The Philippines is very rich in the gift giving tradition. The Filipinos love to give gifts, as gift giving for the Pinoy is a sign of social status, and as well as an obligation. The difference of gift giving in the Philippines is that the Filipinos do not believe in bad luck when it comes to gifts.

During Weddings

Money Dance

Typical Wedding Money Dance

Weddings call for gifts. Traditionally, the couples received things that they can use when starting a house, like pots and pans, iron and plates. Blankets were a popular gift idea, too. The tradition does not stand very true anymore, because lately, guests have started giving cash and gift vouchers so that the couple can make use of the gifts better and avoid duplicate gifts.

Speaking of cash gifts, the traditional Filipino wedding includes a money dance, where guests pin paper money to the clothes of the newlywed during their first dance. If you are attending a Filipino wedding, you might want to prepare some cash with you, even if you have already brought a gift. The money dance is optional, though.

A Female’s 18th Birthday (aka Debut)

Your Typical 18 Roses Dance

Your Typical 18 Roses Dance

A female’s 18th birthday, commonly called a debut, is a signal of a woman’s coming of age. This is celebrated by a rather extravagantly, complete with a program. The program usually includes 18 roses, 18 candles and 18 treasures. Those who were chosen to participate in the 18 treasures are needed to buy the debutante a gift. This will be used in the program, where the person will give the gift to the debutante, along with a wish, so prepare a speech!


Baptisms are celebrated with a simple lunch. The parents invite a rather long list of godfathers and godmothers (usually reaching more than ten pairs) to shower the baby with money gifts, called “pakimkim”. The amount of gift is usually small, though. The bigger gifting social obiligation is during Christmas.


Gift-Giving-Tradition-in-the-Philipines1Christmas is the biggest gifting event in the year.

There is a variation of the traditional exchange gift called Kris Kringle or Monito-Monita. This is a variation of Secret Santa, Christkindl, Sinter Klass, Father Christma and Pere Noel.

A group of friends or families will put their names, or code names in a piece of hat or bowl and they will draw lots. The person you draw is your “monito” and you will give that person themed gifts from December 16th to the 24th, as their “secret Santa”. The monito you picked is a secret and you should not divulge it to the other participants.

The gifts are themed “something (insert descriptive word)” here are a few examples:

  • something long
  • something soft
  • something sweet
  • something wet
  • something funny
  • something red
  • something cute
  • something edible
  • something hard

(Sometimes, when the participants are all adults, the theme is ambiguously sexual, like something long and hard or something squeezable or something wet and sticky!)

You get the point. The day’s “something” is different each day until Christmas, each gift will be left under the Christmas tree to be opened on Christmas eve. If you are participant, you should expect to give and receive nine gifts in total before Christmas. The cost of each gift is dependent on what was agreed upon, but it usually ranges from P10-100. Relatively cheap, but fun. On Christmas eve, the participants reveal who they picked and they give the gifts one by one. After the big reveal, the gifts are opened and the Christmas dinner is shared.

Not the typical aguinaldo hunting season. Christmas day can be very chaotic for godparents.

Not the typical aguinaldo hunting season. Christmas day can be very chaotic for godparents.

If you were invited to become a godparent, you have a social obligation to give a gift to your godchild on Christmas day. See the “baptism” section above. In the morning of Christmas, the children ages 1-12 visit their godparents at their houses. Traditionally, the children entertain the godparents with a poem, a song or a dance and the godparents give the children an aguinaldo, or Christmas gift. Today, though, the kids do not do a presentation anymore. The Christmas gift is usually in kind of toys, clothes and candies (or a combination) or cash. Be aware, the child will be back every year, until he is thirteen, which is a socially awkward age to ask their godparents for aguinaldo.

The Filipinos like to give gifts because the Pinoy treasures the smiles of their friends and family!