What’s in your Balikbayan Box?

As you read this post, thousands upon thousands of balikbayan boxes from the box1U.S., Australia, Europe, Canada, Hong Kong, Singapore and Japan are being delivered across the Philippine archipelago to delighted recipients. Unlike any other nation in the world, Filipinos ship a phenomenal amount of cargo back home…boxes filled with canned corned beef and luncheon meat, Canadian rice, candy, pampers, clothing, shoes, candy, small appliances, pasalubongs, etc. If only 1 out of 10 Filipinos abroad send just 1 balikbayan box home a year weighing 50 lbs, that would be about 50,000,000 pounds of goods or roughly ½ pound for every man, woman and child on the archipelago! The “bbox” system is both a testament to our incredible generosity to relatives and families back home or a sad sign of the dependency many of us have on those earning a living abroad… I won’t get into the politics, I just want to know what was in your balikbayan box(es) this year…

We got several balikbayan boxes this year from New York and one from Sydney. box2 Some of the food items in the boxes included tons of candy for our annual gingerbread house – gummy bears, spice drops, twizzlers, hard candy, sour balls, candy canes, foil wrapped chocolates, etc. We also got lots of good olive oil, real maple syrup for all those pancakes and waffles, bottled artichokes which are so pricey locally, good hot mustard, hot chocolate mixes, Italian tuna (dolphin friendly, of course…), canned plum tomatoes, dried apricots and cranberries, dill pickles, a year’s supply of Earl Grey Tea which for some reason is 3 times the price in Manila as it is in bulk purchases in New York, good balsamic vinegars, coffee, etc. We also got 50-60 magazines to keep us occupied between Christmas and New Year’s Day! The package from Australia also had dried fruits, jams, sauces, chips, sweets, among other Christmas regalos and pasalubongs…

The highlight of the U.S. boxes this year is a nice big Southern Ham from Clifty Farms. box3 I am not a great big fan of the sweetish pineapple-ly local hams so I was thrilled to receive this drier, saltier and absolutely delicious ham. We will have it for Christmas Eve for sure. I also know it will last for several days afterwards and be reincarnated in sandwiches, with breakfasts, soups, etc. My wife swears balikbayan boxes have a unique fragrance and she never fails to slice open the tape and immediate sticks her head in to inhale a whiff of the “first world…” I know, I know, this sounds a bit odd but it’s just one of those things we associate with the arrival of a balikbayan box! So to all of you abroad who have sent these wonderful boxes filled with all of the goodies that will make your relatives and friends so happy, maraming maraming salamat! Now if only we could send you bboxes filled with green mango, bottled bagoong, dried danggit or tuyo, a bibingka or two and some fresh sampalok…


31 Responses

  1. a furry toilet seat, kirkland colombian coffee, raisins, shortbread cookie somethings, spam like luncheon meat, a huge ghirardelli chocolate block, some french chocolate truffles that transmogrified into a messy blob, liquer filled chocolates, assorted hershey’s and mm’s (the usual suspects), fish shaped cookies, cereals, refined sugar!!! would you believe someone sending imported refined sugar back to Bacolod City…, iodized salt…

  2. I did not send. just some $ but my friend left last Friday for Manila and was there when she sorted out her box. I nearly cracked up with the contents:
    croissants (those commercial one at supermarket she got a box with 30pcs)
    lots of tea & coffee.
    assortment of chocolates- rochero M & Ms
    soaps & shampoos
    apples, mandarins, grapes inside a shoe box for handcarry,
    cocoa powder
    did I see garlic sure did…

  3. Our flatmate is going home this Christmas so naturally everyone asked him to bring some things from us for our families back home: cellphones, hershey’s, m&m’s, galaxy, instant cheesecake mixes, queso de bola, basketballs, rubber shoes…

  4. I really enjoyed discovering your site the other night. It is a gem. Lovely photos of lovely flowers and decor. I hope to visit this site often. Thanks.

    The site reminded me of a tita who loves to cook sew decorate. Just when I sent the link to her you ask us what’s in the balikbayan box! This tita sent two boxes and they’ve just arrived…more than Christmas gifts, this time it contained a small roaster oven and a few of her cookbooks (a Pita book, Macrobiotic cookbook, Gourmet cookbook, vegetarian, you name it). We know what she’ll be doing back here, don’t we. As soon as the boxes were set down, Salvador the Labrador (retriever) sniffed it and marked a corner of one box the way dogs do. Turns out tita remembered as usual to send him a supply of RAWHIDE bones and he found them! Good thing those boxes are thick…

  5. mm, i can so relate to your wife–i know that states-y smell. esp. when coming back from the us, the stuff coming from the plane is also a bit cold, plus that 1st world smell! =) i can’t describe the scent–it’s like apple, cold, sweet.

    have you read that joke that’s circulating in the email about this lady who died in the states and her body gets shipped home together with stuff for pasalubong for the family in the phils. and the note that came with it? it is so funny…

  6. we made it easy on ourselves this year. ordered several gift baskets from myayala.com — my hubby’s family received ALL their boxes within 3 days. needless to say we were very very pleased. the prices were very reasonable too, considering we didn’t have to shop, pack and ship the goodies. although some of the selection isn’t to my liking, i’m not going to complain.

  7. nestle tollhouse chocolate chips! we always need those. as well as walnuts and pecans that are so much cheaper in the US. mentadent for toothpaste, and this year, cleaning materials (special detergents, etc.) re: the cleaning stuff, we figured that american (and european) products are superior coz those who shop for the stuff tend to be those who clean.

