What is a Balikbayan Box?

11 Oct 2022 - Category: Blog /
balikbayan box

Today there are over 12 million Filipinos overseas. From the United States to Australia, Singapore to the United Kingdom, Filipinos and people of Filipino descent have made their home in hundreds of countries around the world.

Many of you will know that it is not easy to work far away from home and your loved ones. Beyond talking on the phone or on a video call it can be difficult to share genuine connections when you are separated by vast distances.

So, how can Filipino migrants be reminded of the comforts of home even when they are hundreds of thousands of miles away? And how can people living in the Philippines receive gifts and items from their loved ones abroad? A balikbayan box may be the solution you are looking for.

Below you’ll learn about:

A Guide to Balikbayan Boxes

The word ‘balikbayan’ means “returning home” or “returning to the town, country or nation”. Balikbayan boxes are practical and sentimental gifts that Filipino migrants send home to their family and friends.

Balikbayan boxes are often compared to gift baskets for hampers, with the difference being the distance they are often sent. Every year hundreds of thousands of balikbayan boxes are sent from around the world back to the Philippines to be enjoyed by parents, children, aunties, uncles, grandparents and close friends.

Often balikbayan boxes contain:

  • Canned goods
  • Sweets, treats and chocolates
  • Toys and games for children
  • Body and hair products
  • Fragrances

When balikbayan boxes first became popular many people would also include cash within their boxes. Today, thanks to digital money transfer services like Small World, balikbayan boxes are often not the preferred option for sending money and are instead used to transport valued items and gifts like those listed above.

Why do so many people use Balikbayan Boxes?

Beyond their practical use, balikbayan boxes have come to symbolize the hard work of Filipino migrants who wish to support their family and friends back home. Balikbayan boxes are an important example of the ties that bind immigrants to their home nation and the value of your national roots.

Many Filipinos enjoy creating and sending balikbayan boxes home to their loved ones. The relatively low transit costs means that it is quite affordable to send a balikbayan box back to the Philippines every few months.

In the Philippines there is a long history of balikbayan boxes which relates to the country’s tradition of travelers bringing gifts or souvenirs back home from their travels. The word ‘Pasalubong’ means “something for when you welcome me” in Tagalog. Pasalubong can be said to apply to the modern custom of balikbayan boxes. This tradition is ingrained in Filipino culture and is a significant reason why so many people use balikbayan boxes today.

What is the origin of Balikbayan Boxes?

Balikbayan boxes first became popular in the 1980s. The Philippine government officially recognizes Filipino expats as Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) and in recognition for their hard work, balikbayan boxes were given duty and tax free status in 1987. This boosted the usage of balikbayan boxes and allowed OFWs around the world to send all sorts of items and gifts back home without great expense.

There are a variety of balikbayan boxes available that comply with shipping requirements including:

  • Medium: 18 x 16 x 18 inches
  • Large: 18 x 18 x 24 inches
  • Extra-large: 24 x 18 x 24 inches

Who can send Balikbayan Boxes?

New government regulations in 2017 limited the kind of people who can send and receive balikbayan boxes. Therefore to send a balikbayan box you have to be either:

  • A qualified OFW (you must have an official employment contract overseas)
  • A Filipino with a temporary visa
  • A Filipino living abroad with dual citizenship

To receive a balikbayan box you must be related to the sender of the box. If you are not related the tax-free exemption will not apply and while a balikbayan box in nature it will not count as an official tax-free balikbayan box.

If you are a Filipino working and living abroad, balikbayan boxes are a great way to connect with your loved ones back home. As long as you have your ID and documents together, then the process is relatively easy.

How can you send a Balikbayan Box?

Balikbayan boxes are tax-free but since new government regulations in 2017 you need to prove your identity in order to qualify for the tax-free status. The new rules require Filipinos sending or receiving balikbayan boxes to complete a form with their ID and itemized receipts.

The items inside the balikbayan box should not be valued more than 150,000 PHP (around £2,273). All official OFWs are allowed to send up to 3 balikbayan boxes per year. While the boxes are not seasonal in nature many Filipino expats choose to send the balikbayan boxes back during holiday periods or near the birthdays or anniversaries of their loved ones back in the Philippines.

There are a number of balikbayan box services in the United States and the UK, including LBCExpress, Balikbayan Box UK Ltd, AtlasShippers and Forex Cargo. Using these services makes sending balikbayan boxes easy and cheap.

Send money home with Small World

Whether or not you choose to use a balikbayan box to send goods home to your family or friends, you may also want to send money home. This is where Small World can help.

Small World is an international money transfer service enabling millions of people to transfer funds to their loved ones around the world every day. We offer a variety of safe and efficient transfer services to the Philippines including bank deposit, cash card reload, mobile wallet, cash pickup, home delivery, and airtime top-up.

We are also partnered with a number of local Filipino banks including BDO Remit, BPI, MetroBank, LandBank, EastWest and PNB to ensure you can get the best and most convenient money transfer service.

Your first digital transaction is always free of transfer fees!

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