One thing that is really prevalent in the Philippines is that each town or region has it’s own specialty products that it is famous for. Some examples? Well, General Santos City is famous for Tuna. Davao is famous for Durian. Iligan City is famous for a certain brand of peanuts (if I remember correctly they are called “Cheding’s”). There is a sweet treat called Piyaya that comes from Iloilo. Bohol has a product called “Peanut Kisses” which resemble Hershey Kisses, but are made from peanuts. Cebu? They have mangoes. The list is as long as the number of Cities in the Philippines.
When we first moved here to the Philippines, if you wanted to get these products, you pretty much had to travel to the City that was famous for them. Over the 7+ years that we have lived here, though, there has started to be a distribution network for these specialty products. That wasn’t the case just a few years ago, though.
Do you know what Pasalubong is? Pasalubong is a gift that you bring to somebody when you travel to their place. For instance, if you live in Davao and are going to see a friend in Cagayan de Oro, it would be customary to bring an item to them that is really a “Davao Product.” For instance, the most Davao thing you could bring would be Durian, but you might also bring Pomelo, which is considered another Davao Product. If you are worried about the fragrance of the Durian bothering you on the long road trip, you might decide to bring some Durian candy, or Durian tarts to your friend in CdO. I can remember going on a number of flights from General Santos to Manila years ago when people would have whole tunas (weighing several hundred pounds) all wrapped up in newspaper (you would see newspapers in the shape of a fish on the luggage carousel!). The fact was, back in those days, people in CdO might not be able to get a fresh Durian or a pack of Durian candy in their local stores. That is why something like this would be a prized gift for the recipient.
Nowadays, we can go to SM or even a convenience store and buy Cheding’s Peanuts from Iligan. We, from time to time purchase Peanut Kisses from Bohol. GenSan tuna is on the menu from time to time in our house too. We no longer have to wait for a friend to bring us Pasalubong to get these regional treats.
Pasalubong is still a deeply ingrained part of the Filipino culture, though. I doubt that improved distribution of specialty items will ever erase the need to think of Pasalubong when you are setting out for a journey!