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“Pasalubong” – What Makes this Filipino Word Very Special?

Probably next to the beauty of a tourism spot, if it’s about the real reasons for traveling there, is our search for the best “pasalubong”. It’s the tagalog word for “gift” or “souvenir” and it can be anything from foods, toys, clothes, handicraft, furniture, soaps, wearables, or household items. It’s practically anything, big or small, cheap or expensive, edible or not. And for as long as that special item was bought somewhere else and then given to someone as an act of love and kindness – the true purpose has been served.

Kakanin - a Typical Pasalubong for the Filipino Family

A simple gesture of “Salamat po” (Thank you) for sharing that pasalubong is enough to make you feel the love and kindness back. There is the best pasalubong for kids, for grandmas and grandpas, for a favorite grandson, for a close neighbor or friend, for the workmates, for the boss, for a former enemy, for a religious brother, and even for a complete stranger. Yes, indeed!

Well, “pasalubong” is actually different from a gift for birthday, wedding, or special gathering. Pasalubong can be given as a gift but a pasalubong can be just a pasalubong. As the word speaks for itself, it’s an act of love and kindness embedded in the Filipino culture, with or without occasion. Hope you didn’t get confused with that. Anyway, in this post, I will attempt to explain more the deeper significance of this Filipino culture. Probably, this unique trait of the Filipinos for giving “pasalubong” would be best describe with these colorful photos of “pasalubong” which you can only buy from the Philippines.

Shown here are pasalubong bought from the popular island of Boracay. The “I Love Boracay” shirt is always there. And then there is the Piaya (pronounced as pi-ya-ya), the Biscocho, the handcrafted foot in a sandal, and these packs of stick delicacy.



This one shows the typical souvenirs sold along the Boracay beach. The mini guitars are native to Aklan and nearby provinces of Cebu, Bohol, and Bacolod. Speaking of guitars, did you know that Cebu is famous for the world-class quality guitars, another best pasalubong? Handbags made from local materials also highlight the craftmanship of the Boracay islanders.



You will see here windmill miniatures that are product of Bangui, Ilocos Norte where the giant Bangui Bay Windmills can be found. How cute are the windmill designs. Maybe a good pasalubong for your boss for him to display beside his office desk? And how about those bandanas, hand fans, and handbags hanging around? I think they’re cool pasalubong for the lady boss.



Now, these pasalubong can also be bought here in the Philippines. I am really impressed by the craftmanship of the guys behind these art wonders. Can you guess who they are?


These are products of the Vigan City community. Motorcycles made of scrap metals, how impressive! See the wheels made of bearings, the light from used nuts, and the gas tank from an old pipe? What a creative mind! Of course, there are other cool varieties of this metal craft. There you have the car, the jeep, and the airplane. Good to have one as pasalubong to your veteran uncle or retired grandpa. What do you think? And don’t forget the hat. Good to have one of that too. If you also notice the “sungkaan” (bottom of the photo), grab one for your kids or maybe donate one for their school. Sungka is an old Filipino board game that uses shells and a curved wooden block. Hmmm, quite an interesting piece.

Still from Vigan, these pasalubong are for the special “kumares” and “kumpadres”. Wood carvings are good to hang on the walls and doors. Cowboy hats, try to give one your lolo. The handbag hanging around, that’s for your lola.


Now, this is a real masterpiece! Mini dining set of different themes, perfect to display at the storefront, hotel lobby, and reception areas. So think about your friend who’s busy with her business and send her this masterpiece. Woodcrafts like these ones are very common in the Philippines because we have a lot of timber or lumber forests here. If you want to see more woodworks or woodcrafts made by the Filipino artists, read this post: 
Philippines: The Land of the Greatest Filipino Artists in the World - Part 1



Who haven’t been to Baguio City yet? I suggest you visit this wonderful place someday. If it’s all about pasalubong, this is one of the best places to be in the country. Lucky I am for I’ve been here quite a couple of times because aside from the cold climate, what I like is that pasalubong comes in a lot varieties in this Summer Capital of the Philippines. Let me share some of them, starting with this photo.


This is a shop inside the Baguio City Public Market. Jams in jars are sold in a very attractive price scheme: 3 for 100, 4 for 100, 7 for 100. They have the famous strawberry jam, ube jam, coco jam, and cashew nuts mixed with jam. Wines to indulge your taste are also sold here. I could not name them all but all I can say is that they are all a must-try pasalubong.

Here are other stores that offer same kinds of pasalubong. Good to make yourself familiar with these bottled products so the next time you visit Baguio City, you already know what to buy as pasalubong.


