Gift Ideas for Filipinas

Like any other woman, a Filipina will love to receive flowers, jewelry, chocolates and perfume, and according to her interests, the latest books, CDs and DVDs. She'll also love clothes, but then you have to figure out her size (extra small is a good bet). As for specifics, that will depend on the location, personality and such of your Filipina friend.

If she is in the Philippines, she will appreciate getting something from well-known foreign brands. Although Manila and other large cities are cosmopolitan enough to have items from overseas available, these are usually expensive. We're referring to jeans, gadgets, perfume, purses and cosmetics. Highly sought after are brands like Guess, Gap, DKNY and others that are prominent in fashion magazines. Calvin Klein fragrances such as Obsession and Eternity are popular — get a set that includes body lotion or a shower gel. Skincare products are a bit tricky, because quite a few Filipinas experience negative reactions to formulations tailored to Westerners. If you insist on such a gift, go with "milder" Japanese brands like Shiseido and Kanebo. For cosmetics, select a pretty compact from Estee Lauder or Elizabeth Arden — pretty is the key word, but be sure to get it in the appropriate complexion shade. And you can't go wrong with an iPod. :)

If your Filipina friend has just moved from the Philippines to a four-season country, keep in mind that she has lived most of her life in the tropics, where it is not considered warm until it is over 100 degrees F (37+ C). She will soon discover that even the thickest sweater she used to wear back home will not serve her in spring, autumn and especially not winter! Expand her wardrobe — she needs turtlenecks, coats, mittens, scarves, gloves and a cute cap to cover her ears when she makes her first snow angel. Also, she might be homesick. If she does not live near the Filipinotowns in Los Angeles or other large cities, she's going to start craving the food, magazines and TV shows she used to take for granted. Do something about it. Arrange a trip to a Filipino enclave so she can stock up on stuff, or find a way to get her something from back home.

If your friend is a Filipina American, please refrain from getting fixated on her ethnicity. She might appreciate you greeting her folks in their language (they'll start considering you their son-in-law), but they're already forcing her to take tinikling lessons and eat dinuguan. Don't go out of your way to get her Filipino stuff, unless of course she's just recently gotten into that mode. Many a Filipino American has woken up one day and realized that she is considered a Filipino by everyone else, so she decides to work on it — treks off to the library to borrow books to study Tagalog and starts hankering for Filipino music and movies and learning how to cook Filipino food. Do not belittle this as a mere phase. She is rediscovering her heritage, so be supportive! Join her, and get her dictionaries, language-learning CDs and cookbooks!

Finally, no matter what the background of your Filipina friend, if you have access to her family — you can visit them or have their mailing address — it would be nice to get them gifts too. We're referring to her parents, grandparents, siblings, and close aunts, uncles and cousins. They'll say you're "so thoughtful" and she'll agree.

When it comes to deciding on a gift, don't fret about trusting your own judgment. As Filipinos like to say, "It's really the thought that counts." and Filipinas mean it!