Phrases we often hear such as “Only in the Philippines,” “Pinoy kasi,” “It’s more fun in the Philippines,” or “Proud to be Filipino” all seem to imply a clear understanding of what it means to be Filipino.
And yet, when asked, “What is a Filipino?”, most of us may not be able to give an answer.
Well, here’s ours—the practice of Filipino gift-giving is a reflection of the many facets of the Filipino identity.
The Filipino Art of Giving Gifts
Filipino gift-giving reflects our pride in and the value we place on close family ties. We take pride in our generosity, so much so that in 2019, the Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) World Giving Index ranked us as the 8th most giving country globally.
This innate generosity is reinforced by the idea of pasalubong and the symbol of the balikbayan box. When someone travels out of their hometown, he or she is expected to bring back gifts, no matter how small, for friends and families left behind. These gifts are not mere offerings—they are tokens of love, a way of sharing ourselves with others and strengthening social relationships.
Gift-giving is also reflected in the tradition of bringing and sharing food during fiestas and other gatherings. We usually prepare feasts that are far more than enough for our guests and welcome everyone to our homes. That way, each person will be able to bring home a share of the food as a parting gift—a reminder to pass on the generosity they were given.
Filipino gift-giving affirms that family and community play a central part in our lives. This trait also trickles down on our months-long Christmas season, where Filipinos from all walks of life exert resources and energy at hunting gifts and preparing a lavish Noche Buena to make their loved ones happy. In fact, Google Consumer Barometer survey showed that during these months, 60 percent of Filipinos use the Internet to shop and look for Yuletide gifts, an almost 20 percent difference from the U.S. and U.K.
But what if we reimagine our culture of generosity? What if Filipino gift-giving goes beyond our own circles?
Reshaping a Filipino Custom
That is the central idea of Looking for Juan, a local online store that seeks to redefine what it means to be Filipino by offering children’s books that are published by CANVAS and other giftable items that celebrate homegrown artistry while, at the same time, improving functional literacy among Filipino children.
Looking for Juan’s social responsibility of alleviating functional literacy is made possible by supporting Center for Art, New Ventures & Sustainable Development (CANVAS) and its One Million Books for One Million Filipino Children Campaign.
The One Million Books for One Million Filipino Children Campaign helps millions of functionally illiterate Filipino kids by increasing access to books and encouraging a love for reading to promote functional literacy, creative thinking, and independent reading skills.
Through this program, CANVAS works with local artists and writers to publish original picture books, which are then donated to underprivileged Filipino kids and are also offered on Looking for Juan’s online store along with other giftable merchandise.
And you, our dear kababayans, play a central role in this cause. With your every purchase from our array of items—may it be a gift from our merchandise or a book for your child or sibling—proceeds will go to the donation of children’s books to public schools, hospitals, and disadvantaged communities throughout the country. To date, we have already given some 250,000 books to children from Batanes to Zamboanga, but we still have a long way to go.
From eco-friendly tote bags, face masks, journals/planners, and more—our sustainable and locally made products feature artworks from homegrown artists that mirror the art and soul of Filipinos.
These artworks are taken from our collection of children’s stories and activity books that promote reading and cognitive development of young minds. In a country shifting towards industrialization, it is always good to not forget ourselves, and these products shine a spotlight on the rich artistry in our own backyard—they are reminders of our culture and identity as Filipinos.
At Looking for Juan, social responsibility is always at the heart of our business and by simply purchasing items from our online store, you can give and share the gift of reading. You can take part in improving functional literacy in the Philippines and be an agent of change while promoting Filipino-made products.
So what does it mean to be Filipino? In the end, of course, there is no single correct answer to the question, but for us at Looking for Juan, it means reshaping the traits that unite and define us—such as gift giving—to be an avenue of imparting greater service to Filipino children. It is being the kind of Juan our country needs.