The Art of Accumulating Pasalubong

Every Overseas Filipino know the importance of stocking pasalubongs for loved ones in the Philippines. Some even send balikbayan boxes regularly. You probably see many balikbayans at NAIA with lots and lots of baggage and boxes, especially during the Christmas season.

Pinoys who have spent many years in the USA have probably come up with their system of buying and accumulating pasalubongs. But for newcomers, it may be a bit overwhelming. Here are a few tips on the art of accumulating pasalubong.

First things first: decide on a budget and stick to it!

Do not bankrupt yourself because you want to give something nice to family and friends. I repeat, do not bankrupt yourself! Decide on a budget and stick to it.

If you are going back to the Philippines, it helps to remember that your family and friends want your presence more than the gifts and pasalubong you will bring. If not, then they may have an issue that you don’t need to deal with.

Take a good look at your finances and decide on a budget that works for you.

Long before your trip back to the Philippines, start accumulating pasalubong.

Some Pinoys have balikbayan boxes in their homes just waiting to be filled long before their trip. Every month, they slowly put items in those boxes until they are ready to be sealed.

Have a list of people you’ll give pasalubong to.

Don’t go overboard if you cannot afford it. Don’t give everyone in your barangay a pasalubong. Come up with a list of people you want to give pasalubong to.

This list could include:

  • Immediate family
  • Extended family
  • Inaanaks
  • Friends and other people

Come up with a list of items you would like to buy.

Generally, people appreciate what you decide to give them. The people who get to choose what they receive from you should be the very special ones.

Almost everything is made in China (or Vietnam, India, or Bangladesh) these days. So the old Made-in-America status symbol is no longer as special as it used to be. It’s the thought that counts after all. But that doesn’t mean you should give them stuff that they will need to throw away after using it three times. A lot of people are still brand conscious, so giving them branded items may also look extra special.

Here’s a partial list of all the items you could buy as pasalubong:

• Clothes: shirts, pants, socks, caps, jackets (no winter coats since it’s super hot in the Philippines), hoodies, shorts, swimwear, and other stuff.
• Bags: branded women’s bags, backpacks, laptop bags, duffel, or even luggage for traveling.
• Food & grocery items: large size coffee, creamers, chocolates, nuts, popular US snacks, etc.
• Tech and electronics: laptops, kindle readers, tablets, smartphones (make sure it’s unlocked, has a SIM slot and not CDMA)
• Kids’ Toys
• Others: Hit the comments if I missed anything

Check out this post from NerdWallet about the best things to buy every month:

Buy things on sale.

If you can buy things on sale, why spend full price? You need to do your research on the best times to buy things on sale. There are end of season sale events, particularly the end of winter and the end of summer. The end of summer sale may be the more useful one since there is no winter in the Philippines.

Don’t forget the holiday shopping spree: Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Christmas sales. There are pretty good deals, especially on electronics.

Watch out for tax free sales, usually before the school year starts. In Nashville, the sales tax is usually 9.25% so we get to save just a little under 10% every time the school year starts.

We’re also finding out that sale percentages after Christmas are a bit better.

Shop at bargain stores or store liquidation sales.

Store closings can be a great source of bargains. But they seldom come. We once had a department store close near our apartment and we saved hundreds of dollars for toys and other stuff we brought home in the Philippines. Bargain stores such as Ross, Marshalls, TJ Maxx, Big Lots, and thrift stores may also be worth shopping at.

Buy clearance items of your favorite brands.

If you are a patient shopper, you may score good deals at the clearance section of your favorite brands. And you may be doubly lucky if there are additional discounts for the clearance items. It’s worth signing up for their email list or Social Media posts.

Always weigh your bags and boxes before traveling.

Make sure that you are aware of your baggage allowance. If you don’t you may end up paying as much as $75 or more per box that exceeds the weight limit. Get a good bathroom scale or luggage scale to make sure it is within the weight limit.


Ask for a “sundo” at the airport.

The waiting and parking area at NAIA terminal 3 is so much better than what the terminal 1 used to offer. Ask your family or friends to come fetch you at the airport. It’s so much nicer and more convenient to push your cart full of luggage into the parking area instead of waiting in the curb for an expensive taxi or Uber.

Have you mastered the art of bringing pasalubong back to the Philippines? What other tips would you add to this?

Featured image credit: karen ybanez via Flickr

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