Canned goods, chocolates, toothpaste, bar soaps, bottles of lotion, clothes, purses, perfume, makeup, towels, toys, and anything else that is non-perishable are the usual contents of a balikbayan box. All of these are lovingly packed and filled by Filipino families abroad to be either sent back home through courier service or they may also bring them along if they are flying back home.
Quite frankly, some of these items can also be bought in the Philippines. But why do Filipinos insist on sending them in a box?
It all goes back to the Filipino custom of “pasalubong” which literally translates as a souvenir. Almost every Filipino is expected to bring home a little something when returning from a trip. Through the years, it evolved into something that can be “brought home” even if you’re not physically there.
A special connection between your new home and your motherland. More so, to bridge the distance between you and your loved ones. However, it is also shaped by colonialism. Since the country was colonized by the Americans for 48 years, western culture is very evident even today. Most Filipinos have the mentality that whatever comes from abroad is better than local products. So even if they can buy some of the items sent inside the box locally, everyone is still giddy and proud of receiving items from abroad. These boxes can be sent all year round but a lot prefer to send it as the year ends to arrive as a holiday gift to their families.
In 1987, the government of the Philippines passed a law that waives taxes and duties on goods in balikbayan boxes as recognition to the contributions of the hard-working Overseas Filipino Workers to the country. However, qualified Overseas Filipino Workers may only send up to 3 balikbayan boxes per calendar year and the total value inside the box should not exceed a value of Php 150,000 (around CAD 4,000+) otherwise it will be subjected to tax. Many have tried to insert a few dollar bills on the items in the box. While this seems to be a practical way since it will be sent back home anyway, a lot of mishaps may happen to your box without your knowledge. There are many reports of items being stolen from the box while in transit.
What a waste of hard-earned money, right?
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