June 2010, Barcelona, Spain. I vividly recall lugging my oversized and overstuffed bag along the street of La Rambla on our way to catch our bus that would take us to the Barcelona-El Prat Airport. It was about 8am and the normally bustling street was slowly waking up. I passed by a few souvenir shops which were already open and was startled to hear one salesman calling out “mura lang”. My sleep addled brain jolted into complete awareness: “Whoa! Did a descendant of a Spanish Conquistador just smell the penniless state of an indio from a mile away?”
I still had a few minutes and Euros to spare so I checked out his wares and ended up buying (In hindsight, perhaps to spite the man: “How dare he insinuate I can only buy things that are mura?”), not one but three, miniature multi-colored bulls in Gaudi style. These, I thought, were the perfect souvenir from my visit to this vibrant capital city of the historic Catalan region.
Now, these items are not exactly ‘baggage-friendly’—they could easily get chipped at the slightest bump. In the end, I had to gingerly hand-carry these mementoes to Paris, where I stayed for a couple of nights, and onto the long-haul flight to the Philippines.
Why then, pray tell, do we often end up throwing all baggage weight and cost considerations to the wind and giving in to the urge to acquire a travel keepsake? Is it commodity fetishism as Karl Marx would like us to believe? Or is it a product of the inner workings of the subconscious ala Sigmund Freud?
Fifteen members of the Pinoy Travel Bloggers, an elite group of young people who live and breathe travel, weigh in on the topic. In the process, they allow us a privileged view, both intimate and comprehensive, of the souvenirs that they acquired from their years of travel and the memories that these items evoke.
“Collecting travel keepsakes and leveling up.” You can’t help but smile from ear-to-ear once you read Kara Santos’ piece on Travel Up titled: Collectible Items IRL (In Real Life) Travel. She likens the process of collecting items from her travels to a video game where you complete a task and collect points to level up. We (my generation at least) remember how the lola in that Teeth song “Laklak” gave a stern warning: “wag kang uminom ng serbesa.” But this spunky lady who is just at home riding a motorcycle as she is handling a game console, also guzzles and collects bottles of beer from all over the world. Let’s hope she doesn’t drink and drive at the same time 🙂
“Photos are good but we need…souvenirs.” Carlo Dela Cruz of Visa-Free World subscribes to this view. “Photos are good but something more substantial is better”, he opines. His collection of human figures, he said, would look at him in the eye (Carlo is speaking figuratively here, of course! 😛 ) and helps him recount the joyous times and the unforgettable stories that he encountered whilst on the road. Even more importantly, these objects remind him of the diverse cultures as well as the high-level of craftsmanship of artisans in Asia. Check out his blog titled: Cultural Identity: Travel Souvenirs.
“I live and breathe souvenirs.” Roniel Macatol of Eating Halfway is the perfect example of a person who lives and breathes souvenirs. That is, in his capacity as a research specialist for the Department of Trade and Industry. In Bitbitables, he offers us a glimpse of the wide array of souvenirs that can be sourced from the Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon and Palawan (MIMAROPA) region.
“Born a scribe, and proud of it!” In another lifetime, Christeen Cereno of Senyorita Lakwachera must have been a scribe. How else can you explain her passion to document her travels? She has since graduated from scrapbooking to blogging and collects keychains with gusto. Read her aptly titled blog post: My Travel Treasures.
“Souvenirs provide that rare and very privileged feeling.” Che Gurrobat of Backpacking Pilipinas gives us a rundown of her Top 5 Favorite Travel Souvenirs namely, ref magnets, t-shirts, shawls/sarongs, local handicrafts and food. She writes: “I realized how privileged I am to have actually been to those off-the-beaten roads and that it may take a long time for me to return. I thought it would be necessary to find something to remember the place by.” Check out her blog and marvel at the fine engineering that went into her refrigerator’s door which amazingly does not collapse under the sheer weight of her ref magnets.
“Souvenirs remind me of what I love to do and that is to see the world.” Catherine Iblan of Seeking Felicity fancied collecting travel plates (yes, the kind where you don’t eat food from) when she was traveling all over the country but found them not in large supply. In Travel Keepsakes and Souvenirs, she writes how she rekindled this passion when she started traveling abroad. Thus far, she has collected plates from places that you are most likely salivating to explore: Morocco, Sweden and Italy, to name just a few. Give her some love and visit her blog! She might just write you a postcard from one of her travels abroad!
