There is a term used by those in the navy for anything taken ashore as a gift. ‘Rabbits’. It probably goes back to the days when they used to smuggle contraband like tobacco hidden in the carcass of a dead rabbit, or in the Australian context, something imported, like rabbits, foxes, pigs and so forth. When my dad used to travel with the army band (which was often), he would always bring something back for my sister and I and we always looked forward to his return with undisguised glee… and impatience.
Filipinos have their own custom of ‘rabbits’, called ‘pasalubong’. Pasalubong literally means ‘something for when you welcome me’ and is given to the family and friends back in the province after travelling somewhere else. Many Filipinos have cherished memories of their parents, especially OFWs, coming back after a long absence and bringing them something from wherever they had been.
It Doesn’t Have To Be Expensive
The tradition didn’t start with parents travelling overseas to work, though. Even if they were just returning from a day at work, a loving parent would think of their family at home and pick up a little treat to give when they returned. All over the Philippines you will see stalls near bus, ferry and jeepney depots selling the local delicacy. Wrapped in banana leaves and tied with string or half a coconut shell filled with sweet, sticky whatever it is and plastic wrapped, pasalubong is always available.
The gift is not wrapped any further, as we might with a birthday present, but handed to the recipient as is and then shared out with the gift giver having some too. Everyone gets to partake and share the fun… very Filipino!
Don’t Deny Your Filipina Her Culture!
Pasalubong is a very important part of the Filipino culture and if you accompany your Filipina back to her province to meet her family, don’t be surprised if she loads up with chocolates or other items, filling your luggage and carry-on baggage with enough stuff to start a small sari-sari store. It is important to her to do this yet I know some Kano’s who berate their asawa for carting container loads of chocolate to a city where you can buy the same items at any SM supermarket. That’s not the point!
If you are the traveler, then bring something from home to hand out. It doesn’t have to be big or expensive, just representative of where you come from. I always travel with a string of those clip-on koalas on a rope you can buy at the airport before leaving for $10, or at Go-Lo for five. Aussie branded chocolates, macadamia nuts and little catering servings of jams and Vegemite also get a smile and show whoever you are travelling to see that you are thoughtful and considerate.
Part of the fun in immersing yourself in a different culture, whether for a vacation or for life through marriage, surely has to be participating in the local customs and traditions. Pasalubong is one of these and it proves the old saying that it is better to give than to receive.
Perry Gamsby, D.Lit, MA(Writing), www.streetwisephilippines.biz, Dip. Mktg is a writer and lecturer who lives with his Cebuana wife and five Aus-Fil daughters in Western Sydney. The author of a series of best-selling ‘self-help’ books for expats and those married to Filipinas, he is also a Master of Filipino Martial Arts and a former World Stickfighting Champion who has lived, worked and vacationed in the Philippines since 1988. Perry and his family return to the Philippines on a yearly basis. You can read more of his writing on Philippines topics at
This article and website sponsored by Down Under Visa, Australian Registered Migration Agents in Manila – The Australian Partner Visa Specialists