Traveling to Bicol any time soon? Here are some picks of well-packaged and innovative products that would make unique souvenirs.
1. Pili nut treats
Caramelized pili nuts are the most common pasalubong item you can find in bus terminals and markets around the Bicol region. For those looking for pili nut products with nice packaging for token gifts for friends and officemates, be sure to check out J. Emmanuel Pastries, the House of Pili.
The proud homegrown brand sells premium pili nut delicacies perfect for snacking like Pili Nut with Sea Salt, Pili Nut with Himalayan Salt, and Chili Pili. They also sell a wide range of pili nut tarts, honey glazed pili nuts, Mazapan de pili, chocolate bars with pili and more.
Where to buy it: J. Emmanuel Pastries headquarters is located at 178 Jacana Street, RJ Village, Haring, Canaman, Camarines Sur. They also have store branches in SM City Naga and SM City Legazpi. Small packs of pili nuts go for 3 for P100.
2. Sili Beer
The Bicol region is well-known for its spicy food and heavy use of sili in many local dishes. For beer-hunters looking for a novelty beverage, how about taking home some Sili Beer from Bicol’s first craft brewery?
Ibalon Craft Brew, a brewpub along the foodie strip of Magsaysay Avenue in Naga City, now sells 330 ml bottles of their Handiong Sili Beer infused with native siling labuyo (bird’s eye chili). The unique beer is also served on tap in the bar along with other local brews like a chocolate stout flavored with Bicol Cacao and coffee beans.
Where to buy it: Handiong Sili Beer (P140/bottle) is available at Ibalon Craft Brew along Magsaysay Avenue and Que Pasa Naga on Paz St., corner Elias Angeles, Naga City.
3. Santol sa Gata
Aside from laing and Bicol Express, one of the most distinctive local dishes you can enjoy eating in Bicol is sinantolan or santol sa gata. Santol, also known as cotton fruit, is a tropical fruit with a unique blend of sweet and sour flavors. Santol sa gata, makes use of grated santol fruit cooked with coconut cream with garlic, onion, chili and spices.
The brand Natuk (a Bicol term for gata or coconut cream) is an online delivery shop from Iriga that offers Rinconada dishes/delicacies straight from Bicol including jars of Santol sa Gata and Libas sa Gata (made from fresh plum leaves blended with pork spices and coconut cream). You can eat these as a side dish with fried fish or meat or on their own with rice.
Where to buy it: Natuk products are usually available in bazaars and select stores and can be purchased online via Shopee for P150-P165 per jar.
4. Upcycled plush toys
“Encantures,” derived from “encanto” (enchanted beings) and “creature,” is a line under a Bicol-based social enterprise that reimagines characters from Philippine myths and folklore and reimagines them as plush forms and other merchandise. Karaw Craftventures is a design hub that upcycles scrap materials into artisanal products and empowers Filipino artists, giving livelihood to those who need it.
The cute dolls are kid-friendly versions of local monsters like the manananggal (vampire-like creature), Bungisngis (one-eyed giant) and Oriol (a python deity in Bicol’s Ibalong folk epic).
Where to buy it: Karaw Craftventure products are usually available in bazaars and can be bought online via their FB shop: KarawCraftventures. Merchandise ranges from P85 to P550 depending on size and design.
5. Native bags
Native bags made with abaca and bangkuan grass get a classy upgrade with embellishments of traditional embroidery and crocheting from the town of Baao in Camarines Sur. The fashionable Bidibidi bags designed by local artist brand Bernadette de los Santos advocates for artful recycling while providing livelihood for locals.
The F.A.R.M. (which stands for Fabuously Absolutely Rural-Made) produces a line of native decorated bags and other accessories handcrafted by women from rural communities in Camarines Sur and Albay. The enterprise also carries a range of pouches, sling bags, backpacks and other products made from upcycled denim embellished with hand-embroidery and crocheted accessories.
Where to buy it: The bags are available in The F.A.R.M. Shoppe by Bidibidi in Baao, Camarines Sur and Rustan’s Makati and Alabang. Bag prices range from P2,500 to P3,000 each depending on size and design.
BONUS: Bicol Express Potato Chips
While not manufactured in the Bicol region, these spicy coconut potato chips manage to capture the essence of one of Bicol’s most iconic dishes. Bicol Express Chips by Crackle Snacks, which makes use of local potatoes from Benguet, has the delicate sweetness of coconut (gata) combined with the spiciness of chili for an unusual flavor that you can’t find in any other chips, making it a unique gift item. I personally think this flavor could give salted egg a run for its money.
Where to buy: Crackle Chips are usually sold in bazaars (check their account @cracklesnacks for bazaar skeds). They’re also available online on Shopee for P110 for the small size (60 grams).