What is Pasalubong?
Food Philippines Travel

Pasalubong Culture, Is it Good or Bad?

What is Pasalubong?

Pasalubong is a Filipino term that refers to a tradition of bringing gifts or souvenirs to friends, family, or colleagues upon returning from a trip or visiting someone. “Pasalubong” – the perfect excuse for your loved ones to guilt-trip you into bringing them something back from your trip. It’s derived from “salubong,” which roughly translates to  “to meet” or “to welcome.” It’s like saying “Hey, I was thinking of you while I was doing this thing. So here’s a little piece of it for you to enjoy…or regift, I won’t judge.”

Pasalubong can take various forms.

What is Pasalubong?
What is Pasalubong?

It could be a delicious treat, a quirky souvenir, or a questionable fashion statement. Just make sure it’s small enough to fit in your luggage unless you want to pay extra for overweight baggage. The purpose of pasalubong is to express care, gratitude, and a sense of connection between the giver and the recipient. It is a gesture of thoughtfulness and a way to share the joy of travel or a visit.

Filipinos take their pasalubong tradition very seriously – it’s practically in their DNA! It is commonly practiced when someone returns from a trip. Especially if they have been away for an extended period or visited a significant place. Pasalubong can also be given as a way of seeking forgiveness or reconciliation after a disagreement.

Giving pasalubong is like saying “I love you” but with extra steps.

What is Pasalubong?
What is Pasalubong?

It’s like a secret code among Filipinos that means “I care about you enough to bring you a little something-something.” It proves that the giver didn’t just randomly grab something off a shelf and actually put some brainpower into selecting a present for the lucky recipient. Receiving pasalubong is often met with appreciation and joy. It symbolizes a connection between people and the shared experience of travel.

In Filipino households, pasalubong is often eagerly anticipated, and it is customary to distribute gifts to family members or share them with friends and neighbors.  You know what they say, “A pasalubong a day keeps the bad vibes away!” Pasalubong can also be given to colleagues or business associates as a token of goodwill.

In the Philippines, pasalubong is like the cherry on top of a sundae. It’s the perfect way to show your loved ones that you care and that you didn’t forget about them while you were out having fun. Plus, who doesn’t love getting presents? It’s just another excuse to spread some joy and happiness around.

Common Pasalubong from Filipinos, from the Philippines

When it comes to pasalubong in the Philippines, there is a wide variety of options to choose from. Here are some common pasalubong items that Filipinos often bring back from their trips or give to others:

Local Delicacies

Well, unless your loved ones prefer rocks or sticks as souvenirs, food is definitely the way to go for pasalubong. Filipinos are like walking food trucks, always ready to share their regional delicacies and treats with anyone who’s hungry enough to ask. If you want some sweets you can try some dried mangoes. Or pastries like hopia or ensaymada. And don’t forget about the local candies that are so addictive you’ll be begging for more, or roasted nuts. And if you’re feeling really traditional, you can indulge in some bibingka or puto bumbong you’ll feel it’s Christmas even in February.

Souvenirs and Handicrafts

If you want to impress your friends and family with your world travels, forget the boring postcards and magnets. Bring back some local handicrafts and souvenirs that scream, “I’m cultured and well-traveled!” They’ll be so impressed they might even forget that you forgot their birthday. You can get your hands on some fancy handwoven stuff like bags, baskets, or clothes made from local fabrics like abaca or piña. If you’re tired of the same old boring gifts, why not spice things up with some wooden crafts, pottery, shell products, or traditional instruments like the kulintang or kubing? Your loved ones will thank you for bringing some culture into their lives (and their homes). Plus, who doesn’t love a good kulintang jam session?

Local Coffee or Tea

If you want to impress your friends and family after your trip to the Philippines, bring back some of the country’s famous coffee or tea. Your loved ones will thank you for the caffeine boost and the opportunity to pretend they’re fancy by drinking exotic beverages. If you’re feeling adventurous, try some Barako coffee from Batangas. It’s so strong it’ll wake you up for straight 3 days (that’s an exaggeration, of course.) Or, if you prefer something a little more mellow, go for the Sagada coffee. And if you’re in the mood for a sweet and aromatic brew, the Benguet blend is the way to go. Just don’t blame us if you become a coffee addict after trying these!

