10 Best Souvenirs that Show off the Spirit of Manila

Manila Travel Guides / April 16, 2017
10 Best Souvenirs that Show off the Spirit of Manila

The Philippines is a holiday-maker’s dream – thousands of islands, vibrant culture, beautiful beaches, and delicious food. And of course, when paying the country a visit, you’ll want to bring back some treasures to remind you of your time there.

The people of the Philippines have a word called “pasalubong.” This means “something for welcoming me back,” and shows the giving spirit of Filipinos. There are many options available when looking for something to bring back for your own friends and family, and they’re sure to love having a little taste of the Philippines!

1. Kubing – Philippine Traditional Instrument

Kubing – Philippine Traditional Instrument Image credit: muzina_shanghai

Music is always a huge part of local culture, no matter where you are in the world. Musical instruments make great souvenirs, since they capture the spirit of a place through sound.

A popular instrument that will be easy to bring home is the “Kubing,” or jaw harp. It is made of bamboo and about 25 cm long, so it will be easy to pack. The instrument is played by pressing the mouthpiece to the lips and plucking the end to create a sound. Kubings are generally played during courtship (usually by the man) or in traditional ceremonies.

BEST GIFTS FOR
Family, friends and co-workers who are music lovers.

PORTABLE LEVEL
Easy to manage and lightweight

PRICING
Around PHP350 ($7.00)

WHERE TO BUY
Common in local marketplaces and handicraft shops.

2. Philippine Sweets

Philippine Sweets Image credit: The Blue Kitchen

Treats are an easy souvenir to bring back, and a great way to show your friends and family that you were thinking of them while you were traveling. When looking for goodies to bring home to friends and family, it’s a bit easier to go for the pre-packaged versions of the local favorites.

Popular sweets include polvoron (crunchy and crumbly, and comes in a wide variety of flavors), Choc Nut bars (a powdery chocolate and nut candy bar that is very popular with kids), and pastillas de leche (sweet and soft milk candies).

BEST GIFTS FOR
Anyone – friends, family, and coworkers

PORTABLE LEVEL
Very easy depending on how much you bring back; make sure they are packaged properly and will pass customs for whichever country you are going home to.

PRICE
Wide range depending on the brand and amount, but generally inexpensive

WHERE TO BUY
Sweets can be found everywhere throughout Manila, from street corners to large markets to souvenir shops.

3. Philippine Traditional Fabric

Philippine Traditional Fabric Image credit: Angel Geisler

There are many types of natural and beautiful fabrics produced in the Philippines. One of the loveliest is piña, which is made from pineapple plants (“piña” means pineapple in Spanish). It is traditionally derived from the Spanish Red Pineapple, and the fibers are naturally fine and translucent. This gives the fabric a beautifully soft and flowing feel.

The silky fibers can be used on their own, or blended with other natural fibers such as cotton and silk to create flowing, gorgeous fabrics. They are used for everything from gowns to dress shirts, and are often embroidered with beautiful traditional designs.

The fabric made from blended piña can be less expensive, making it easier for you to bring your friends or family home a wearable piece of art from your travels!

BEST GIFTS FOR
Close friends and family whose clothing sizes you know.

PORTABLE LEVEL
Very easy to manage, since it would be just a lightweight folded garment.

PRICE RANGE
Piña garments are generally a little on the expensive side. It mainly will depend on the size of the item and whether the fabric is a piña blend or pure.

WHERE TO BUY
You can purchase dress shirts with beautiful designs from Kultura Filipino, who have several stores in the Metro Manila area.

4. Toy Jeepney

Toy Jeepney Image credit: Sonny Abesamis

One of the most unique ways to get around in the Philippines is riding a Jeepney. They look like a cross between a bus and a Thai tuk-tuk, and they were originally created using leftover military Jeeps from WWII. They are an efficient means of transport, and have a quirky flair that is unique to the Philippines.

A great way to bring home the character of the islands is by picking up your very own mini Jeepney! They are sold in souvenir shops everywhere, making it a fun and easy present to bring back.

BEST GIFTS FOR
Any kids or car enthusiasts you might know.

PORTABLE LEVEL
There are small options that will be very easy to pack, but they also come in larger sizes that take up a bit more room in your suitcase.

PRICE RANGE
Depending on size, 100 – 1500 PHP.

WHERE TO BUY
Tesoro’s Handicrafts, or various souvenir shops throughout the city.

5. Philippine Festival Masks

Philippine Festival Masks Image credit: TanoyPhoto

There are plenty of festivals all throughout the Philippines, and gorgeous masks are a big part of the celebrations. Around Manila, there are several major festivals throughout the year. From Manila Day in June to the Feast of the Black Nazarene in January, you won’t have much trouble finding a spectacular celebration. Masks are a great way to bring home some of the colorful fun and memories of the festivals.

