Growing up in an OFW family set-up, balikbayan boxes are not new to us. It’s very common that each member of the family looks forward to every year. I should know….

My dad worked in the Middle East for over 26 years. He would send us boxes back then where me and my brother would share. My dad would put name labels on each item so we would know what belongs to whom.

By the time he came back home for good, it was my turn. I also worked in the Middle East for almost 10 years (1999 to 2008) and practically did the same thing. I would send balikbayan boxes to them and named each one of the item in the box. I do that whenever I can. If I plan to send a box just before the Christmas holidays, I would start buying and collecting goods as early as June till I managed to fill the box and send it over to the Philippines. I was not a big time earner then. I would save something from my salary, of what was left after remitting the money to them. That’s how it works. But it doesn’t matter for as long as everybody is happy and smiling. I should know… I was also a recipient for more than 26 years.

Back then I don’t remember having tax issues. I pay the charges for sending the box and that was it. So what is the fuss these days all about? I won’t go into details anymore and just pay attention to what BOC has come up now. After the President’s order to stop opening the balikbayan boxes sent via cargo, BOC is now up to something else.

                                                   Image source :

                                             Image source :

I strongly disagree. We are a family of four and Filipinos are known for extended families. My husband is not a Filipino but we are basically on the same OFW set-up. He works abroad while we are left here at home, miles away from each other. We have two girls, 9 and 5, who would always look forward to what he sends via freight or hand carried. That’s normal.

He comes home every year. He brings me home minimum of 6 bottles of perfume (plus my mom’s and soon my daughters’) enough to consume till he gets home again. Those bottles of perfume are of course bundled with handbags, cosmetics etc. which are the typical pasalubong of a husband to his wife. He is not a Filipino but a visitor as he still comes home on a visit visa, would that be taxed, too? If it’s not, well, then, thank you. I would just let my husband carry my brother’s pasalubongs for us then. But my brother is an OFW, so what now????

I would like to understand where BOC is coming from. Smugglers! Pero wag naman damay-damay! Na ultimo 2 bote ng pabango eh taxable pa!! Then, if the person refuses to pay the tax, where the supposed-to-be-taxed goods would go? This is no different to extortion at our airports. Yes!! My family had a terrible extortion experience years ago (Part 1 and Part 2). Diyan sila magaling eh! Poor OFWs! They just give in because they have no choice or otherwise a lot of time, effort and money would go to waste.  Mabuti pa sa ibang bansa. I remember well when I traveled to The Netherlands. I had more than 12 units of Google Nexus in my hand luggage meant for distribution to my colleagues who will also be attending the meeting. I only had to show the OR of Purchase and told the Inspector what those units were for and I passed with no fuss and embarrassment.

Ano ng nangyayari, Pilipinas??

Mitch Carvalho

A full-time home-based Marketing Manager by day, 24/7 Mom, and a Blogger at any time. I’m 43 and proud. Mom of Derelle & Erchelle, sharing my adventures as I walk through motherhood and having to do most things on my own while my Indian national husband works miles away from home.