These pasalubong displays are near Mines View Park. Oh yes, keychains! They come in different designs, sizes, shapes, and colors. What do we have in this photo? Pencil, name tag, broom, strawberry, wallet, and a lot more keychains. If you look closer on each one of these, you’ll be impressed with the sculpture work done on them. These are hand painted, varnished, and attached with clips ready to be hooked on your keys, bags, or purses. Notice those figures on top? Let’s examine them closer on this next photo.


These are the “Anito”, the gods and goddesses of our Filipino ancestors. Well, yes they are and there are different sizes of these the common color of which is black. The Anitos are holding different kinds of farm tools which symbolizes different beliefs or superstitions – health, wealth, security, and relationship. Then here are the roosters in their typical colors of yellow and orange. Why not give your friend who’s into cockfighting together with an Anito that protects wealth? That’s a perfect combination which will surely impressed him a lot.


Speaking of more Anitos, let me share this photo of me and my wife when we visited this shop also in Baguio City dedicated to selling wood crafts. If it’s pasalubong of this kind, this is absolutely the shop to be.


And for the ladies, go and give your kids this kind of pasalubong. Baby socks and bonnets, round hats for the little girls, and wall arts for the kid’s room, this shop have them for you. Did you notice the crochet? People of Benguet are good at that too so it is very common to see products like these sold on the streets of Baguio City.

Before we leave Baguio City, here are other pasalubong that might be of interest to you.


Coffee of different kinds are produced from the mountains of Benguet and nearby provinces.


Baguio City-labeled original Walis Tambo (Broom) are widely distributed in the country for its known durability.


Naga City’s best pasalubong includes their very own pili nuts, coconut jams with pili nuts, and slippers, coin purse and handbags made from local materials. There are stores that sells Bicol’s very own Bicol Express. They are packed on glass jars like the jams. You can also buy raw Pansit Bato, a kind of noodle produced locally in a place called Bato. I don’t have photos of these products where they are packed as pasalubong but here are the photos of them when they are served hot.









Let’s go back to the south, particularly in Cebu City. Do you know “Danggit”? If you’re a Filipino, I’m pretty sure you’ve tasted this kind of dried fish from Cebu or Visayas in general. The saltiness as well as the smell is just right and the best way to cook it, fried. This is the best pasalubong ever from the south in my opinion for it could last for months even up to years if well kept. Here now are the baskets of Danggit and other variety of dried fish for you to consider buying as pasalubong when you visit Cebu soon.



Wait, we’re not done yet with pasalubong from Cebu. In these next photos, more mouth-watering products from the “Queen City of the South” will tell you that it’s about time to pack your luggage and fly.



Ooops, by the way, I need to make special mention of this original lechon of Cebu you’re seeing on this photo. Oh goodness, buy your tropa, barkada, or friends with a kilo or two of this and they will never forget you. Lechon, or roasted pig, is one of the Philippines’ best menu. While it is good to eat this together with a hot cup of rice in a Cebu restaurant or pair with a bottle of beer, many locals from mainland Luzon ask their friends to order lechon for them. Lechon is the best pasalubong to your friends and family whom are about to celebrate the reunion. Many says it is worth the check-in on your flight back home. You have to taste it to believe.



I know that these photos of pasalubong from different parts of the country are still incomplete to represent the entirety of the Philippines Pasalubong Big List. Almost anywhere you go in the Philippines, they have something for you – a pasalubong to bring back to your family and friends. This is what makes us a bit different from the rest of the world.

The good thing about these pasalubong is that they help the tourism industry of the country. I can’t imagine travelers going back home without pasalubong; I really am. While the reality is that some vendors priced their pasalubong products that high, buyers like you are welcome to bid or bargain. Most sellers are not that difficult to be pleased. Buy a dozen, get one or two for free. And even if you didn’t get the price you’re asking for, there is another store with the same product to offer. Eventually, that seller would not let the other seller steals you as customer. If there is one important message the “pasalubong” from the Philippines is trying to tell us, it is more likely this:


They are waiting for your coming. Give them something worth truly remembering.


So what is your pasalubong?


About the Author
Noriel Panganiban is a Filipino observer of the things happening around the Philippines. What he sees, he shares them without bias or favor to anyone. The advocacy is to promote the country but at the same time educate people, especially the Filipinos, on the proper way of living for the betterment of the nation. There are bad things going on and they need to be changed. Noriel believes that the time when Filipinos are enjoying a peaceful, progressive, and united Philippines is still possible. This blog site is his encouragement to every citizen to make it happen.

To get to know more Noriel, you may also visit his website, www.knowriel.com. For questions and comments, please leave them in the comments section below.

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