No trip would be complete without souvenir shopping, and in Manila, the choices can be overwhelming! Countless souvenir shops dot every town—if not every street corner—and if you are not too careful, you might just end up with lots of excess baggage with stuff that isn’t even authentic or uniquely Filipino.
So enough with the generic magnets and key chains. The common mistake of first-time and solo travelers is not thinking through what to get and just buying whatever they see first.
Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered with this list of souvenirs worth taking home. Not only will they remind you of your awesome experience in the city but they also perfectly represent the Filipinos’ rich history and vibrant culture.
Like the yellow taxis in New York and the red British double-decker buses, jeepneys are synonymous with Filipino culture. They serve as the transportation of the masses, and any trip to Manila will not be complete without a ride on this iconic king of the road.
This miniature jeep can be used as a great accent piece for your home. It comes in a variety of sizes, including some that are easy to squeeze into your hand-carry luggage.
There are many types of beautiful fabrics made in the Philippines, but the queen of them all is the piña cloth, which is extracted from pineapple fibers. When done the traditional way, the process of making piña cloth is hard and laborious.
Though it looks soft and delicate on the outside, this cloth is downright durable. It is often used to make the traditional Filipino dress, the Saya and Barong Tagalog, but you can also find bags, table linens, and other home décor made of this.
Grown mainly in Batangas, Barako coffee is the best gift to take home to your coffee-loving friends and family members. It is of the Liberica variety and is popular and well-loved for its strong aroma and rich fruity taste. You can serve it black or with honey or sugar as a sweetener, and it is best paired with the Filipino pan de sal or cakes and pastries.
Handicrafts are a staple souvenir of Manila. At almost every tourist shop, you will find these for sale, from bags and wallets to doormats and other house décor. Usually made by local communities, these handmade products are often admired for their quality and versatility. They are a proof of the ingenuity of Filipinos who can turn raw materials from nature into different functional goods.
The best example is this is the abaca, which is woven into colorful bags and baskets. By buying these gorgeous items, you not only get a worthwhile product but also help sustain the livelihood of the local artisans.
Filipinos are among the best craftsmen in the world. They are known for their exemplary work in transforming plain wood into intricate works of art.
These wooden items can be found in most malls in Manila, as well as in specialty shops. Carved wood in the form of little sculptures and figurines, bowls, and ashtrays are excellent souvenirs since they are both functional and decorative.
Pearls are abundant in the Philippines and are sold at a bargain compared to other countries. White pearls are the most common, but you can also find pink and gray varieties. These gems are turned into various accessories like necklaces, bracelets, and earrings—gifts that will surely be appreciated by your mom, sister, wife, or girlfriend at home.
When all else fails and you are in a hurry, you can never go wrong with Filipino food! Just head to the nearest supermarket or convenience store and you will surely find something the last minute.
If you have a sweet tooth, you will surely love Polvoron, a crunchy and crumbly treat that comes in a wide variety of flavors, as well as Pastillas de Leche, which is mainly made of milk and sugar.
Another crowd favorite is the Choc Nut, a delectable combination of peanuts, milk, sugar, and cocoa powder, that is so addicting that you might even consume it before you reach home. So, make sure to buy an extra bag of this humble chocolate bar for the kids.
Aside from sweets, you can also try the gourmet version of dried fish, which are usually sold in bottles. You can eat this with rice and fried eggs, and you now have a taste of the traditional Filipino breakfast.
And last—but definitely not the least!—you cannot leave without grabbing a pack (or two) of the world-famous dried mangoes.
The Philippines is famous for its deliciously sweet mangoes, and what better way to bring them home than in vacuum-sealed packs. Dried mangoes originated in Cebu, but they are now widely sold in all parts of the country, including Manila.
Planning your solo trip to Manila anytime soon? Keep these things in mind when looking for something to take home to your family and friends and you will surely not regret it.
When looking for a place to stay during your solo trip in Manila, choose a centrally located hotel like St Giles Makati. Situated in the heart of Makati, it is ideal for solo and first-time travelers who wish to easily get around Manila, as it is near local attractions, business hubs, shopping malls, restaurants, and bars.
Ayessa fumbles with words every day. She is an editor and a writer by profession and a huge fan of stories in general. She loves the beach and hopes to live near the ocean someday.