The A Ba Ka of Philippine Souvenirs: Ya for Yema

In the Philippines, souvenirs are more commonly known as “pasalubong.” It is the decades’ long practice or tradition of bringing home any item from a distant place and giving it as a gift to those who are waiting for us at home. This tradition has been strengthening bonds between family members, friends, colleagues, and romantic couples.

Finishing our A Ba Ka of Philippine Souvenirs series, let’s turn our attention to the yummy treat called yema.


Ya for Yema

During the Spanish era, Filipinos took leftover egg yolks from construction purposes and made them into dishes and pastries. One of these yummy delights is the custard confectionary called yema.

Yema was said to be roughly based on the Spanish pastry Yemas de Santa Teresa.


Yema starts as a mixture of egg yolk and sugar; it is then heated and stirred until it becomes thick. 

Later, with the influence of the Americans, milk was added to the ingredients.

Today, we can see yema balls and tower-shaped yema with nuts mixed into them. You can find yema in almost all travel destinations in the Philippines. It is commonly sold in colorful wrapping, together with other confections such as pastillas.


Other pastries and snacks were also put together with yema as the basic ingredient. This includes yema cake, which is gaining more and more popularity in social media lately.

Another yema product is the yema spread that you definitely want on your toast.


And, of course, you would want to head on over to Manila for their yema buko pie. Yes, that’s yema in a buko pie (coconut pie)!


Spanish era construction works in the Philippines often involved using egg whites and eggshells mixed with quicklime. These three ingredients make up a mortar that helps keep the stone walls up. Most of these buildings were churches and some of them are still up!

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