The Filipino culture of “pasalubong” and “pakikisama”

Roses from FH with a side of gucci marmont
Roses from FH ♥

If you are non-Filipino travelling in a foreign country and happen to run into Filipino travelers, have you ever noticed how they often take the time to buy a bunch of little knick knacks or souvenirs in almost every other tourist stop? The quantities they buy are more than enough for the average traveller and the trouble that they go to and the lengths they go to carry the stuff despite limited baggage allowance will amaze you.

Why do these travellers even bother to spend that amount of money? Why do they put up with the hassle of hand-carrying these worthless trinkets? Why do they buy checked baggage allowance just to transport these back home? They aren’t buying all of those stuff for themselves. Majority of these little knickknacks are for family, friends, and colleagues back home. These are pasalubong.

The Filipino culture of “Pasalubong” and “Pakikisama”

I don’t think there’s a literal English word for pasalubong. It’s nearest relative in the English language is probably that gift or souvenirs you give a loved one from your travels. Pakikisama, on the other hand, probably closely resembles what English speakers call “just trying to get along with people,” usually work colleagues.

Pasalubong + pakikisama means that the recipients for your travel gifts won’t be limited to those loved ones but may include: work colleagues, acquaintances and even that random person in the ground floor who shamelessly demands for pasalubong from each country on your itinerary in Europe!

Pasalubong and Pakikisama wreak havoc on OFW budgets

There’s nothing objectionable about buying little trinkets and giving them to people, unless said people are mere acquaintances or even if they’re not, such as family relatives who not only expect pasalubong as a matter of right, but demand it.

I personally have a pasalubong item on my travel budget to accommodate for such things. I enjoy giving pasalubong especially to family. Giving pasalubong doesn’t wreak much havoc for Pinoys on holiday as travel isn’t done on the regular. It gets interesting for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and balikbayans,* though.

OFWs are contractual workers with usually less than a year’s contract to work abroad. Its implication is that they must return to the Philippines every x number of months. And what do friends, relatives or distant acquaintances** usually*** demand on every skype call or long-distance phone call? A long list of detailed product or items that they want, of course.

A long list of demands from people who have a vague idea how hard it is working abroad. And it is. Pinoy OFWs are often treated badly by foreign employers, often take care of kids other than their own, which are left to the care of the home-bound spouse or relatives. Working away from your home country has its share of emotional costs on the OFWs and their families. OFWs are often easily guilted by this Filipino culture of pasalubong and pakikisama, as a result.

Money-friendly way of buying pasalubong

A good compromise can be this: succumb to this practice but make sure you stay within budget. It will be a good idea to consider:

(1) allocating a fixed amount for pasalubong (whether you’re an OFW or just going on holiday);

(2) make a list of your intended recipients so you know how many pieces of pasalubong you’ll need;

(3) simply divide your allocation by the number of recipients and you get a peso value for each recipient;

(4) simply look for meaningful souvenirs or trinkets to fit our allocation;

(5) as always, buy in CASH; and

(6) don’t be going into debt or making cash advances.

Trinkets will be trinkets and they are pasalubong, no matter how cheap or expensive they are. What matters is they are meaningful and given with a full heart. If you are a recipient, always consider not only the price of the pasalubong, but the hassle the giver went through to give it to you. Think of the trouble of hand-carrying it from the bus to the hotel and so forth from country/city to country/city, and clearing through immigration or customs. It’s not a joke buying pasalubong. Hehe.

Filipino culture is what it is and we can embrace it without wreaking the budget.

How do you handle pasalubong and pakikisama? Do you have these practices in your country?


*Balikbayans are Pinoys living and working abroad who come home to the Philippines to visit family.

**Like that random neighbor who lives a few houses away that you barely even know or does not even talk to you unless you are newly-repatriated to the country i.e. Bagong abot or newly-arrived from abroad.

***I am hoping that financial literacy helps curb this kind of practice. Hopefully OFW relatives read this blog. Lol.

3 thoughts on “The Filipino culture of “pasalubong” and “pakikisama”

  1. Good read, simple yet powerful. I know someone who came from Thailand but did not buy any pasalubong there. She bought a Thai food item here in Manila and gave it to her friend as pasalubong. That friend was happy to receive it. True story!


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