Local Fruits or Preserves

What is Pasalubong? Ube

If you’re lucky enough to travel to a tropical paradise, don’t forget to bring back some fruity goodness as a souvenir. Your friends and family will thank you for not bringing back another boring keychain or fridge magnet. However, fresh fruits aren’t usually allowed on international flights especially if they have seeds. But don’t worry, if your fruit has been through some serious processing, it can sneak its way onto the flight. Just make sure it’s not wearing a disguise or anything.  Examples include dried mangoes, pineapple jam, mango-pineapple preserves, and other fruity delights like coconut jams or ube (purple yam) products. Your taste buds will thank you for this divine intervention.

Filipino Snacks

What is Pasalubong?
What is Pasalubong?

You know what they say, “A snack a day keeps the grumpy away!” Filipinos take their snacking seriously. Aand with so many delicious local options, it’s no wonder they’re always in a good mood. Plus, who doesn’t love a good pasalubong? You can munch on some chicharon (pork cracklings) or indulge in some polvoron (powdered milk candy). Feeling adventurous? Try some dried fish or shrimp paste (bagoong) for a real treat. And if you’re feeling lazy, just grab some Boy Bawang, Chocnut, or Nagaraya – because who needs real food anyway

Local Alcoholic Beverages

If your country’s customs and your liver permit, bringing back some booze might just be the most thoughtful gift you can give. Cheers to that! If you want to make your friend’s liver happy, don’t forget to pack a bottle of Filipino-made rum like Tanduay or Don Papa. You can also find some boozy treats that will make your taste buds do the cha-cha-cha. These are craft beers and fruity wines that bring out the fiesta in the Philippines!

T-shirts and Souvenir Clothing

Souvenir shirts or clothing items featuring local designs or landmarks that shout how you love it are popular pasalubong choices. These can be a fun way to showcase the places visited and create a lasting memory.

Check these T-Shirts that you will feel belong when you are in the Philippines. They will for sure be good conversation-starter!

Personal Care and Beauty Products

What is Pasalubong?

The Philippines is known for its natural beauty and wellness products. Pasalubong options can include locally made soaps, lotions, oils, and beauty products that highlight indigenous ingredients like coconut, calamansi, or papaya.

These are just some examples of common pasalubong items in the Philippines. The choice of pasalubong depends on personal preferences, the region visited, and the tastes of the recipients. Ultimately, the thought and effort put into selecting and bringing back a meaningful gift are what make pasalubong special and appreciated.

Usual Pasalubong from Balikbayans

OFWs (Overseas Filipino Workers) often bring pasalubong from their host countries when they return to the Philippines. Here are some common pasalubong items brought by OFWs:

Chocolates and Candies

What is Pasalubong?

When traveling abroad, it’s customary to bring back some sweet treats for your loved ones. Whether it’s a fancy chocolate brand or some funky local candy (they will not know!), it’s all about making your friends and family jealous of your globetrotting adventures. Plus, who doesn’t love a good sugar rush? These are the big shots like Hershey’s, Cadbury, Toblerone, or KitKat, or some rare local candies that are like unicorns in the Philippines.

Perfumes and Cosmetics

Duty-free perfumes, skincare products, and cosmetics are often favored as pasalubong items. Folks just love to get their hands on those fancy-schmancy brands abroad or those swanky international ones. It’s all about that top-notch quality and feeling like a VIP. The most popular brands OFW are taking home with them are Victoria’s Secret, Jergens, and Kylie Cosmetics. 

Clothing and Accessories

OFWs may bring back fashionable clothing items, shoes, or accessories that are trendy or not easily accessible in the Philippines. These can include designer brands, unique fashion pieces, or items that reflect the style of the host country.

Electronics and Gadgets

Electronic devices and gadgets, such as smartphones, tablets, cameras, or accessories, are frequently brought as pasalubong. OFWs take advantage of the lower prices or availability of specific models in their host countries to purchase these items as gifts.

Souvenirs and Mementos

OFWs love to collect random knick-knacks and trinkets. You know what they say, “If you haven’t bought a miniature landmark or a fridge magnet, did you even visit the place?” And let’s not forget the classic keychain – the ultimate symbol of worldliness and sophistication.

Local Delicacies

OFWs can also smuggle in some contraband snacks that are either banned or too expensive in their home country. Shh, don’t tell the customs officer! These can include chocolates, snacks, spices, or sauces that are not commonly found in the Philippines. It allows their loved ones to experience the flavors of the foreign country.

