Tips for Buying Pasalubong: A Guide for Balikbayans


When it comes to returning home as a balikbayan, one of the most exciting parts is buying pasalubong, or gifts, for your loved ones. Pasalubong holds a special place in Filipino culture, as it represents thoughtfulness, love, and the joy of sharing. However, choosing the perfect pasalubong can be a daunting task, especially with the vast array of options available. In this comprehensive guide, we will provide you with invaluable tips and tricks to make your pasalubong shopping experience a breeze. Whether you’re a seasoned balikbayan or a first-timer, these insights will help you find the perfect gifts that will bring smiles to the faces of your friends and family.

Table of Contents

  1. Understanding the Significance of Pasalubong
  2. Researching Local Customs and Preferences
  3. Setting a Budget and Planning Ahead
  4. Choosing Pasalubong with Local Flair
  5. Considering Practicality and Usability
  6. Shopping in Local Markets and Specialty Stores
  7. Exploring Traditional Handicrafts
  8. Sampling Local Delicacies and Treats
  9. Finding Unique Souvenirs
  10. Personalizing Your Pasalubong Selections
  11. Getting Recommendations from Locals
  12. Taking Cultural Sensitivities into Account
  13. Avoiding Counterfeit Goods
  14. Bringing Home a Taste of the Philippines
  15. Balancing Traditional and Modern Gifts
  16. Packing and Transporting Pasalubong Safely
  17. FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)
  18. Conclusion

Understanding the Significance of Pasalubong

Pasalubong is more than just a souvenir or gift; it is a tangible expression of love, care, and respect for Filipino culture. It symbolizes thoughtfulness and serves as a way to share experiences and memories. As a balikbayan, you have the opportunity to bring a piece of the Philippines back to your loved ones, reminding them of your adventures and the unique bond you share. Understanding the significance of pasalubong will help you select gifts that are meaningful and treasured.

Researching Local Customs and Preferences

Before embarking on your pasalubong shopping journey, take the time to research the local customs and preferences of your intended recipients. Different regions in the Philippines may have their own unique cultural practices and tastes. For instance, if you’re buying pasalubong for relatives in the province of Cebu, you might consider getting them dried mangoes, as Cebu is famous for this delicacy. By understanding local customs and preferences, you can tailor your gift selection to make it more personal and appreciated.

Setting a Budget and Planning Ahead

To avoid overspending and ensure a smooth pasalubong shopping experience, it’s crucial to set a budget and plan ahead. Determine how much you’re willing to allocate for pasalubong purchases and consider the number of recipients you need to buy gifts for. By setting a budget, you can prioritize your spending and make informed decisions about which gifts to choose. Additionally, planning ahead allows you to allocate sufficient time for shopping, ensuring that you don’t rush and miss out on the best options.

Choosing Pasalubong with Local Flair

When buying pasalubong, aim for items that showcase the unique local culture and heritage of the Philippines. Look for products that are distinctively Filipino, such as handwoven textiles, intricately crafted wooden sculptures, or traditional musical instruments like the kulintang. These items not only make wonderful gifts but also serve as a way to preserve and promote the rich cultural traditions of the country. By choosing pasalubong with local flair, you can share a piece of the Philippines’ vibrant heritage with your loved ones.

Considering Practicality and Usability

While it’s important to select pasalubong that reflects the local culture, it’s equally crucial to consider the practicality and usability of the gifts. Opt for items that are not only visually appealing but also serve a purpose in the daily lives of your recipients. For example, instead of buying decorative items that might end up collecting dust on a shelf, consider practical items like kitchen utensils, accessories, or even clothing that your loved ones can use and enjoy regularly. By choosing practical and usable pasalubong, you ensure that your gifts are appreciated and serve a functional purpose.

Shopping in Local Markets and Specialty Stores

To truly immerse yourself in the pasalubong shopping experience, venture into the bustling local markets and specialty stores. These places are treasure troves of unique and authentic Filipino products, often sold by local artisans and vendors. Explore places like Divisoria in Manila, Carbon Market in Cebu, or the Baguio City Public Market for a wide variety of pasalubong options. These markets offer everything from fresh produce and handicrafts to clothes and accessories at affordable prices. Shopping in local markets not only allows you to find hidden gems but also supports the local economy.

Exploring Traditional Handicrafts

Filipino craftsmanship is renowned worldwide for its skill and attention to detail. When buying pasalubong, take the time to explore traditional handicrafts made by local artisans. From intricately woven baskets to hand-carved wooden figurines, these crafts exhibit the artistry and cultural heritage of the Philippines. By purchasing traditional handicrafts, you contribute to the preservation of traditional skills and help sustain local artisans and their communities.

Sampling Local Delicacies and Treats

One of the joys of pasalubong shopping is discovering and sharing delicious local delicacies and treats. The Philippines is famous for its mouthwatering food items, such as dried mangoes, pastries like hopia and ensaymada, and regional specialties like bagnet or longganisa. Include some delectable treats in your pasalubong selection to give your loved ones a taste of the Philippines. Pack these goodies carefully to ensure they arrive fresh and intact.

Finding Unique Souvenirs

Souvenirs are a popular choice for pasalubong, as they allow your loved ones to have a tangible reminder of your travels. Look for unique souvenirs that capture the essence of the places you’ve visited. Whether it’s a keychain shaped like a jeepney, a refrigerator magnet adorned with a famous landmark, or a small artwork depicting a breathtaking scenery, these souvenirs hold sentimental value and can transport your recipients back to the beautiful memories you’ve created.

