The giving of pasalubong to families and friends is a time-honored tradition. It is “something meant for you when you welcome me back” (Wikipedia). Usually, the pasalubong is given by the balikbayan (overseas Filipinos/those with foreign citizenship returning or visiting the country) to relatives and friends (and neighbors and everybody else).
I used to expect pasalubongs when I was younger. That’s the negative side of it — a common act of thoughtfulness turning into something of a requirement. When I didn’t get anything from an aunt or uncle, or when I would get something that I didn’t like, I’d be disappointed. I was an awful child. I realized that I was being awful when it was my turn to give the pasalubong and I felt obligated to get some, lest I be seen as a thoughtless little B. I thought other pasalubong givers may feel the same so I just stopped expecting to be given something. I do like to give goodies to friends at unexpected times, when there is no occasion that makes me feel required to do so.
What’s annoying? Amidst well wishes during send-offs, I would almost always hear “Don’t forget the pasalubong!” being addressed to the vacationer/immigrant implying that the one who said it expects something when he/she returns. Sometimes, people just say it as an expression, like some sort of an inside joke or reminder to return safely because the traveler still has to “distribute the pasalubong” or something. But sometimes, people mean it. Sometimes they even have a wish list.
What’s more annoying? If you are the traveler and you hear such remarks from someone whom you don’t even consider a friend.
And the most annoying of them all? When you return from a travel empty-handed and are put on a very uncomfortable spot when someone asks, “where’s my pasalubong?” with one palm reaching towards you. (Umm… errrr, it was confiscated by the Customs personnel.)
Enough about that. Despite ranting, I do admit that it feels nice to receive unexpected gifts, especially if the little somethings are something you really, really, really want! Last January, my mom’s sisters from Chicago and San Francisco whom I’ve last seen during my wedding in 2009, my dad’s sister and her husband who visit every year for their annual medical mission and vacation, and their two daughters from Ohio, came to stay at my parent’s home. They overflowed my parents’ fridge with the usual Trader Joe’s and Hershey’s chocolates, and you couldn’t walk a few steps in the house without bumping into a balikbayan box filled with goodies to be given to many other relatives.
These are the pasalubongs I received (the M key chain was a gift from C):
One aunt gave me a cute blue Dooney & Bourke leather purse (That’s almost 300 bucks! She said. She always puts a price on her gifts). I asked my other aunt to buy me the Benefit Fine One One, Benefit Watt’s Up, Hanae Mori Eau de Toilette (I wanted the Eau de Parfum but my aunt got it wrong) and of course, the wedge sneakers. Yes, I did make a wish list and of course I paid for the items, except for the Fine One One which my aunt insisted was her gift to me.
I’m going to need to design those sneakers. I now have five pairs and three of them are black. Maybe I should put some spikes or studs on them.
My cousins from Ohio gave me a Stila Snow Angel Palette. Wow! So pretty! Just the arsenal I need to battle the dowdiness that motherhood has brought upon me.
If only I could figure out how to use it.