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We are weeks away from all the holiday festivities, which also means that our monito and monita exchanges are not that far ahead. While it’s a joy to experience Christmas through the well-loved tradition of gift-giving, it can sometimes feel like a nightmare, where someone gifts you with an item that’s all too familiar. It later dawns on you that it’s the same item you’ve given an acquaintance years ago.

It’s no surprise, however, if you receive a mug, a picture frame or a towel. They’re classic, Filipino gifts that are easily available and affordable. In other words, “Pasok sa banga,” which, by the way , is also a popular gift option for the witty and mighty Titas of Manila.

Care to be a little more creative? Here are some alternatives to stereotypical Christmas gifts:

1. Mason jars over mugs

Everyone, at any Christmas gathering, has surely received a mug or two as a present. Mugs comes in so many designs, colors, and can even be personalized. Let’s face it, though. Some mugs, if not used (and you can only use one at a time), are displayed in a glass cabinet, or re-wrapped to be gifted to another person. So instead of the usual mug, give a mason jar. Invented in 1858, mason jars were originally used to preserve food. Today, they are used for Instagram-worthy drinks and decorations.

MB Life’s Tip: Fill the jar with little trinkets like thoughtful notes, candies, colored sand, among many others and tie it up with a sparkly ribbon to finish off.

2. Gift cards over money

Sure that new, crisp bill in a red and gold envelope looks fancy and it’s so convenient as a gift for Christmas. Apart from saving us from the stress of shopping during the holiday rush, receivers of this gift have the freedom to use the money however and for whatever they like. However, giving out money every single year can sometimes come across as effortless or worse, thoughtless gifting. Instead of money, opt for gift cards from various shopping stores. It communicates the intention of buying something for our loved ones, yet considerate enough to give them the opportunity to  the brand themselves.

MB Life’s Tip: Coffee shops like Starbucks and clothing brands like Uniqlo have gift cards available for purchase. Visit their websites or err inquiries at physical stores.

3. Filled up photo album over a blank one

Just like a popular local actress said, “C’mon, it’s 2017,” cute photo albums are just not as appealing anymore. This item suffer the same fate of a mug, unwrapped and wrapped again only to be passed on to another unlucky person. Anyone who receives it feels exactly the same as it looks: plain and empty. Why not fill it up with you and your loved ones’ good memories, instead? You can even reminisce together over food, just like the good ol’ days.

MB Life’s Tip: Put pictures of you, family members and friends taken from the past year and insert Post Its to write your thoughts on every snap.

4. Patterned scarf over plain towel/handkerchief

Another group of classic Filipino gifts are towels and handkerchiefs. Yes it is humid and quite polluted in the metro, but a more functional and stylish alternative that can be used even in the cold is a patterned, square scarf. Regardless of the material and print, scarves can be used as a top, a cardigan, shorts, and even as a tote bag.

MB Life’s Tip: Involve the weaving community this Christmas. ANTHILL Fabric Gallery offers “infinity scarves” using indigenous fabrics and patterns. Not only does these beat stereotypical gifts but also “promote homegrown skills, living traditions and enable appreciation and transmission of Filipino weaving culture to younger generations”. Available at selected bazaars and can be ordered online through Facebook.

5. Gadget stand over picture frame

Similar to blank photo albums, picture frames are not the rave anymore. Most photographs are uploaded on social media nowadays, too, so it would make more sense to invest on gadget needs. A stylish gadget stand is not only useful but can also make your mobile phone or tablet as much of a good home interior piece as a picture frame.

MB Life’s Tip: Sustainability is one of the best alternatives to stereotypical gifts and SustainablyMade makes hand-crafted stands from sustainably-farmed, premium Honduras Mahogany hardwood, finished with tung oil and beeswax. The stands are available online and at local bazaars.

While gift items may be provided with multiple alternatives, what should remain stereotypical in the Filipino tradition of gift-giving is the heart to give. After all, it’s truly the thought that counts.

Illustrations by Madel Crudo

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