit as his generation's Casanova, partly due to him penning classic literary pickup lines in his work such as: "Sabihin mo sa akin kung paano mo pinalipas ang maghapon at nang sa gayon ay parang kasama na rin kita."
Aside from the dialogue, however, his novels are rich with the cultural context of how particular genders behaved at the time. For instance, Rizal detailed how before the "bend and snap" was invented, Filipino women would employ hand fans and handkerchiefs as nonverbal cues to "attract" others.
Such a historical concept was popularized in the trending Kapuso TV series Maria Clara at Ibarra. It was effectively visualized to the audience through Barbie Forteza's character, Klay, a modern-day nursing student transported to the world of Rizal's novels to learn more about Philippine history.
In the show's 16th episode, Klay listens to Julie Anne San Jose's character, Maria Clara, talking to other local women about nonverbal communication through gender expression—vis-à-vis a woman's trusted hand fan. "Ang abaniko (traditional fan) ang nagmimistulang tinig ng mga dalaga sapagkat sa pamamagitan nito ay maipapahayag natin sa isang binata ang mga bagay na hinding hindi maaaring pwedeng sabihin sa mga lalaki. Lalo na't hindi pa natin sila kabiyak," Maria Clara said.
Hand fan cues, according to Maria Clara at Ibarra, include fanning slowly to show disinterest in a man without hurting his feelings, folding a fan in front of a man to express your affection, and lastly, courting a man by fanning quickly while maintaining then breaking eye contact to gaze downward charmingly.
"Ay...taray. Gusto ko 'yan. Magawa nga kay Sir Fidel," Klay says to herself about the slow fanning portion, referring to David Licauco's character, Fidel, who forms the other half of their love team, FiLay.
Previously, Klay inadvertently miscommunicated her interest to Fidel, who saw that she was fanning rapidly and then looked at the ground afterward during the 14th episode. Fidel then winked at Klay, much to the latter's confusion. In reality, she was trying to cool down after walking extensively and was rolling her eyes at Fidel's presence.
If you're as curious as Klay, historian Ambeth Ocampo has some good news for you. He said that Pascual H. Poblete's 1928 book Patnubay ng Pagsinta (Guide to Courtship) has an appendix listing signals that women used to communicate nonverbally with their lovers using fans and handkerchiefs.
"This was a carryover from the late 19th century missed out by the popular teleserye Maria Clara at Ibarra. When you read Rizal's novels or look at 19th-century images of Filipinas in their ternos, use this guide to decipher what they might be saying," the professor wrote.
The rare book mentioned above is now part of the University of Michigan Libraries Filipiniana collection.
To quote from its Salitaan sa Pamaypay section: "Dalhing nacabitin sa camay na canan, ibig kong magcanovio. Dalhing nacabitin sa camay na caliua, mayroong casintahan aco."