Books or Magazines

OFWs who are avid readers may bring back books, magazines, or other reading materials that are not easily accessible in the Philippines. These can be in the local language or related to specific interests or hobbies.

Personal Gifts

OFWs always come back with a ton of gifts for their loved ones, from stylish clothes to fancy bling-bling, and even toys that make the kids go wild with excitement. It’s like Christmas came early but with a lot more jet lag. These items are usually carefully selected based on the preferences and needs of their loved ones, or sometimes just based on a wild guess and a prayer.

It’s important to note that the choice of pasalubong may vary depending on individual preferences, the host country, and the cultural norms of the Filipino community in that country. Ultimately, OFWs bring pasalubong as a way to express love, thoughtfulness, and gratitude to their families and friends back home.

Unveiling the Drawbacks of Pasalubong Culture: CONS

Pasalubong culture, deeply rooted in many societies, has long been celebrated for its tradition of bringing gifts or souvenirs when returning from a trip or visiting loved ones.  It’s like a mandatory souvenir scavenger hunt every time you go on a trip or visit family. Don’t come back empty-handed or you’ll be met with disappointed faces and passive-aggressive comments. It’s like a double-edged sword – it warms your heart and drains your wallet at the same time. This section aims to shed light on the cons associated with pasalubong culture, prompting a discussion about its impact on individuals and communities.

Financial Burden

One of the primary concerns associated with pasalubong culture is the financial strain it can impose. The pressure to buy gifts for multiple recipients, coupled with the expectation of finding unique or high-quality items, can lead to overspending and budgetary issues. This can be particularly challenging for individuals with limited resources or those who frequently travel or visit different places.

Reinforcing Materialism

The focus on physical gifts in pasalubong culture can inadvertently reinforce materialistic values. This emphasis on material possessions can overshadow the significance of genuine connection and meaningful experiences. It may also inadvertently perpetuate a culture of consumerism, where the value of a gift is equated with its monetary worth rather than its sentiment or thoughtfulness.

Unequal Expectations

Pasalubong culture can create unequal expectations and pressures within relationships and social dynamics. Individuals who fail to bring or provide pasalubong gifts may feel judged or excluded, leading to feelings of guilt or inadequacy. This can strain relationships and place unnecessary burdens on individuals who may already be dealing with various challenges.

Cultural Appropriation

In certain instances, pasalubong culture can inadvertently lead to cultural appropriation. When visitors or travelers appropriate and commodify elements of local culture solely for the purpose of souvenirs, it can undermine the authenticity and significance of traditional practices or artifacts. This can dilute cultural heritage and lead to the loss of its true essence.

While pasalubong culture is steeped in tradition and holds sentimental value, it is crucial to acknowledge its drawbacks and engage in thoughtful discussions surrounding its impact. By understanding the financial burden, environmental implications, reinforcement of materialism, unequal expectations, and potential cultural appropriation, we can navigate pasalubong culture in a more balanced and mindful manner. It is essential to appreciate the sentiment behind pasalubong while also considering alternative ways to express thoughtfulness and strengthen connections that are not solely based on material gifts.


What is Pasalubong?
What is Pasalubong?

To wrap it up, the pasalubong culture carries both positive and negative aspects that warrant consideration. On one hand, it promotes thoughtfulness, strengthens connections, and serves as a tangible expression of care and affection. Pasalubong gifts can bring joy, create lasting memories, and uphold cultural traditions. However, it is important to acknowledge the drawbacks associated with this practice.

The financial burden of buying pasalubong gifts can strain individuals’ budgets, especially when expectations for unique or high-quality items are present. Moreover, the emphasis on material possessions can inadvertently reinforce materialistic values and overshadow the importance of genuine connection and meaningful experiences.

To navigate the pasalubong culture in a more balanced and mindful manner, it is essential to appreciate the sentiment behind it while considering alternative ways to express thoughtfulness and strengthen connections. Encouraging meaningful experiences, and personal gestures, and fostering genuine connections can complement the pasalubong tradition, promoting a deeper understanding of culture and strengthening relationships without solely relying on material gifts.

At the end of the day, whether pasalubong culture is a thumbs up or a thumbs down is up to you and your personal views. It’s all about the context, baby! When buying a pasalubong, whether you’re the giver or the receiver, remember that it’s always the thought that counts and not the price!

You may also like...

Leave a Reply