Whether you are an overseas Filipino worker (OFW) visiting the Philippines for vacation or a traveler returning from a business or leisure trip abroad… Not to be forgotten is the “pasalubong.” Whether large or small, your “gift” will undoubtedly be anticipated and appreciated!
Indeed, the giving and receiving of pasalubong is an integral part of the Philippine culture, regardless of where one has traveled or how long one has stayed. It is a way for the traveler to express his or her concern and affection for loved ones back home… family, friends, and colleagues.
Are you a returning OFW? Never forget the pasalubong!
If you are returning in the Philippines from another country, have no fear because there are numerous items that you can give as pasalubong. These items can be gathered in what Filipinos refer to as a “balikbayan box,” which you can bring as luggage or send via a shipping company.
In case you’re curious, the term pasalubong translates into Tagalog as “(something) for when you welcome me.” It refers to any gift or souvenir brought home by a balikbayan for family and friends. It is a customary Filipino practice to greet balikbayan at the airport.
Notably, the term balikbayan (translation: “return home”) refers to a Filipino who is visiting or returning to the Philippines following a period of residence in another country. And a balikbayan box is literally a “box of goodies” containing the recipient’s pasalubong.
What should you place in a balikbayan box now? The following is a list of some of the most popular items that can be given as pasalubong in the Philippines:
It’s almost certain that branded t-shirts, pants, shorts, jackets, hoodies, socks, and caps will be a huge hit! As an example, brands such as Abercrombie & Fitch, Gap, Hollister, Old Navy, and the North Face are typically more expensive in Philippine stores. These brands are more affordable abroad— and they come in larger sizes.
If you’re on a budget, you’re not required to purchase premium brands. Additionally, campus shirts and jerseys featuring Stanford, Yale, and other well-known universities will be greatly appreciated!
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Branded bags (for example, Michael Kors) are also popular, particularly with women. These include affordable and high-quality handbags, backpacks, duffel bags, and laptop bags. Don’t forget to gift fashionable bags to your wife, mother, and sister! Women of the households will be the ones lucky when they have an OFW family to gift them this holiday.
Another type of pasalubong that ladies will appreciate are beauty products such as body lotion, face cream, makeup, shampoo, and conditioner. While the Philippines has a plethora of local beauty brands, your loved ones may prefer to try imported ones! Being OFWs can make your cosmetic options even broader!
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Jewellery, Watches, and Trinkets in Costume
Earrings, necklaces, rings, and other “fancy” (affordable) jewelry are also excellent pasalubong. Likewise, watches, key chains, bottle openers, ref magnets, and other trinkets are prohibited. If you can obtain items depicting US states and landmarks — these are also reasonably priced and make excellent gifts and souvenirs! Working as OFWs will get you to appreciate more of these items as its availability abroad will definitely surprise you.
It is not uncommon for a Filipino friend or relative to joke, “I’m a size (insert shoe size),” when they learn that someone is returning from abroad. Of course, if you truly want to surprise that person with branded shoes — which are typically more affordable in US outlets — go ahead and purchase a pair for him or her!
Toiletries and Cleaning Supplies
While the majority of shampoo, conditioner, laundry detergent, and similar products are available in the Philippines, you may notice that they are typically sold in smaller packs or sachets, with larger bottles being more expensive. These brands are typically more affordable abroad, so stock up on some for your family and friends!
Stuffed animals and board games make excellent pasalubong for children! If you can locate an item that is not readily available in the Philippines (or is more expensive), that would be fantastic! Working for your kids as OFWs will let you purchase toys for them as you come home every time back to the country.
Certain brands of smartphones, laptops, tablets, and other electronic devices are less expensive in other countries— something to keep in mind if you’re shopping for a special gift for a loved one. Additionally, when purchasing a smartphone, ensure that it is “unlocked,” allowing it to be easily used with a Philippine SIM card.
