The Balikbayan Box

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It’s great to know that the former President Ferdinand Marcos thought of balikbayan boxes as a sign of thanksgiving to our fellow Filipinos working abroad. According to Wikipedia:


On 1980, then Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos enacted Executive Order No. 206.[2] This order amended Section 105 (f) and added a new subsection (f-1) to Republic Act No. 1937, also known as the Tariff and Customs Code of the Philippines, which was signed into law on 22 July 1957 by former president Carlos P. Garcia.[3]

The amended Section 105 of the Tariff and Customs Code of the Philippines provides duty and tax free privileges to balikbayan boxes sent to the Philippines by overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) as recognition of the magnitude of their contribution and sacrifices in foreign lands as well as bringing of a considerable amounts of foreign exchange annually that contributed to the national recovery effort at that time.[2] This allowed tax-free entry of personal goods in the country from Filipinos overseas. People then began sending balikbayan boxes through friends and co-workers who were returning to the Philippines

The news about balikbayan boxes being opened by the BOC (Bureau of Customs) triggered great anger among OFW’s all over the globe. The tedious process of sending a balikbayan box is not easy.

  • First, you think of the things your loved ones would appreciate or love.
  • You look for those items in shops. (Or wait for the SALE to finally come)
  • Buy those items in the midst of your busy schedule.
  • Pack the items.
  • Buy more goods (smaller ones perhaps) that could fit the spaces inside the box.
  • Wait for the next salary to again, buy something for friends or families to continue filling the box. (It’s not that easy to fill a box.) Sometimes, it takes 2-3 months to actually fill a box.
  • Start squeezing every possible item in, just so every special person in your family will be happy.
  • Send the balikbayan box.

Preparing all these includes joy, sacrifce, and love. You could actually just send money instead of a box, but there’s something special when you’ve held in your hand those shoes you’ve handpicked for your son, or a beautiful shirt you’ve bought for your baby girl. A pair of jeans for your father, lipsticks for your mom and aunt. A simple toothpaste, coffee, or a box of chocolate for the whole family. It’s much cheaper in the Philippines, but you’d rather send them. Why? Because you want to send these items that you’ve touched, hoping that beyond borders, and beyond the long miles, your loved ones will feel that special touch while preparing this balikbayan box.

On the side note, it’s funny that it seems history has repeated itself. People have been smuggling using these boxes before. =)


After the September 11 attacks in the US and the passage of the Patriot Act by the US Congress, balikbayan boxes have been subjected to rigorous inspections by the United States Department of Homeland Security‘s Out-Bound Exam Team that caused massive delays of up to three weeks at the US Customs inspection facility. This extended shipping time from 21 days to 30 plus days. The inspections also resulted in opened balikbayan boxes and complaints of pilferage and mishandling. The Bureau of Customs also conducts 100% inspections that added to the burden of delayed shipments. The inspections are the result of some unscrupulous individuals who use balikbayan boxes smuggle commercial items without paying taxes or to smuggle contraband. Since balikbayan box shipping is a consolidated shipment, even one illegal item will affect all 400 or so packages inside the container. The inspection process has been modernized with the installation of high performance X-ray machines.



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