Dec 202014

For Inquirer readers, the holidays are merrier when there’s a balikbayan box from a loved one to open.

In a country where most families have members working or living abroad, sending balikbayan boxes, or packages of personal effects or gifts, has helped maintain ties despite the distance.

While migrant workers now send balikbayan boxes at any time of the year, it is still a source of excitement for many during the holiday season.

The Inquirer’s “What’s in your Balikbayan Box?” contest, launched on Dec. 14, asks readers to name their all-time favorite items found inside balikbayan boxes sent by relatives abroad through the years.

inqbalikbayanboxgalleryNetizens who responded to our call on Twitter expressed gratitude and joy as they cited their Top 5 all-time favorite balikbayan box contents in 140 characters.

“Thank you, relatives,” netizen @purpletooth gushed after citing her choices.

“You can’t call it a balikbayan box without…” netizen @krisbayleley said before citing his all-time favorite balikbayan box items.

Readers from Cebu, Leyte, Pangasinan, Batangas, Bulacan and Cavite shared their families’ stories of joy and gratitude after receiving balikbayan boxes from loved ones working abroad.

All excited

“We just received a balikbayan box from my sister-in-law,” said Lisa Maiquez of Sta. Barbara, Pangasinan. “We are all excited to open it, especially the kids. They cannot wait to see what’s inside.”

“I know how hard it is to work abroad, especially when you’re far away from your family. It is not easy living and working so far away. But to make our families happy, we just send things that we know would make them happy,” Ruby Jane Angkay, 28, said. “My eldest brother knows this. That’s why he always sends balikbayan boxes.”

Reader Kerry Gene said her elder sister, a nurse in Saudi Arabia, includes household items like toothpaste and shampoo in the balikbayan box she sends home. “These items are very helpful in lessening our expenses,” Kerry Gene said.

Kerry Gene takes care of her sister’s son, Ayden, who also receives gifts in balikbayan boxes from his mom. “A quarter of the box is Ayden’s clothes, shoes, diapers and wipes,” Kerry Gene said.

Eds Valoria said her Tita Myrna from Stockton, California, sends not only canned goods and other groceries, but also spices and recipes.

Her favorite item in her aunt’s balikbayan box? Chocolates.

“Who doesn’t love chocolates? She knows how to make the kids happy by filling the balikbayan box with lots of chocolates,” Valoria said.

“Chocolates symbolize happiness and love,” said another reader, Geraldine Fajardo, 21. “If someone gives you chocolates, it means he/she loves you and wants you to taste the sweetness of the country where he/she is now.”

Christmas any time of year

For some families, receiving a balikbayan box is like Christmas, no matter what time of the year.

Lobella Calago’s family received a balikbayan box from her sister-in-law Jingle from the United States last month. The box contained shoes, clothes, toys, chocolate and soap—something for everyone in the family.

“We were happy to open it. It felt like Christmas came early because of all the gifts we received,” Calago said.

Elsie Valdez said her husband, Arnel, always sends a balikbayan box in time for Christmas. “As the gift-giving season approaches, my husband makes sure to send a balikbayan box to me,” she said. “He is currently in Japan. I miss him so much.”

For some, however, the balikbayan box is a mystery throughout the holiday season.

Junie Albacaro’s sister Donna Mae wants to open the balikbayan box she sent to her family when she comes home from Taif City, Saudi Arabia, in January.

“We couldn’t contain our excitement. Everybody keeps asking about what’s inside—for my mother, for my sisters, for me. But according to her, she will be the one to unbox and hand the gifts over to us when she comes home this January,” Albacaro said.

(You can still send in your Top 5 all-time favorite items inside balikbayan boxes sent by your relatives through the years. Write an essay about them and send it, indicating your name, sex, age (optional), and contact number. Also indicate the balikbayan box sender and country of origin. The Top 3 entries chosen by the editors will win prizes. You may still send your entries by e-mail at balikbayan@inquirer. Deadline is today, Dec. 21.)


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