The Sweetness of Pasalubong

By Karen Galarpe

On a media trip to Thailand last week, my fellow journalists and I made a beeline for the duty-free shops at the airport with less than an hour left before boarding time. Our agenda: buy homecoming gifts or pasalubong. We bought chocolates, tamarind candies, mango in sticky rice, and Thai curry in a box and headed to the gate with our loot.

Looking around, I see that rare is the Filipino who doesn’t buy pasalubong for folks back home. It’s more of an unwritten rule and a custom to bring home a souvenir for those who weren’t with us on the trip, in effect saying, “Wish you were with me” or “Thinking of you” or “Here’s a little gift to show you I care.”

It’s not really the grandness of the gift that matters, rather the thought that counts, and so little pasalubong items from chocolates to little trinkets are welcomed. This is an expression of the love language of gifts. In “The Five Love Languages of Teenagers”, author Gary Chapman writes, “Gifts are visible, tangible evidence of emotional love.”

My sister remembers hugging and carrying this big white stuffed bear on the plane back home to give to her kids. A friend of mine brought home in his hand luggage two heavy little sculptures from Bangkok to give to friends. And I remember checking out maybe about three stores in Akihabara in Tokyo looking for a specific anime action figure for my son.

There’s satisfaction in buying something for a loved one, or people you care about, and handing this over personally upon arrival from a trip. The smile on the recipients’ faces is worth it.

Traveling soon? Make room then for some strawberry jam and peanut brittle from Baguio, otap and danggit from Cebu, green tea from Japan, coffee from Seattle, wine from California, chocolates from Switzerland, tea from China, and yes, why not—some crocodile jerky from Australia. If it fits in the bag, it’s great pasalubong. Have a safe trip!