Gift Giving in the Philippines

Business Cultural Notes

In Filipino culture, one way of showing thoughtfulness to one’s family, friends, or co-workers is by giving them pasalubong especially if he or she comes back after a long absence. A pasalubong is basically a token gift that one gives to express his being able to remember people close to him while he was gone. It could be a simple souvenir of a place that one has been to, such as key chains, a book, a pen, etc. Or it could be an expensive gift like a watch, a good bottle of wine, or a perfume. One gives pasalubong when she comes back from abroad, either after being away for long time to work, or a short pleasure or business trip, or even simply after travelling around the country for a vacation. 

If one forgets to bring pasalubong, it is certain that he will have to deal with tampuhan (from tampo), which is basically a kind of irrational feeling of being “taken for granted” on the part of those who expected a pasalubong from someone but did not get any. A person is said to be nagtatampo if she feels having been “taken for granted” also in the context of not being invited to a social event by persons she considers to be a close friend; when she asks a favor from a friend and doesn’t get it; or it was her birthday and she did not get a greeting card, an expected gift, or a phone call from her boyfriend, husband, or friends. One way to make-up for one’s shortcoming in this regard, and to put an end to the tampo of another person is to make panunuyo (from suyuan), which is basically a way of appeasing or massaging the hurt ego of the person who is nagtatampo. This can be done through a gift, an ice cream or dinner treat, or simply apologizing for one’s insensitivity and promising to remember the person next time.

Some typical pasalubong in Filipino culture are:

  • preserved foods or candies like chocolates
  • toys and gadgets
  • books
  • pens, keychains, trinkets, pencils, ballpens
  • posters, postcards, souvenirs from a place
  • coffee, tea, etc.
  • jewelries, watch, necklace, ring
  • ladies’ stuff (make up, lipstick, perfume, purse)
  • men’s stuff (wine, neckties, belts)
  • kids’ stuff (toys, candies, books)

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