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Cigars and alcoholic beverages
Male relatives and friends are likely anticipating imported cigars and alcoholic beverages, so pack some in your luggage or balikbayan box! Ensure that glass bottles are packed and wrapped securely in your luggage. Such foreign brands of cigars and beverages can easily be acquainted when you are an OFW.
Fragrance brands such as Bath and Body Works and Victoria’s Secret are popular gift ideas in the abroad, where they are typically more affordable. The same is true for luxury brands such as Calvin Klein, Dolce & Gabbana, and others. If you’re looking for gifts for women, you can’t go wrong with these!
The great thing about canned goods is that they can be stored for an extended period of time (just be sure to check the expiration dates); additionally, certain brands are expensive or difficult to find in the Philippines. SPAM, Campbells, and Hormel are just a few of the more popular brands. These can be served as snacks or ulam (viand) in the Philippines, paired with hot rice. Yum!
Coffee and Tea
Although the Philippines has several local coffee and tea brands, your loved ones may prefer to try brands outside the Philippines. These are lightweight and portable, and they make excellent gifts for coffee or tea-obsessed family and friends back home!
Vitamins and Supplements
Certain vitamin and health supplement brands in the Philippines can be quite pricey, so you may wish to bring some along for your loved ones. Without a doubt, the “seniors” (elderly members of your family) will benefit greatly from these vitamins and supplements!
While soy sauce, fish sauce, garlic powder, and pepper are all readily available in the Philippines, basil, cumin, and turmeric are not (or more expensive). Therefore, make sure to purchase some spices for your family and friends who enjoy cooking!
If you’re short on time (and ideas), fear not; you can always give out foreign bills as gifts. Your loved ones will most likely keep these as souvenirs, but they can also be exchanged for cash at banks or currency shops if they require additional funds!
And, of course, don’t forget the chocolates! Many of these items are available in the Philippines but are more affordable in other countries. Kit Kat, Hershey’s, Mars, M&Ms, Reese’s, and Twix chocolates are guaranteed to bring a smile to many faces!
Practical Advice on Purchasing Pasabalubong
Now that you’re aware of the types of gifts to bring as pasalubong from abroad, here are some additional considerations:
1. Establish and adhere to a budget.
You should not feel obligated to purchase pasalubong for your loved ones. Bear in mind that these are merely tokens or souvenirs; they do not need to be costly! Having said that, be sure to establish a pasalubong budget and adhere to it!
2. Create a list of the recipients of your pasalubong
Remember that you are not required to bring gifts for the entire barangay (community)! Pasalubong is intended for the people who matter most in your life, namely your immediate family and close friends. You can set aside something for your extended family and coworkers if you wish. If Christmas is approaching, you can also include a list of your inaanaks (godchildren).
3. Make a list of the pasalubong items you’d like to give to each recipient
Once you’ve compiled a list of recipients, you can begin allocating pasalubong items to each. You can also assign specific “amounts” to each person on your list based on your budget.
4. Begin purchasing pasalubong well in advance of your trip
Shopping on the spur of the moment is such a hassle, not to mention expensive! It’s always preferable to compile your lists weeks — if not months — in advance of your trip. This way, you can purchase pasalubong and gradually fill up your balikbayan box until it’s time for your trip!
5. Purchase discounted pasalubong items
Profit from sales events and promotions such as Black Friday, Cyber Monday, “Pay Day” sales, and early Christmas sales. During these shopping events, you can easily find some great deals on clothing, handbags, shoes, and electronic gadgets.
6. Prior to traveling, weigh your box and luggage
Bring out your bathroom scale prior to your trip to weigh your bags and boxes. After all, you don’t want to exceed your airline’s luggage allowance and end up paying an additional fee at the airport! Again, planning and preparation are always beneficial!
If you are planning to return to the Philippines in this holiday, simply refer to the list and tips above for assistance in preparing pasalubong. More importantly, have fun listing, purchasing, and packaging your gifts — and consider the joy they will bring to your loved ones!
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