Pasalubong: Budgeting and Other Practical Tips for Buyers and Bringers

Pasalubong: Budgeting and Other Practical Tips for Buyers and Bringers

People are travelling this summer — visiting local tourist spots, taking short vacations and swimming trips, and going back to their home provinces — for the Holy Week, weekend relaxation, or just cooling down from the blistering heat.

In another recent blog, I provided some tipid tips for summer getaways and swimming trips. And as I wrote, buying pasalubong and souvenirs may be least prioritized or taken as just optional, i.e., if running on a tight budget.

However, I realized that there is more about it than just the costs, thus I am making this follow-up to explore this unique Filipino tradition of gift giving.

Now, there’s just another thing that pushed me into writing this. I dropped by SMR Chocolates Cainta-Junction this afternoon and grabbed some chocolate bars and sweets for homecoming pasalubong.

I ran some errands within the area. I handed over two parcels to the Lazada’s logistics partner. I paid my BPI credit card bill (as I couldn’t find it among the bills payment facilities across all my bank accounts). I also got a quick haircut.

So, I got a little curious and checked what’s in store for me. I heard about it then from my coworkers, or one Valentine’s Day maybe, as a go-to shop in the town, but I got no interest checking in.

Neither I have a sweet tooth nor a special someone. Anyway, I should say that it’s a nice place to shop for confectioneries perfect for special occasions and pasalubong.

Tomorrow, I’ll be travelling back to my home province — Romblon — for the Holy Week. It has been a decade or more already since my last visit, but it’s no big deal because my mom and dad come to see us here in the city every Christmas.

Quick Summary — Buying and bringing home pasalubong is more than just a Filipino tradition of gifting after a vacation or travel. It is also a financial thing, and with this, it is important to learn and adopt practical tips and strategies on how to keep it within the budget.

Pasalubong — More than Just a Filipino Tradition

What is pasalubong? In Filipino tradition, ‘pasalubong’ refers to a souvenir, gift, or something brought back home by a traveler for the loved ones.

Historians and linguists say that ‘pasalubong’ has its roots in the word ‘salubong’ which literally translates to ‘welcoming’ or ‘meeting.’

Bringing home pasalubong might have started during the pre-Hispanic times when Filipino merchants were engaged in long-distance and interisland barter trades.

It thus showed how those left behind were loved, missed, and particularly, remembered throughout the travel.

Interestingly, it has since become part of the Filipino way of building familial and social relationships and served a gesture of reciprocal generosity among family members, friends, and even coworkers. It has developed then a tradition.

It is typical among overseas Filipino workers or OFWs to come back with big balikbayan boxes filled with homecoming gifts such as imported chocolates, branded clothes, and cosmetics for all members of the family and even friends.

Filipinos also bring back items, typically souvenirs and delicacies, which are inextricably linked to the places visited during a travel or vacation.

For instance, those who travel to Negros bring back home silvanas, those who tour Ilocos for even a couple of days buy bagnet, and those who visit Cebu don’t ever miss danggit. Different provinces and regions have trademark pasalubong items for travelers and tourists.

More interestingly, a box of donuts or some sweets occasionally taken home even just from work, especially for kids and elders in the family, are even considered as pasalubong.

Pros and Cons of Buying Pasalubong

Bringing home pasalubong promotes the Filipino way of generosity and goodwill. It translates to pakikisama or the intrinsic appreciation of togetherness.

It makes the recipient feel valued and remembered. It also calls for reciprocity, i.e., giving and taking, while reinforcing friendship and familial relationship.

Apart from the costs however, you may also find buying and bringing home pasalubong mentally and physically demanding.

If you happen to have an extended family and a big circle of friends, thinking about who will receive, what to buy, and how much to spend for each can sometimes be a tough deal.

Sometimes, you even have to consider their personality types, wants, and tastes. Of course, you want more than just hearing their simple ‘thanks’ as they receive your pasalubong. You also want to see their genuine smile and deepest appreciation.

Other than the mental demands, you also need to spend extra time in your travel going through crowded souvenir or pasalubong shops, haggling over prices, and stuffing them in your full luggage.

Pasalubong items are just costly. If you don’t plan your purchases, they may just ruin your travel budget. You may also end up with a holiday spending hangover.

