These are usually small gifts taken home to relatives and friends. Translated literally, it means “to greet/meet/receive”. It could be anything from regional specialty food to key chains or t-shirts bearing the name of the destination the traveler has been to. While balikbayans or permanent residents in another country coming home to the Philippines, will find it easy to buy for their relatives in the Philippines, the case is different for those travelling on holiday. Vacationers in other countries may find it difficult to shop for relatives given the short amount of time they have in a particular country. Even more taxing is packing and ensuring weight limitations are not exceeded. Balikbayans, on the other hand, have the option of sending over their pasalubong in advance via a balikbayan box.
What to buy:
1. Food – This is always the easiest gift to give. If you’re travelling locally, the Philippines has 7,107 islands. And more likely than not, your destination will have a speciality dish. Cebu has it’s dried mangoes and lechon. Palawan has danggit, Davao has durian and so much more.
2. Keychains and fridge magnets – These are easiest to find in souvenir shops (especially if you’re visiting popular tourist destinations), relatively cheap and easy to pack. They may seem corny and touristy, but when it comes to pasalubong, it’s a good alternative to bulky items.
3. T-shirts – Depending on where you are in the world, it is easy to find shirts that represent a specific country or city. Be careful though as many frequent travellers would warn you that most tshirts you find in souvenir shops are made in China and not really from the destination you came from.
4. Postcards – While you can give postcards as is, it would be a nice touch to write a short note and actually send it to the recipient from wherever you are.
5. Unique small toys – In Italy, we found little versions of Pinocchio puppets. In Germany, they had hand-made puppets and bears in Bavarian clothing. These are keepsakes you can give that you won’t be able to get in the Philippines.
6. Shot glasses – If you frequent souvenir stores and airport shops, you’ll know that there’s a shot glass representing the country anywhere you go. A bulkier, more useful version would be travel tumblers. When buying shot glasses, consider packing them among your carry-on luggage as checked-in bags go through a lot of tumbling (even with that Fragile sticker).
7. Tea – Some countries, particularly in Asia, have specialty teas. These come in small packages and can even be placed in your carry-on luggage. They’re easy to find in supermarkets, small grocery stores and in airports.
8. Chocolates – This is a difficult type of pasalubong to give as chocolate is available practically anywhere in the Philippines. However, if you find brands or types of chocolates that are unique to one country or region, you may want to consider this. For instance, chocolate in Japan (like the different flavored KitKats) are unique to the country. You want relatives to sample Milka products from Europe or Ghirardelli chocolates from San Francisco.
We take the art of buying pasalubong seriously in our family. In fact, on our recent European expedition, we bought a luggage set and filled it with 17 kilos of sausages from Germany…then dragged it across Rome and Paris just to show our relatives back home how much we want to share our experiences with them. I suspect Filipinos all over the world look at pasalubong-giving the same way. However, it is best to be practical when buying pasalubong. Choose items that are lightweight, easy to pack and are within your budget.
When it comes to pasalubong, the old adage applies: it’s the thought that counts.