You’ll find a dizzying array of souvenirs as diverse as the country’s cultural patchwork, from tribal weavings to exotic tropical fruits. Markets are a must-see for their sights, sounds and smells, and of course hulking malls are ubiquitous.
Feature: Souvenir Hunting
Souvenirs from all over the country are readily available in Manila. Lacquered coconut-shell products produced mainly in the Visayas – balls, bowls, placemats, vases – are the most popular souvenirs, along with baskets, and are widely available.
Other notable souvenirs include wood carvings from Ifugao province in North Luzon; betel-nut boxes from Mindanao’s Lake Sebu area; and indigenous weavings from the mountain tribes of North Luzon and Mindanao. Filipino weavings are not as coveted as Indonesian weavings, but offer good value. The abaca (native hemp plant) weavings of the T’boli and other Mindanao tribes are considered world class.
One popular purchase is the barong Tagalog, the traditional dress-shirt (which usually includes an embroidered front) worn by Filipino men. The best barong are made from pinya, a fabric woven from pineapple fibres. Jusi (hoo-see), from ramie fibres, is more common and less expensive, while the cotton version is cheaper still. Ready-to-wear barong are available at most handicraft shops and department stores, and most tailors will gladly sew one to your specifications. Most shops also carry womenswear made from the finely embroidered material.
Pearls are a popular purchase, but be able to identify genuine pearls before buying – or bring somebody along with a trained eye. Manila (particularly Greenhills Shopping Center) and Palawan are popular places for pearl-buying.
For a souvenir with a difference check out the Kilus (www.kilus.org), available at different stores around town, which uses recycled products such as juice labels to produce handbags, placemats and other knick-knacks.
Lastly, be aware that the Batangas or Laguna balisong (fan or butterfly knife), a popular handmade souvenir sold at numerous stalls in the Central Market in Quiapo, is banned in many countries.