‘Love, labor, pride in box’
MANILA, Philippines–For many years, I have sent balikbayan boxes to family members in the Philippines from the United States. When I decided to retire in the Philippines years ago, I have used the balikbayan box to ship my personal effects to my hometown in Ilocos Sur province. I found this service to be cheaper and more practical.
Now I am part of the receiving end of the ubiquitous balikbayan box sent by siblings. In it would be bags and bags of chocolate candies bought after Easter or after Halloween when they are on sale for up to 75-percent off, cases of Spam and Vienna sausage, jars of Taster’s Choice freeze dried coffee, large canisters of coffee creamer, Irish Spring bar soaps, packets of Swiss Miss cocoa powder, packets of instant oatmeal, etc., expertly packed and padded with used clothes, with every space filled to maximize the no-weight limit and very reasonable shipping costs. Just like the chocolate candies, all of the other items were purchased at various times when they were on sale and saved until the balikbayan box is filled to the rim before it is shipped. By the time the balikbayan box is full, the contents would have cost at least $200!
In one of the balikbayan boxes sent by one brother, who is an avid fisherman in Imperial Beach, California, among the contents were fish bagoong (fermented fish) packed in a sturdy plastic 5-gallon jug, several jars of Tome-style sardines, a honing stone, a fish fillet knife and a big bag of macadamia nuts from his tree. The fish bagoong and canned sardines were the results of his numerous experiments. Finally, he perfected the formula for the preparation of a very typical Ilocano condiment and uncovered the secret in preparation Tome-style sardines, a taste that we have always enjoyed when we were younger but can’t taste in any of the canned sardines sold in grocery stores. Without offense to my other siblings, these items came closest to my heart.
In the balikbayan box are not only the material goods it contains, but most importantly is the sharing by the sender of the love, sacrifice, labor and pride that go with it.
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