If there is one thing that is uniquely Pilipino it is the Balikbayan Box. Balik is the word for “return” and Bayan translates to “country” or “homeland”. If you are visiting someone in the Philippines, as you leave your hosts will always tell you “Balik balik”, in other words “Please return ” or “Please visit us again”. Bayan can also refer to a person as in Kababayan, meaning “Countryman”. Balikbayan then is a Pilipino who is returning to their country.
A balikbayan box is a way for overseas Pinoy to send goods home to the RP. These could be goods they would bring as they move back to the Philippines or goods they will simply ship back to the Philippines to help their families. It is the latter that they are most used for. The boxes are packed into containers and travel by container ship so there are no weight restrictions. That’s right. You don’t pay by weight which is a great advantage over other shipping methods. Price is determined by size of the box and destination. It usually takes about three weeks for the boxes to arrive in Manila if they are shipped from the west coast of the US. They then must clear customs which is handled smoothly by your shipper and then delivered to their final destination. Boxes intended for the Metro Manila area usually take about four weeks from the time they leave port in the US until they reach your family or friends. Boxes to outlying provinces must be shipped again from Manila to their respective locations and will take another one or two weeks depending on how far they are from Manila. Shipping costs range from approximately $50-$90 depending on size and final destination. Compare that to UPS, FedEx, DHL or other worldwide shippers and you can easily see how much of a bargain a balikabayan box really is. Balikbayan box shippers are located throughout the world wherever there is a significant Pinoy population, like the US, UK, Australia and many other countries.
To send a box you must first visit your local shipper. My preferred shippers is Atlas Shipping Co. and they have an office conveniently located near to me.
Below is a foto of their Sacramento CA office.
Now what do you fill the boxes with?
Inside Atlas Shipping. Located on Mack Rd inside the SeaFood City supermarket in Sacramento Ca.
I am shipping the 23″x17″x20″. Once you ship a box you never have to buy one again as they will replace the box you ship for free. If you buy the Junior Box, pictured on the right, and ship it with your other box then the Junior box ships for free.
Here I am, selecting a nice box.
Now, let’s fill it up. Typical items that are shipped are canned goods and clothing although you can include other types of items too. You should not include perishables though as they will not last during the long sea voyage. Some of the many canned items that Pilipinos like to receive are Spam, Corned Beef, Vienna Sausage, etc. Small canned hams are good also but remember to ship the ones that do not need refrigeration. Bars of soap are also coveted. I also like to include some treats, like canned pears and peaches, fruits that they do not have there. In that same vein I usually include cans of chili and a bottle or two of Tabasco and Louisiana style hot sauce. Instant coffee is always appreciated. Yes, instant. Instant coffee is the preferred of many in the RP, perhaps because so few want to spend their few pisos on a coffee maker. I also always throw in some bulk type candy for the kids and some Hershey’s Kisses. Ghiradelli chocolates are another good thing to send. Remember, no contraband! Don’t get yourself or your family into trouble.
You know, I have to be honest, one of the best parts of shipping one of these boxes is the excitement and pleasure I derive from shopping for the various items. Walking through my local Costco, seeing items that I know my family would love to have and throwing them into my cart. Knowing I’m helping them is a big part of it for me.
Here is a foto showing the canned ham and bars of soap as well as some cans of corned beef hash too. And like teenagers and children everywhere they love boxes of Mac N Cheese. Hey, I’m an adult and I still love Mac N Cheese!
Shampoos and conditioners are good to ship as well as lotions and cosmetics. Pictured here are some stuffed animals of which we will send some in this box. The children are absolutely thrilled to get their very own stuffed animal. When you see fotos of them hugging their animal so tight and wearing a big bright smile your heart will melt. Guaranteed.
Next you call Atlas and they will send someone to pick up the box right at your home. That’s right. No need to lug that heavy box around by yourself. And believe me, once you stuff that box full it will be heavy! The delivery person will wheel up his dolly to your door, pick it up and give you your replacement box for your next shipment. Wow, how great is that? Here is a foto of some of the boxes once they arrive at the Atlas Office.
Once the boxes are loaded onto the dolly they are wheeled out to a waiting truck.
Up into the bed of the truck.
Packed nice and neat to allow for the maximum number of boxes.
Packed to the roof. No wasted space. Once this truck is full, off they will go to the nearest port. For us that’s Oakland CA. There they will be loaded into a container then onto a container ship. Then it’s the sea voyage to Manila and from there to Cebu, Davao, Pampanga, Ilocos or whatever corner of the Philippines they are traveling to. When your family or friends receive their box they will be so thrilled and so will you knowing you have made someone happy.
Atlas is not just a shipper of balikbayan boxes. They also offer money remittance services and they have their own travel agency. In Sacramento CA just talk to Chinky Silay (Pictured below) for some great deals on airfares to the Philippines or anywhere. You can talk to her in the office or give here a call at either 916.421.3130 or 916.421.3179 She’ll be happy to work with you and save you some money.
I prefer Atlas as I have always received excellent service from them both in the US and the RP. They are an honest and reliable shipper. Plus I like the feature of being able to track my shipment online at their website. Atlas has offices throughout Southern and Northern California as well as 12 other states. If you need to locate an Atlas office or are just curious about them then see their website at;
I am receiving no compensation for this recommendation by the way. I’m just “telling it like it is”.
Thanks for reading my little blog and I hope I have encouraged at least one person to send their own balikbayan box to friends or family in the RP. You’ll be so glad you did.
Until next time, I’m Goyo. See ya’.