Personalizing Your Pasalubong Selections

To make your pasalubong even more special, consider personalizing your gift selections. This can be done through customized items, such as shirts or mugs with your loved ones’ names or initials, or by selecting gifts that align with their individual interests and hobbies. For instance, if someone is an avid coffee lover, a personalized coffee set or a selection of locally sourced coffee beans would make a thoughtful gift. By personalizing your pasalubong, you show your loved ones that you’ve put extra thought and effort into choosing something just for them.

Getting Recommendations from Locals

When it comes to finding the best pasalubong, locals are your best resource. Engage in conversations with the locals, such as hotel staff, tour guides, or friendly shopkeepers. They often have valuable insights and recommendations on where to find unique and authentic pasalubong items. Not only will you discover hidden gems and local favorites, but you’ll also have the opportunity to connect with the people who know the culture and traditions best. Don’t hesitate to ask for recommendations and advice; the locals will be more than happy to assist you.

Taking Cultural Sensitivities into Account

While it’s important to embrace and appreciate Filipino culture through your pasalubong choices, it’s equally important to be mindful of cultural sensitivities. Some items may have cultural or religious significance that you may not be aware of. It’s essential to do your research and avoid purchasing or gifting items that could be considered inappropriate or offensive. Respect for the local customs and traditions is key when selecting pasalubong, ensuring that your gifts are received with joy and appreciation.

Avoiding Counterfeit Goods

In your pursuit of finding the perfect pasalubong, be cautious of counterfeit goods. Unfortunately, counterfeit products can be prevalent in some areas, particularly in busy tourist spots. Counterfeit items not only lack the quality and authenticity of genuine products, but they also undermine the local economy and artisans. To avoid purchasing counterfeit goods, shop at reputable stores and establishments, and look for official certification or labels of authenticity when buying products like traditional handicrafts or branded items.

Bringing Home a Taste of the Philippines

One of the most beloved aspects of pasalubong is the opportunity to bring home the flavors of the Philippines. Local food products, such as spices, sauces, and condiments, can be excellent choices for pasalubong. These items allow your loved ones to recreate Filipino dishes and experience the culinary delights of the country. When selecting food products, ensure they are properly packaged and have a good shelf life to maintain their quality during transit.

Balancing Traditional and Modern Gifts

When choosing pasalubong, strike a balance between traditional and modern gifts. Traditional items like handmade crafts and traditional textiles are wonderful representations of Filipino culture. However, don’t overlook modern gifts that reflect contemporary Filipino trends and interests. Consider items like locally designed clothing, trendy accessories, or even technological gadgets that cater to your loved ones’ preferences. This balance allows you to honor tradition while embracing the dynamic and evolving nature of Filipino culture.

Packing and Transporting Pasalubong Safely

After you’ve carefully selected your pasalubong items, it’s crucial to pack and transport them safely to ensure they arrive in pristine condition. Use sturdy packaging materials, such as bubble wrap or packing peanuts, to protect delicate items from damage. Securely seal packages to prevent any spills or leaks, especially for food products. Additionally, consider the size and weight of your pasalubong, as excess baggage fees may apply. Plan ahead and allocate sufficient space in your luggage or consider shipping options if needed.


Here are some frequently asked questions (FAQs) related to buying pasalubong as a balikbayan:

  1. Q: How do I choose the best pasalubong for my loved ones?
    • A: Consider their preferences, interests, and the significance of the gift. Personalized or thoughtful items that reflect their tastes or hobbies are often well-received.
  2. Q: Can I bring pasalubong on the plane with me?
    • A: Yes, you can bring pasalubong on the plane, but be mindful of airport regulations regarding liquid or food items. Pack them properly and adhere to the restrictions imposed by the airline.
  3. Q: Where can I find authentic and high-quality pasalubong items?
    • A: Look for reputable stores, local markets, or specialty shops known for their authentic pasalubong products. Seek recommendations from locals or do some online research beforehand.
  4. Q: Are there any cultural taboos I should be aware of when buying pasalubong?
    • A: Yes, it’s important to be aware of cultural sensitivities. Avoid purchasing items that may be considered offensive or disrespectful to the local culture or religion.
  5. Q: Can I haggle when buying pasalubong in local markets?
    • A: Haggling is common in local markets, but it may not be appropriate in all situations. Use your judgment and be respectful when negotiating prices.
  6. Q: How can I ensure the freshness and quality of food pasalubong items?
    • A: Look for properly packaged food items with a good shelf life. Check for seals or expiration dates, and consider purchasing from reputable vendors.


Buying pasalubong as a balikbayan is an exciting and fulfilling experience. By following the tips and guidelines provided in this comprehensive guide, you can navigate the pasalubong shopping process with ease and confidence. Remember to consider the significance of pasalubong, research local customs, set a budget, and choose gifts with local flair and practicality. Explore local markets, discover traditional handicrafts, sample delicious treats, and personalize your selections to make them even more special. Don’t forget to consult locals for recommendations, be mindful of cultural sensitivities, and avoid counterfeit goods. With these insights, you’ll be able to find the perfect pasalubong that will bring joy to your loved ones and keep the spirit of Filipino culture alive.