A balikbayan box (literally, "Repatriate box") is a ubiquitous, corrugated box containing any number of small items sent by an overseas Filipino known as a "balikbayan". Though often shipped by freight forwarders specializing in balikbayan boxes by sea, such boxes can be brought by Filipinos returning to the Philippines by air.
These boxes might contain nearly anything that can fit and that the sender thinks the recipient would like, regardless of whether those items can be bought cheaply in the Philippines, such as non-perishable food, toiletries, household items, electronics, toys, designer clothing, or items hard to find in the Philippines.
A balikbayan box intended for air travel is designed to conform to airline luggage restrictions and many Filipino stores carry them. Some boxes come with a cloth cover and side handles. Others are tightly secured with tape or rope, and thus not confused with an ordinary moving box more lightly wrapped.
The balikbayan boxes come in three standard sizes:
- Medium: 18 x 16 x 18 inches
- Large: 18 x 18 x 24 inches
- Extra large: 24 x 18 x 24 inches
Shipped boxes are delivered directly to the recipient, nearly always the family of the overseas Filipino.
Part of the attraction of the balikbayan box is its economic value as it affords the sender cheaper bulk shipment of items versus sending each individually or in smaller boxes through postal services. The tradeoff though is longer transit time by container ship, which typically lasts several weeks, and the lack of a solid delivery date.
The balikbayan box arose in the 1980s with the law[which?] enacted by former Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos causing a resurgence of Filipinos working overseas. The Philippine Bureau of Customs Circular allowed tax-free entry of personal goods in the country from Filipinos overseas. People then began sending items through friends and co-workers who were returning to the Philippines.
In 1998, Manny Paez of Manila Forwarder offered a bigger balikbayan box and called it jumbo box. After Typhoon Ketsana (Ondoy) hit the Philippines in 2009, Manila Forwarder introduced a re-usable plastic shipping container called Bianca and Roland Shipping drums.[why?]
In the last quarter of 2010, the balikbayan box industry in the United States was scrutinised by the US Department of Homeland Security. Almost all shipments have been delayed and an extra fee was levied on all balikbayan box shipping companies. Balikbayan box companies then organised the Pilipino American Shipper's Association (PASA) to help the government and consumers in policing the balikbayan box industry against unlicenced companies.
- del Barco, Mandalit (2005-12-23). "Gift Boxes Help Migrant Filipinos Keep Ties to Home" (radio). Morning Edition (National Public Radio).
- Ly, Phuong (2004-12-24). "Money Is Not Enough at Christmas". Washington Post. p. B05.
- "Balikbayan Box Dimensions". Dimensions Info: Because Size Matters. Memebridge.com. Retrieved 21 March 2013. "There are three types of balikbayan box, namely the medium box, the large or the regular box and the extra large box. The width and height of the medium box is 18 inches while the depth is 16 inches. The standard width of the large box has a width and depth of 18 inches while the height is 24 inches. The extra large box has a width of width and height of 24 inches while its depth is 18 inches."