12 Budgeting and Other Practical Tips for Buying and Bringing Home Pasalubong

To avoid the financial pitfalls and all other drawbacks of buying and bringing home pasalubong, here are the budgeting and other practical tips you may consider adopting.

[1] You’re not really obliged, so you may ditch that feeling. Nobody says that it is a mortal sin if you come home without any pasalubong or literally just yourself.

That pressure is just in your head. Your family and friends will always be happy seeing that you’re back sound and safe.

If it has long been your personal practice however, surely they’ll expect something. But they’ll also understand if you miss bringing once in a while. You just make ‘bawi’ next time or give them a simple treat soon.

The fact is — buying and bringing home pasalubong beyond your financial capacity and will makes things complicated, or it may give you a complicated mix of feelings such as regret, guilt, and ingenuine generosity.

If you can’t completely get rid of that pressure or feeling of being obliged, then at least deal with it in a little serious and conscious approach, but not too seriously. And please, don’t overthink about it.

What I mean is that at least you include it in your budget, and you develop a strategy on how to make it budget-friendly but still worth appreciating, hence the next tip.

[2] You may just embrace the tradition, and then employ a proactive approach — budgeting. Travelling these days is far more convenient than before — with all the digital technologies, communication channels, and transportation means — but it also comes with such a great cost. You pay here. You pay there. In other words, it is all costly.

You may, for instance, take a public transport if you can instead of booking Grab. Asking for directions and distance first is way more practical than impulsively deciding to take a cab or carpooling. Perhaps, the destination is only blocks or a short walk away.

If you don’t look for ways to cut on your expenses for all this convenience and don’t budget on your travel, you may end up with unwise spending decisions.

To budget, start by identifying the basic expenses, e.g., flights and travels back and forth, accommodations, food, and other paid activities. If your budget still permits, you may then stretch some extra for pasalubong.

Also, it’s always better to keep track of these expenses. Keep a simple mobile record of every payment and spending, both big and small — and even the smallest key chain bought along the way for pasalubong.

You’ll see that if everything is well accounted for, you’ll just take a rest soon you get back home thinking about all the fun you had during your travel and vacation. You need not to think backwards about those expenses one after another.

[3] You don’t wanna miss an expecting person, so make a list. Shopping for pasalubong takes time. It may also drain your mind thinking about the best items and so your energy browsing through souvenir shops.

To lessen the struggle, you might want to make an advanced list of recipients, e.g., your parents, siblings, and close friends, and some pasalubong ideas for each of them you initially have in mind.

You must have known the available souvenirs and delicacies in the destination or what your loved ones back home will expect you to bring.

You may also set the budget you’re much willing to spend for each person. If you’re a little short on your budget, you may cluster out the names on your list, e.g., as a family or a small circle of friends, and buy one or two which may already be good for all of them.

[4] You get into the deeper meaning of it, so consider the tastes and preferences of the recipients. So, you’re decided to buy your family and friends some pasalubong. Of course, you want them to feel really thankful. You want them to like and appreciate what you will buy them.

To make it happen, or at least try, get into considering their personalities, tastes, and preferences. Most, if not all of them, are easy to please with even the simplest pasalubong. But still, effort counts.

Kids of all ages love sweets. Teenagers love both trendy and unique stuff. Adults love practical things like perfume, clothing items, and food. Elders love something for warmth and comfort.

In most cases, bringing pasalubong just for kids is enough. Adults do not usually demand or look forward to receiving unless you’re coming home from working abroad for years.

Your romantic partner and close friends will no doubt appreciate souvenirs and pasalubong which have some personalized details. Getting stuff customized takes gifting to a higher level.

[5] Get straight to what they want. Ask them. Your parents and siblings know that you’re travelling to somewhere else, and they may have in mind what they want or expect you to bring home.

It’s not always bad to ask. You may be at a big advantage for getting straight about it. It’ll save you time, energy, and some mental neurons. And of course, they won’t make demands that they think you can’t.

While they may be honest what they want for pasalubong, you may also just be honest to them whether your budget permits or not. Of course, you know how to deal with it.

The only thing is that if you fail to bring home something that is expected and promised for some reasons, you better prepare for a good reason, or an alibi maybe.

