‘Pasalubong’ is originated from the word salubong, meaning ‘meet’ or ‘welcome’. The prefix pa turns it to relate to an object i.e. ‘to welcome’. The anthropology professor at the University of the Philippines, Dr. Nestor Castro, enlightens that pasalubong is a pre-historic practice. The term is native to the Filipino language and the early Philippine communities betrothed in long distance trade.
There are many people who stay away from their family in Philippine, eagerly waiting for pasalubong from their beloved ones. They might be in different forms such as chocolates, clothes, shoes or anything. The pasalubong is more than just a token of love. It also reinforces all the relationships and fills the void left by a parent abroad. If you try to understand, pasalubong has many layers of meaning and there seems to be a ritual behind the word.
Dr. Michael Tan, anthropology professor at the University of the Philippines enlightens that this ritual must be followed in the time when it was difficult to travel and the return was emotionally loaded.
Pasalubong is based on the principle of reciprocity, as mentioned by Dr Mary Racelis, research scientist at the Institute of Philippine Culture. It honors the recipient and delivers the message that the person was being missed.
A pasalubong can be as simple as a box of chocolates or any regional items, or can be typical of some place where one is coming from. It can also consists the items which the recipient cannot afford. These are in the form of balikbayan box. It expresses appreciation and reassure the joy of the person returning home.
It has been noticed that the market demand of these boxes have increased tremendously. Therefore, it was thought that easy-to-assemble, sturdy and stackable boxes must be designed for air shipping.
With the convenience of sending the balikbayan box to distant places, the pasalubong no longer have remained that significant. If someone who travels a lot, it feels obligated to buy something for everyone, without having any generosity and joy.
Pasalubong has been surprisingly still fulfilling the function of reintegrating travelers back to the community. Also, enriching the family ties and friendships.