Filipino gift-giving tradition is an interesting thing to look at, and this starts with the etymology of the word pasalubong itself. The term places a heavy emphasis on the idea of commemoration- a sense of wanting to dignify a meeting with the singular gesture of a simple gift.
It implies that you, the giver, took time out of the tangle of your life to acquire a token of gratitude (or yearning) for the rare instance that your paths cross. This is a beautiful thing, and generally gives off this sense of perspective about where people fit in each other’s lives.
The gesture acknowledges that meeting (and meeting again) is a fleeting, ephemeral thing- that the people you love matter, despite the sense that each encounter is a drop in the greater stream of your life. Is it a small, typically unnoticeable encounter in comparison? Yes, but it matters. Every little bit of the experience does.
While souvenirs are by no means an exclusively Filipino thing, I’m inclined to think that the extent to which this type of gift-giving penetrates our collective consciousness says so much about us as a people. Some may construe this as a sense of pressure to deliver in line with social expectation. At its worst, it may very well be- but you’d understand if you’ve ever loved (and missed) someone.
For OFWs or people who spend a huge chunk of their time travelling (or aspiring to do so), this becomes easier to rein into perspective. But here’s where it gets interesting, the feeling of wanting to commemorate a meeting extends to subtler situations just as much.
Whether it’s work, or seeing a favorite family member that you just hung out with the week prior, there’s always a desire to let the other know that they are welcome, that they matter, and that someday you will meet again.
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