What are you putting in your pasalubong basket on your next trip? How rooted are your pasalubong in the local culture. And how much do your shopping pesos pay the community back?
For truly ethical and practical pasalubong shopping, buying off the local OTOP (One Town, One Product) catalog simply can’t be beat. Begun in 2004 by the Philippines’ Department of Trade & Industry, OTOP borrows from Japan’s “One Village One Product” concept, where individual villages receive incentives to produce a single, competitive product line. As you travel through the Philippines, take note of the following OTOP products to buy and take home:
When in Zamboanga
Buy Yakan fabric
The interminable conflicts nearby have caused a diaspora of Yakan tribespeople, many who have resettled within Zamboanga City, bringing their famous handmade fabrics with them. Yakan Weaving Village (Upper Calarian, Zamboanga City) pulls back the curtains to show the fabric-crafting process. Each bolt of fabric is unique, their geometric patterns individually created with no two bolts having the same design. The fabrics take several weeks to produce by hand — when you buy from the village stalls, you’re taking home nothing less than a native work of art.
When in Clarin, Misamis Occidental
Buy suman malagkit
All suman, all the time: the town of Clarin, some 10km north of the capital Ozamiz, produces 13 different kinds of glutinous rice cakes, from mango-infused suman to the balintawak, a twisted, two-flavor confection. You can get all these suman varieties from a single source: Clarin’s House of Suman (Clarin, Misamis Occidental; +63 88 545-1943), set up to showcase Clarin’s signature food product. The local government subsidizes the town’s suman output, even building a production center for the townsfolk.
When in Kalibo, Aklan
Buy abaca and piña fabric
Kalibo’s hand-operated looms work overtime to produce the province’s signature fabric products, from affordable handbags made of abaca fiber to luxury piña and jusi formalwear. The provincial capital caters to both high- and low-end shoppers. Barong and traje de boda buyers head to Dela Cruz House of Piña (81 New Buswang, Kalibo, Aklan; +63 36 262-3267), while budget-minded buyers choose HAMPCO Aklan Multi-Purpose Cooperative (L. Barrios cor Regalado Sts, Kalibo, Aklan; +63 36 262-4388) for their handbags made of authentic abaca fabric.
When in Cebu
Several generations of luthiers have put Cebu on the musical map: rockin’ pasalubong shoppers can visit Lapu-Lapu City’s many guitar sellers to pick a stringed instrument to take home, from hefty bass guitars to petite ukuleles. The better shops let you watch the process, revealing the luthiers working on each step from plank to product. Many shops are on their third generation of luthiers — Ferangeli Guitar Handcrafter (Sambag, Abuno, Brgy Pajac, Lapu-lapu City; +63 32 268-7323) has been in the business since 1919.
When in San Mateo, Isabela
Buy mung bean products
The 33 barangay of Isabela’s San Mateo district, located some 30km west of the capital Cauayan, used government support to boost the local “black gold”: the humble mung bean (monggo).
Declared the “munggo capital of the Philippines” in 2011, San Mateo lives up to its reputation by hawking a surprising variety of products derived from this humble legume: mung bean flour, mung bean pancit canton noodles, even mung bean coffee. Visit the Galing San Mateo Pasalubong Center to get your munggo haul.