Updated September 2014
I was at my desk at work when Arvin, an officemate, arrived carrying a long bulky item wrapped in brown cardboard and masking tape.
“Ay naku, galing akong Baguio nung long weekend. So syempre may nagpabili ng walis.” (I just came from Baguio during the long weekend, so of course someone asked me to buy a broom).
This scenario got me thinking of items that are really such a hassle to take home as pasalubong (souvenirs), but we still buy for the sake of friends and family when we travel.
A broom is not exactly the easiest (or most glamorous) thing to carry around and is impossible to stick in a backpack. But there must be something about Baguio brooms that make sweeping the house a breeze because people will ask you to buy them no matter how bulky or inconvenient it is for you to carry around. Aside from strawberries, ube jam, and fresh vegetables, the humble walis tambo remains one of the summer capital’s most requested pasalubong to the bane of many Baguio-bound tourists.
DURIAN FROM DAVAO
There’s a reason why durian is not allowed in hotels, aircon buses or as part of your check-in luggage aboard an aircraft. This “inconvenient fruit” can really stink up a place in no time and its distinctive smell will linger on your clothes and bags for a long time. While I am not a big fan of durian, I know some people who swear that it’s the most delicious fruit ever and take home boxes-full of durian (plus several crates of pomelo to boot) whenever they visit Davao. You don’t even have to tell your taxi driver where you came from. One whiff and he’ll know.
TUNA FROM GENSAN
I really prefer to travel light with no check-in luggage. Unfortunately if people know you are going to a place like the “tuna capital” General Santos City, their knee-jerk reaction is to immediately ask you to buy tuna, which makes me wonder, don’t markets here in Manila sell tuna too?
While tuna from GenSan may be fresher and cheaper, the airline’s check-in fees (if you happened not to pay for check-in luggage when you bought your ticket) — not so cheap. I paid an extra 400+ to check in the small cooler of tuna sashimi and tuna belly for the family.
ANY TYPE OF FRESH SEAFOOD
Any type of fresh seafood, whether it’s curacha from Zamboanga, bangus from Pangasinan, or scallops from Roxas City, can generally be a hassle to take home. Dried or bottled seafood products are much easier to pack. (TIP: When in Zamboanga, buy the special sauce from Alavar’s and just buy any type of seafood from your local market to get the same effect. The sauce is so worth it!)
Aside from the extra baggage allowance you’ll need for your styro cooler, you have to make sure to do your shopping right before your trip so everything is fresh. Despite the hassle, I find unique food like these to be more useful than typical mugs or souvenir shirts. Seeing your family enjoy eating it (or eating it yourself) may make the extra effort just worth your while. Make sure to cook fresh seafood at once though. I’ve learned the hard way that scallops don’t last long and had to throw out a whole batch which got all green and stinky by the time I decided to prepare baked scallops for dinner (2 days after I got back).
If you have a neighbor or relative who is an aspiring musician, think twice before mentioning that you’re gong to Cebu, lest they ask you to take home a guitar for them. Cebu-made guitars are popular with local and Filipino expats, who like to buy them as gifts or souvenirs. According to EverythingCebu, Cebu-made guitars use a variety of soft and hard wood (jackfruit, narra, black wood ebony and imported woods) and some guitars have intricate designs or are inlaid with shell crafts. The excellent craftsmanship also results in Cebu-made guitars having a “unique melodious sound.”
Of course, if you are traveling alone, heading to the airport carrying a guitar (not to mention the boxes of CnT lechon, danggit and dried mango for other people) is not an easy feat. 🙂
A relative told me that Filipinos abroad often ask friends back home to bring them a statue of Mama Mary or Sto. Nino when they visit. These statues made of a combination of fiberglass, wood and resin, are not exactly the easiest things to pack. Did you know that the red Sto. Nino is supposed to bring you good luck while the green one is said to bring financial success to your business? At least that’s what groups selling the products claim.
Thankfully, I haven’t had to do this yet but I can imagine how bigger statues would take up most of the space in one’s bag. But how do you say no to a religious aunt living alone abroad, especially if you are crashing a few nights at her place?
FURNITURE FROM VIGAN
Have you ever tried carrying an antique baul chest or solid wooden side-table home after a long bus ride? It’s not that fun. If you drove up to the heritage city specifically for furniture shopping, it shouldn’t be much of a problem. But being asked by relatives to take home heavy items from Calle Crisologo’s antique furniture shops when you’re commuting isn’t that easy. Some shops offer delivery service to Manila for bigger items like beds and cabinets, but the extra charge isn’t worth it for smaller (yet still heavy) wooden items. Same thing goes for those huge cement vases and landscaping garden ornaments that I was peer-pressured into buying during a stopover. In the future, I’ll stick with longganisa and bagnet.
No matter how bulky, inconvenient, smelly or heavy these souvenirs may be to carry, a lot of people will forego the hassle just to bring some joy to loved ones back home. That’s the Pinoy way! What’s the most inconvenient pasalubong you’ve ever had to take home?
NOTE: A version of this blog post was published as “Hassle-full Souvenirs” in ZestAir Inflight Magazine Nov-Dec 2011 issue.