[6] Do the shopping — little by little or all at once. It’s possible to do the shopping for souvenirs and pasalubong little by little throughout your travel, especially if there are several destinations and stopovers.

By opting for this, you will not end up compromising the special and personalized approach to your picking of items for particular people. If you can’t find one that you think is perfect for a person, then see if you can in the next destination.

In many cases, people do the shopping all at once in one souvenir marketplace. And this even works better with a prepared list and clear budget already.

I remember when we had our Ilocos trip, part of the tour, actually the last, was visiting souvenir and pasalubong shops — bagnet and chicharon home factory, handicrafts and all Ilocos goods shop, and even a strawberry farm.

Good thing, it was mentioned to us in advance so we had our lists of recipients running in our minds as we were on the way. Browsing and buying pasalubong then was planned and went smoothly.

[7] Observe around and get some ideas from fellow travelers and even from sellers. You may be travelling with friends or coworkers who are also into buying pasalubong. You might want to join them on the hunt for the best deals.

Observing around at the souvenir shops gives you an idea what people are buying. You may know what items are the pasalubong-worthy because people put premium to them.

Equally, asking locals and even the sellers and getting honest feedback will also help you in shopping around. Just be forewarned about possible sales talks and hard selling.

[8] You can buy something special and at the same time, inexpensive. Other than those that literally come with ‘special’ labels on the packaging, unique but cheap items can also be special.

If you’re travelling abroad, there are lots of souvenir items other than the typical key chains, fridge magnets, and postcards. I don’t think small-value foreign currency notes will not be appreciated for remembrance.

If you’re making trips to the provinces, then native delicacies and handicrafts are also instant pasalubong ideas.

You just have to make a good deal or price haggling with the local sellers as they usually sell them overpriced at souvenir shops.

Sometimes, it also works better to buy big and bulky but cheaper items as they look grander or more lavish. Just don’t forget to check how much space you still have in your luggage or hand-carry bag.

[9] Buy in bulks and do the repacking. If you don’t have the luxury of time in your travel, the options are limited, or pasalubong items are just pricey, try to buy one kind or a few items in large quantities.

You may even haggle over the prices of souvenirs and pasalubong, especially those sold at open shops and marketplaces. You will know that sellers are willing to negotiate and lower the prices.

As you arrive home, do the repacking and deal with the assortments you like. Make small packs of three or four items. This works best with sweets and delicacies.

You may also just bring a big pack to the office and give each coworker a piece of it or invite them in a snack break and share your pasalubong.

[10] Don’t forget some extras — buy also buffer pasalubong. Aside from the planned ones and priorities, you might want to consider buying some extras for random people who might just be around when you arrive home.

Having these ready will save you from making tough decisions and adjustments. You don’t want one to feel bad for not receiving because the person is not on the list. Make gifting more inclusive.

Additionally, it’s good if these extras are also consumables, or you can have them for personal consumption and use should they be not given away.

[11] Don’t spoil your travel with the curse of a heavy luggage. It’s not worth buying lots of pasalubong if you will just curse the struggle with an overloaded and heavy luggage.

Take note that backpacks and luggage expectedly get heavier when heading home from travels and vacations because of damped and used clothes — and then you’re trying to add pasalubong and souvenirs.

If you can manage and carry them all, then there’s no problem, but you should also take this in consideration as you pick items here and there and stuff your luggage.

In other words, you look at buying and bringing home pasalubong from all perspectives, not just the actual items and the costs.

[12] Give away your pasalubong personally. There is nothing more special than giving away your pasalubong personally. It adds a special degree to the intrinsic value of the tradition.

Equally, it always works best to have it handed in a little private setting. It’s a bad practice being showy, i.e., giving only one or a few people some pasalubong with others watching around. You should know it in the first place.

You might have also experienced and felt being in the situation seeing others get their pasalubong, and you just don’t. You understand the whole thing, but you also feel a little bad.

Final Thoughts

Buying and bringing home pasalubong is more than just a Filipino tradition of gifting. It has a big social value that makes relationships among family and friends closer and stronger.

While it also comes with a financial aspect, it may just affect your travel and vacation budget to a large extent. You should make wise financial decisions about it or adopt some strategies and tips that’ll make it within your budget.

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