Filipinos are generally a warm, generous and thoughtful people.   It is probably in the nature of Filipinos to give gifts because it feels good to make other people happy. There is no shortage of occasions that inspire a Pinoy to be a bearer of gifts.  Birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, christenings, graduation, Valentine’s Day and Christmas, of course.  Invite him to what have you even at short notice and the Pinoy will always be ready with a gift.

Pinoy gatherings

It is a common practice among Filipinos to bring small gifts when invited to someone’s house for lunch or dinner.   Pinoy guests usually bring food (bilao of pancit, pasta dishes, native kakanin, box of pastries, a cake, finger foods, etc.), a bottle of wine or a bunch of flowers for the host.   Sometimes, if the guest cannot make it, he sends the gift over to the house with a personal note expressing  regret for not being able to join the gathering.

Filipinos are known to be gracious hosts. They spend a lot of time and effort preparing the food for their guests and making them feel at home the minute they walk into their house.  They always check if everyone is enjoying themselves.  They see to it that the table groans and drinks flow.

Sometimes a Pinoy host will let the guests take home some of the extra food from the gathering.    The take home or pabalot is usually practiced among close friends and relatives.  Sometimes the host prepares extra portions of food solely for this purpose. It is the host’s way of  thanking guests for celebrating with him or her.


Balikbayans gifts

Filipinos are innately generous and giving, even if they are thousands of miles away from home.  Many Filipinos who live and work abroad never fail to remember their families and friends back home especially on Christmas.

They usually send gifts for loved ones in the Philippines through what we call balikbayan boxes.  A balikbayan box is usually a big brown box filled with anything and everything, not the least of which is love.  Name it – clothes, shoes, accessories, toys, perfume, books, canned goods, toiletries, small appliances, electronic gadgets, chocolates, candies and many more.

The contents of the box are usually labeled with names of the recipients.   Excitement fills the air as family and friends gather to open the box.  Every little gift from the box produces an audible sound of delight and happiness.



Filipinos love giving and receiving pasalubong. It is usually a small gift or souvenir from a person who recently travelled somewhere. Nowadays, pasalubong can also mean a gift bought from a nearby place like the mall or work place. It can be anything from food items, shirts, toys, pens, key chains, other novelty items, etc.

A pasalubong is a symbol of affection because it means that the person thought of you while he was away from home. A boss who went on a business trip may choose to bring souvenir items for his subordinates at work. Someone traveling to a certain province in the country may bring t-shirts for family and friends back home. A mother may buy pastries and sweets on her way home from work as pasalubong for her family. A guy can buy a stuffed toy from the mall as pasalubong for his girlfriend.



The Philippines is predominantly a Catholic country. One of the most observed Catholic traditions is the christening or baptism of infants in the church. The parents of a baby to be baptized choose a few close people (at least one pair) to stand as the child’s god parents. The god father is called ninong while the god mother is referred to as ninang.

It is customary for ninongs and ninangs to give gifts to their god child or inaanak.  Aside from the typical gifts of clothes and other baby essentials, old traditions entail the god parents to give monetary gifts called pakimkim. Some parents set aside the pakimkim to start a savings account for their baby’s future. In modern times, there is no strict rule that dictates what god parents should give to their inaanak.


Christmas in the Philippines

Christmas is probably the most anticipated and well-celebrated holiday in the Philippines.  As soon as the “Ber months” set in, Christmas begins to knock on the hearts of Filipinos. The “Ber months” become the catalyst for creating festive atmospheres and shopping for gifts.  Christmas in the Philippines begins as early as September and stretches until the Feast of the Three Kings in early January.  This makes Pinoy Christmas the longest Christmas celebration across the globe.

The tradition of gift giving during Christmas has always been a big part of Pinoy Christmas festivities. As Christmas draws nearer, expect the malls and tiangges to be crowded by people.  Economic activity reaches its peak during the “Ber months” as shoppers around the country struggle to get the best buys of the Christmas season.

Exchanging Christmas gifts has become one of the fun highlights of Pinoy Christmas. To start off, there is the popular Monito- Monita, a local adaption of the western tradition Kris Kringle. This is usually practiced at school among classmates; at the work place among co-workers or even at home with friends and family.  Basically the participant’s names are put in a box and each one draws a name. The name of the person that appears on the paper you pick will be your Monito (if it’s a boy) or Monita (if it’s a girl). You are not allowed to reveal the name until the revelation day. The mechanics of the game may vary depending on the preference of the participants. It can be as simple as exchanging gifts on an agreed amount on the day of the Christmas party. Others prefer a more exciting and fun Monito-Monita by coming up with weekly themes (e.g. something soft, something hard, something sweet, something cute, something naughty, etc.). Each one is expected to give a small, inexpensive gift based on the theme of the week. This may go on for several weeks until the Christmas party or revelation day. The participants exchange “real” gifts on revelation day (often based on an agreed amount).

Another Filipino tradition is the giving of aguinaldo which literally means “gift” in Spanish to kids.  It has always been a practice to give gifts (cash or kind) to kids who visit relatives and their ninongs and ninangs on Christmas day.  Old customs dictate that children show respect to elderly relatives and god parents by means of making “mano” (taking the elderly or godparent’s hand to the child’s forehead).  In return, the child is blessed with a gift.

Filipino families love exchanging gifts with one another, usually right after Noche Buena or on Christmas morning.  Many Filipino families have embraced the western belief in Santa Claus. Kids wait for Christmas morning to check if Santa has left them a gift under the tree or inside the Christmas stocking.

Whatever the occasion or reason is, Filipinos delight in giving gifts. Seeing a smile or a happy face in return makes every gift worth it.


Rachel Yapchiongco