Balikbayan Box Fiasco

Balikbayan Box  is a large corrugated cargo box plastered with packaging tape sent from abroad  via shipping or air freight. It has the receiver’s  name and address written all over the box.
It contains the pasalubong for sender’s loved ones back in the Philippines. 

Pasalubong (gift) is the Filipino custom of bringing home “a little something” for relatives and friends. It is a way of sharing blessings. A person who gives pasalubong is well-regarded as a person who is sweet, kind and generous.

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It’s been a tradition for Filipinos overseas to send Balikbayan boxes as presents to family in the Philippines during the yuletide season which are Christmas and  New Year. 

Just recently, a news spread about the Philippines Bureau of Customs anti-smuggling campaign of conducting random inspections of balikbayan boxes.It surely has caused dismay and commotion to a lot of Filipinos working and living abroad. 

The Philippines BOC  said that they were after the smugglers who had resorted to using the balikbayan boxes to smuggle illegal imports into the country through bogus consignees or through the insertion of smuggled boxes .  

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A lot of Filipinos here and abroad were very disappointed and they just can’t seem to understand the need to open the boxes. The opening of boxes is definitely an invasion of privacy. Moreover, the Filipinos who sent the Balikbayan Boxes were concerned about the possibility of items being lost or stolen during the inspection.

Another big problem occurred when additional BOC reason for inspecting the boxes is that it may contain items that are subject for taxes. They look for valued items and subjecting them for taxation. Unfortunately, the taxes were so outrageous. So, if the receiver is unable to pay the taxes, the items will be declared BOC property and subject for disposal or selling. 

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Balikbayan box not just a box. It’s a box full of love, care and generosity.  It’s part of Filipino culture. It serves as a strong family ties and will never fail to connect families. It’s a therapy for the senders that will take their homesickness away. A part of them goes with the box. They may be not able to visit their family in person during Christmas and any other occasions, nevertheless that very special box will do on their behalf. They are private properties. That reason alone should be enough that these Balikbayan Boxes should be treated with respect.