It always feels like Christmas when my mom visits from Manila. I’m like a wide-eyed little boy eager to know what she has brought from home. My eyes light up as she reveals her pasalubong [pah-sah-loo-bong], pulling them out from her suitcase one by one.

Salubong [sah-loo-bong] is to meet, to greet. It means to welcome. Pasalubong is a homecoming gift, a Filipino tradition of bringing food or mementos from one’s travels as a gift for family and friends. It is a present that says thank you for warmly welcoming a traveler back, a token that celebrates returning home safe and sound. Pasalubong is a testament to the thoughtfulness of Filipinos.

It felt like Christmas once again last Saturday. Yes, my mom’s here for a visit! It was past midnight when we finally got home from the airport, way past her bedtime. But she was so anxious to stay up and unpack the Vigan longganisa she wrapped frozen in layers of newsprint and plastic. There was lumpiang ubod my Aunt Ludy made for me and plenty of sweets like polvoron and pili nut tarts. There was barako coffee and suman sa ibus — it has been years since I last enjoyed these sticky rice cakes fried with hot chocolate!

Then there was matamis na mani. She always brings matamis na mani when she visits. Matamis means sweet. Mani means peanuts. It is a local variety of peanut brittle made of molasses and peanuts. It is as big as a dinner plate and is not brittle at all but soft and chewy, the way I like it.

We could’ve stayed up all night but realized that if we went to bed, there would be Vigan longsilog waiting for breakfast.

What’s your favorite pasalubong from home?