“Souvenirs remind me of feelings; of the fleeting.” Trust Rain Amantiad-Campanilla of Rakistang Nars to rock our world. Perhaps, without even meaning to. Just when everyone is dishing out stirring and upbeat recollections of their travels with the help of precious travel keepsakes, she writes a moving piece about Starbucks tumblers and (gasp!) lost love. Her lovely, haunting prose in Mementos from Trips reminds us that souvenirs not only evoke good memories. Sometimes, they reconstruct painful memories too!
“Buy a souvenir and contribute to the local economy.” Kim Lim of Indie Escape is not your regular, souvenir-crazy gal. “I’m not the type who would collect ref magnets and shot glasses from the places I’ve been,” she matter-of-factly states. But she is not immune to the charm of unique handmade goods. In Of Knick-knacks and Mementoes from the Road, she displays some of her collections and exhorts her readers to buy local and help uplift the local economy.
“Buy local, eat local, enjoy local.” James Betia of Journeying James recalls being enamoured with the local woven fabric called T’nalak produced by the T’boli tribe in South Cotabato and how this has re-ignited his fervor to “buy local, eat local, and enjoy local.” Check out his story on this life changing moment titled: I Support Localism.
“Bringing travel keepsakes to life.” If Roniel lives and breathes souvenirs, Jho Vd of Philippine Mountains and Beyond brings them to life. Literally! In Travel Keeps, Jho excitedly narrates that she now has several plants from seeds acquired from her travels. These include sprouting mangosteen and marang seedlings from the fruits she ate in Alamada, North Cotabato. How cool is that?
“Taking home a piece of every destination.” If Roniel lives and breathes souvenirs and Jho Vd brings them to life, Mai Flores of Budget Biyahera ups the ante a bit more and builds a shrine for her travel keepsakes. In A Memento of Travels and Memories she writes about her collection of bits and pieces that would put a hoarder’s stash to shame.
“Reminiscing the fun and unforgettable travel experiences.” Armie Abigania of MIE’s Adventures lives by the rule “take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints, kill nothing but time”. That is, most of the time. Other times she would succumb to the guilty pleasure of acquiring travel souvenirs which she neatly categorizes into three: The Towers, The Mugs, and The Rosaries. Check out her post: My Travel Collectibles.
“Wearing your souvenirs.” This lady has a thing for souvenir earrings. And she does not keep them in a jewelry box and forgets entirely about them. Aiyo Aclado of The Vacation Preview wears them. With aplomb! In I Carry Your Heart With Me (I Carry it on My Ears), she tells her readers about a well-traveled friend “who has made it his life-long mission to bring me earrings from all the countries he visits”. One wonders if this is the same friend whose heart she carries with her. 😉
“I count my souvenirs instead of sheep.” Mhe-anne Ojeda of My Comings and Goings has a large collection of fluffy stuffed toys. So large in fact that it has merited her a spot in a TV segment which, in turn, gave her soft and cuddly toys their 10 minutes of stardom. “On a sad day when I have no one to talk to, just looking at my collections drives the bad mood away. I could easily count my blessings and see how our Heavenly Father has been so good to me,” she writes. Hop on to her blog post and get acquainted with her teddies: Travel Souvenirs: Stuffed Toys and More…
“Starting ’em young. With Souvenirs.” She knew her platypus, koala and tazmanian devil even before she could say tamaraw, courtesy of her uncle who showered her with gifts from Australia back when she was just a child. I’m joking of course. But the simple joys that Micaela Rodriguez of Senyorita derived from souvenir items at an early age has been indelibly imprinted on her mind, so much so that it would turn out to be a Godsend that she did not have much moolah on her when she visited Aldevinco in Davao. Or she would have bought a whole shop of souvenirs with it. And oh, she thinks a real, life-size barrel man would make for an ‘interesting’ souvenir 😉 Check out her blogpost: Philippine Souvenirs to Remember.
This is the PTB Blog Carnival for July 2013 with the theme: Memorable Travel Souvenirs, Objects and Mementoes. If you enjoyed reading this post as much as I did writing it, head on to the official page of the PTB Blog Carnival, and check out the past 32 editions which were hosted by other travel bloggers.