Chocolates, candies and clothes top the list of favorite balikbayan box contents, with three in every five readers citing them as among their all-time favorites.
The Inquirer’s “What’s in Your Balikbayan Box?” contest, which ran from Dec. 14 to Dec. 21, asked readers to name their all-time favorite items found inside balikbayan boxes sent through the years by family members living or working in other countries.
Readers from the provinces of Ilocos Sur, Cebu, Leyte, Pangasinan, Batangas, Bulacan and Cavite shared their lists of favorite goodies in boxes sent by loved ones from the United States, Canada, Italy, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Israel, Japan, South Korea and Singapore.
Sixty-seven percent listed “chocolates and candies” while 63 percent had “clothes” as among their top favorite goodies. Others wrote shoes (56 percent) and food (52 percent).
Toiletries (44 percent) and canned goods (41 percent) were also on the lists, as were bags (22 percent), toys (19 percent) and watches (15 percent).
The sweetest things
“Chocolates [are] the sweetest. A balikbayan box would never be complete without them,” said Eilen Pajimula, who receives the boxes from her mother in Dubai.
“Every year, my sister Marie gives us chocolates and other goods and sends [them] to us, usually during the Christmas season,” said Gee Lorena, whose sister is in South Korea.
Alice Pineda is likewise excited about the balikbayan boxes her sister Arlene sends from San Diego, California. One of the things she most looks forward to? Delicious See’s chocolates. “Forget about the calories,” she said.
“Oh, who doesn’t love chocolates?” said Edelyn Valdoria, whose Tita Myrna Cavagnaro of Stockton, California, always makes sure to include Cadbury chocolates and Toblerone bars in the boxes she sends home, much to the enjoyment of her nieces and nephews.
“Of course, No. 1 on my list are chocolates,” said 21-year-old Geraldine Fajardo, who receives balikbayan boxes from her father Gerardo in Saudi Arabia. “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.”
Lobella Calago’s favorite goodies-in-a-box are clothes for her and her husband. “Clothes and shorts for him, blouses and bras for me,” said Calago, who receives balikbayan boxes from her sister-in-law Jingle in the United States.
“Some branded shoes are not available here, or if they are, expect a higher price,” said Fajardo, who also listed shoes as among her favorite box items.
“My parents are both working in Singapore as logistics officers, and they regularly send balikbayan boxes home. They never fail to include my favorite—Van’s shoes,” 15-year-old Vianca Pangilinan said.
Rhea Mel Icalina, a reader from Cebu City, said her brother Bryan always sends balikbayan boxes to make the family feel his presence more. Among the contents are the shoes Rhea wears to work.
“My brother Bryan has a generous heart. He always makes sure that his family and relatives can enjoy the packages he send[s] to us. Every balikbayan box he send[s] delight[s] us. It is like a big ‘I love you’ box to us,” she said.
Food, canned goods
“Food is the most basic content of a balikbayan box,” said Jennifer Padilla Celeste, who receives boxes from her husband, a migrant worker in Canada.
“Topping the list is Spam. We don’t even have to request this. [I]t is a given,” she said. “Imported canned Spam—this is one of the things we look forward to when we open the box.”
Bernard Orquina describes imported shampoo and soap as “runaway hits” as far as box contents are concerned. “For us who live in a barrio far from big supermarkets, shampoo always [comes] as a treat. It also mean[s] goodbye to small sachets of the locally produced brand for the next month or so,” he said.
Orquina’s favorite is Irish Spring soap in a green box. “The [fragrance lingers] in my memory so much,” he said.
More than bringing families together, the balikbayan box has also become a tradition passed on from generation to generation.
For Marcelino Bautista and his family, their father started it all when he was working in Saudi Arabia in the 1960s.
“I remember vividly how excited we were, waiting for the balikbayan box from our Santa Claus—our father,” he said.
For their mother, the No. 1 thing on her wish list was always her husband’s presence.
“Yes, she was happy we had all the goodies, but my dad’s presence during Christmas was all she would ask from Jesus,” Bautista said.
Bautista, now 63, said he still felt a childlike excitement as the family waited for another balikbayan box—now sent by his sister, a migrant worker in Florence, Italy. “[Y]ears have passed, but our longings have [changed] very little,” he said.
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