There is an expected tradition when you go to visit in the Philippines that you will bring small gifts to the people you are visiting. This is called Pasalubong. It is especially valued if it is something from your home country.
This is a sample of what is appreciated both there and here as a gift.
I find it spelled differently depending on exactly where you are in the Philippines.
In Tagalog, it translates as “something for when you welcome me”. I will quote from Wikipedia for the cultural significance.
The tradition of giving a pasalubong is of great cultural importance for Filipinos as it strengthens the bond with the immediate family, relatives, and friends. In rarer instances, it can even be used to forge stronger relationships with someone you may not know that well, as with someone you may be meeting for the first time.
The gesture of handing out pasalubong emphasizes the gladness at reuniting with one’s loved ones and the relief at being back home safe. It is also a sign of thoughtfulness. While pasalubong are not compulsory or even expected, failing to bring pasalubong for someone can sometimes be perceived negatively. Particular importance is given to gifts for children, and the anticipation of getting pasalubong from a parent coming home is often a cherished childhood memory for most Filipinos.
By bringing gifts with regional significance (e.g. things that cannot be acquired locally), the person coming home can also share part of his travels. It similar to the western concept of souvenirs except that it is not meant for personal remembrance but for sharing the experience with others, especially as the different islands and regions of the Philippines can have different languages, local customs, and cuisine specialties. The pasalubong serves as a ‘sample’ of another region’s specialty, bringing different Filipino cultures closer together. They can also simply be gifts likely to be appreciated.
Unlike western gifts, pasalubong are not wrapped but are given as is. The person who gives the pasalubong can also freely partake of the gift.
I thought it was interesting that the children showed me toys that I had sent in their Christmas box the previous year so that I would know how much they appreciated what I gave them. Of course, they were also hoping that I had remembered to bring them something new, and I didn’t disappoint them. I had candy and toys for the young children, toys and books for the older children, small gifts for the adult volunteers, and shoes and clothes for all ages.
It is not always a one-way street, so to speak. When friends visit family there, they often bring small gifts back to the USA to give to family and friends here that will be a memento of the Philippines. I have included an example of what might be brought back from the Philippines for gifts here.
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