If you’re a Filipino you definitely know what a balikbayan box is, and most likely you’re also sending one at least once a year. I do.
Filipinos are known for their generosity especially when they have the means to do so. One way of showing this is through the balikbayan boxes we send to our families and relatives. We find joy in sending our loved ones these boxes filled with “goodies”. Some go shopping to fill the box and send the box immediately while others amass several knick-knacks they can gather for a span of months until they decide to ship out the box. Peak season for sending out boxes are mid-April and mid-October, just in time for the school opening in June and Christmas. On the average, the shipment takes 1.5 to 2 months.
Wikipedia.org’s definition of a balikbayan box says it all: “(literally returnee’s to one’s homeland box) is an ubiquitous cardboard box containing any number of small items and sent by an overseas Filipino known as a “balikbayan”. These boxes might contain nearly anything that can fit and that the sender thinks the recipient would like, regardless of whether those items can be bought cheaply in the Philippines, such as non-perishable food, toiletries, household items, electronics, toys, designer clothing, or items hard to find in the Philippines.”
Anyone not familiar with this Filipino norm is usually surprised at the kind of items we send our relatives back home. I remember how my husband’s friend laughed when he saw the huge can of Swiss Miss chocolate drink I was going to send my sister. I wonder how he’d react had he seen my bestfriend’s mom’s balikbayan box. Her’s normally include canned goods like Spam, Libby’s corned beef, coffee, creamer, bath soaps and colognes especially Victoria’s Secret. As you can tell, these are just ordinary items – nothing fancy or expensive.
I think our excitement in sending the box is nothing compared to the excitement in receiving it. It’s like opening a huge Christmas present. The whole family is gathered, normally in the living room and waiting for their names to be called. I must say that the items are usually labeled for orderly and harmonious distribution.
I have a few friends from other nationalities that send boxes to their families too. But I think it’s just right to say that balikbayan boxes are very Filipino. Literally and figuratively.
Image Credit: http://www.photopin.com/seasonalwanderer