BEST GIFTS FOR
These are a great gift for anyone you know, but kids may have the most fun wearing them around.

PORTABLE LEVEL
Masks need to be packed delicately, so a bit of space in your bag will be required for the mask itself as well as some padding to keep it safe.

PRICE RANGE
400-1000 PHP, depending on materials and size.

WHERE TO BUY
These are easiest to buy during festival time, but can also be found at tourist shops and large malls around the city.

6. Banig Products

Banig Products Image credit: Sassymanila

Banig products are woven from grasses such as Tikog and Romblon, and have vibrant colors and patterns.

Banig bags, banig mats and banig placemats can add a lovely pop of color to any home. Bring back the Banig mats for friends who are into camping or the outdoors, and Banig bags for those who love fashion with a funky touch.

The sleeping mats can be slightly tricky for travel, unless you have enough space in your bag for something about the size of a rolled yoga mat. Otherwise, the placemats are a better option if you are low on space.

BEST GIFTS FOR
Friends and yourself

PORTABLE LEVEL
From manageable to hard to manage

PRICE RANGE
Usually inexpensive, from 100-500 PHP.

WHERE TO BUY
Handicraft shops such as Balikbayan Handicrafts offer a good selection, as well as local markets.

7. Barrel Man

Barrel Man Image credit: Aaron Coe

The “Barrel Man” is another popular and easy to find souvenir. It consists of a wooden figure of a man surrounded by a wooden barrel, and when you lift the barrel off of the man you get a bit of a surprise. The surprise is a certain (large) male body part, which tends to catch a lot of tourists off guard the first time they encounter it. The origins of the wooden figurine are somewhat unclear, but they have been a part of Filipino art, culture, and jokes for years.

BEST GIFTS FOR
Good for friends and family who appreciate a good joke.

PORTABLE LEVEL
These are not usually too difficult to bring home, especially if you opt for a smaller size. They are wooden, so this can add a bit of weight to baggage.

Price range
400-1200 PHP, depending on size.

WHERE TO BUY
Any large shopping center, such as SM City, or tourist shops.

8. Philippine Coffee

Philippine Coffee Image credit: Craft Coffee Revolution

The Philippines has an unexpected strength – coffee. The craft coffee scene is growing by leaps and bounds, and there are coffee production farms all throughout the main island of Luzon, where Manila is located. Coffee is relatively easy to take through customs, and is a great reminder of your trip when you get to enjoy a cup of true Filipino flavor in the morning. Make sure to check out Craft Coffee Revolution while in Manila.

BEST GIFTS FOR
Any coffee-loving friends or family.

PORTABLE LEVEL
Medium difficulty to bring home, and be sure that you can safely bring coffee through customs.

PRICE RANGE: 300-600 PHP

WHERE TO BUY
Craft Coffee Revolution and any other “Third Wave” coffee shops.

9. Traditional Philippine Salakot

Traditional Philippine Salakot Image credit: aliennation

We’ve all seen the woven, conical hats worn by many in Southeast Asia; the Salakot (or Salacot) is the version found in the Philippines. They come in different variations, based on the materials used and the slight changes in the slope and shape of the cone itself.

Salakots are great for keeping the sun off of your face and neck, which can come in handy during the hotter months. They are fairly easy to find around the tourist markets, and they are not too hard to bring home- although, if you are packing them in a suitcase you will need to pack them carefully.

BEST GIFTS FOR
Anyone you know who works outdoors, or likes to do outdoor activities.

PORTABLE LEVEL
Medium difficulty; while you can just wear them on the way home, packing them in a bag can be challenging.

PRICE RANGE
Anywhere from 300 to 1500 PHP.

WHERE TO BUY
Markets like the Salcedo Saturday Market in Metro Manila will have a selection of hats, as well as other handicrafts and a wide variety of local foods.

10. Pearls

Pearls Image credit: Jewelmer

If you’re looking to go a little more up-scale with your travel presents, pearls might be the answer. You can find lower prices for pearls in the Philippines, and the country is home to an incredible farm that produces the very rare and beautiful South Sea Golden Pearl.

Just south of Manila, in a province called Palawan, there are pearl farms that produce the golden pearl and its white counterparts. There are many retail locations of Jewelmer in Manila where the lovely national jewel can be purchased.

BEST GIFTS FOR
Pearls make a lovely gift for a wife or girlfriend, and can be a thoughtful gift for a mother or grandmother as well.

PORTABLE LEVEL
Most jewelry pieces do not weigh very much, so this one will be fairly easy to pack and bring home.

PRICE RANGE
While the golden pearls can be much more expensive, more common pearl varieties can go from 100 – 1500 PHP for simple necklaces and earrings.

WHERE TO BUY
Jewelmer outlets located throughout Manila, and Kultura Filipino for simpler designs.