Parsons School of Design

BFA Communication Design

Thesis 2014

Brandon Nicolas
What to Do with Ono Pasalubong
Brandon Nicolas
What to Do with Ono Pasalubong

Deriving from a tradition of visiting family in Hawaii and bringing Hawaiian Host as gifts back to New York, this project seeks to radicalize the practice of pasalubong. It is a series of continually adapting and observable participatory performances, re-crafted to transform preconceived notions around souvenirs, which are understood to be embedded with memories and ideas. The custom of pasalubong is common in Filipino communities. It is essentially the giving of souvenirs as gifts, typically regional specialties (and often edible) as a sentiment that the purchaser has remembered the recipient while away. They encourage beliefs about a place and can create specific associations. In order for the exchange to be meaningful, a particular vision of what the experience evokes is shared. By giving away boxes of ono (delicious) chocolate covered macadamia nuts from Hawaiian Host, I present a neatly packaged and sanitized perception of Hawaii. This offering erases the struggles of Kanaka Maoli (Native Hawaiians) by promoting their homeland as an unparalleled paradise. It is where the founder of Hawaiian Host has become successful and offers this success as “Hawaii a gift to the world.” This traditional practice unknowingly obscures Native Hawaiians as a mobilizing political faction and dehumanizes them, becoming backdrops to facilitate exoticism for the consumption of privileged groups. By having participants create and destroy souvenirs, it seeks to disrupt pasalubong as an intimate, innocuous, or passive exchange. How can this cultural practice continue while facilitating new memories around gifting, instead of enacting problematic ones encompassing a contrived Hawaii?




Phuong Nguyen
Seema Nisar