  8. I didnt send a BB this christmas. I sent 7 boxes in May and June. Most of which were stuff for my new condo. Things from IKEA, Costco, Pier 1, Target!, Ross (don’t forget Ross) Rite Aid, Bed Bath and Beyond, Mikasa, and Crate and Barrel. Thank God for BB’s.

  9. also got those french truffles chocolate that melted into a whole blog, architectural digest magazines for my interior designer sister,flushable wipes,gloves for gardening, folgers coffee, multi-vitamins.

    we always say, “amoy states” when we open the bbox.

  10. Mrs. MM, you are not alone, we too have this strange sniffing ritual with a Bbox and it has to be the ones from the US. We look like a bunch of Ostriches with their heads burrowed in the sand.:):)

  11. Just a ceramic cleaver and knife made by Kyocera, this was sent by my brother through a friend of his. Amazing knife although it needs special handling.

  12. Oh how I was recieving a balikbayan box full of edible goodies! Ideally it would include truffle Honey and other artisinal types (have to try ilogmaria one of these days!), assortmment of mustards,jams,olive oils and vinegars, some of that triple cream cheese you described a few months back.. and if my box were coming from New York some really good marzipan rainbow cookies, black and whites and rugelach.. but one can only dream!

  13. Hahaha the scent of of “first world” doesnt only apply to the balikbayan boxes, I notice a similar scent from the luggage of relatives when they unpack.

  14. MM,somehow, the BB’s that youve received seem very fancy as compared to what we’ve sent before…hee hee. The only time I sent a BB was some years ago and most of the stuff came Walmart (read:humble!)

  15. think about it- with all those fil-ams buying all these things to send home… now multiply that with the other nationalities doing the same thing… no wonder wal-mart is an unstoppable behemoth!

  16. That ‘stateside’ smell hahaha. i guess we all know it. i have tried to figure where the smell comes from. i mean , we all send/pack a miscellany of items from the US– everything under the american sun, all sorts of crap — yet the b.box/suitcase smells the same whatever we put in it. Maybe it comes from some adhesive or the American-made packaging and bags?

    Here’s the other thing: we have a vacation home in subic, used to be US officers housing, and the smell is there as well! Guests walk into the house and say, “hey, amoy america!” weird. could it be the fibreboard? the glue? the paint used? who knows. To be fair, the house was built right before the Yanks left in 1991. it’s not one of the older houses on base. Anyway, that inexplicable scent is a bigger mystery to me than how queso de bola came to be a pinoy delicacy.

    And btw, you don’t get that smell from luggage or BBs that come from australia or the UK, so ichabod, maybe it’s just a scent unique to america and not to the rest of the first world?

  17. Hi everyone!
    Aren’t we lucky? In a huge box which occupied almost half of the freight truck, our parents sent us tons of chocolates and candies(despite our protests that we have them aplenty here!), several pairs of sneakers and rubbers shoes;bags, toys for the apos, a closetful of clothes new ones as well as old ones; whatever am I going to do with an orange fake fur coat? Canned goods: meat loaf,corned beef,potted meat,hams and sausages, cheese, pasta, hehehehehehe, no need to shop for Noche Buena actually! And yes, like you, lots and lots of magazines!The “american smell” was there as usual, couldn’t resist smelling it again before going to sleep! Yes, Mandy, I read that one about the lady too-really pinoy humor di ba?

  18. My favorite balikbayan box pasalubong are: Excedrin (I never thought I’d have this much affinity for medication but the friggin’ migraine pills work!); Twinkies and Ho-ho’s and Bath and Body Works Shower Gels! Lovely. And just to add to the distinct US smell and feel, pati yata yung Hershey’s and white marshmallows nila mas fresh-tasting!

  19. It always amazes me what goes into the bboxes…and aha! the smell is not something unique, I gather…

  20. gigi you may have a point about the fresher tasting hershey’s and marshmallows. Ang Oreos nila (a true guilty pleasure, as i consider the oreo to be the best commercial cookie in the world) mas fresh-tasting and more malutong than (and maybe not as sweet as?)the ones here, which i believe are made in malaysia, singapore, australia or somewhere close by.

  21. ive been trying to figure out where that “imported scent” comes from. When i was in the US, i was smelling the stuff that i was placing in my balikbayan box, but i cant find the imported smell. However, when i reached manila and started unpacking my stuff from the luggages, there it was!

    i think.. that scent is made by the air conditioning of the airplanes or something like that.

    ive noticed that new computers or electronics tend to posses that resembling scent. and the reason they smell like that is because of the low temp environments they are stored at.

    but then again, the scent’s origin remains a mystery

  22. jeff, I thought the coolness of the airline holds was part of the issue (but coolness has no smell) and the same smell is in balikbayan boxes sent by boat… so the mystery continues…

  23. LOL, this is one of the giggles in our house. This year we sent about 30lbs of make up and accessories. Selsun Blue shampoo, several bottles, Dial soap was requested, Christmas Candies, shoes and kids clothes,lots of medicine like Aspirin, tylenol, cough syrup,athritis pills for aches and pains,reading books and comic books, kids toys and games, a retired play station console and games for it, computer software, more cosmetics and lipstick(added at the last moment), hair brushes and combes, bed sheets, light jackets and rain jackets,film for camera’s,music CD’s and family photo’s. That was only the first box, and we had to sit on it to get it closed and taped shut….lol..

  24. What’s in my balikbayan box? Well, the cookbooks I bought in the states, some shampoo’s, lipstick, chocolates, pots & pans, pecans & walnuts, home decor, magazines, towels, bed sheets, coffee, Victoria’s Secret body spray, Calcium tabs & headache pills!

  25. Oh i definitely know that “imported” smell coming from every single balikbayan box we received back then! I don’t know what it’s all about, but it is for sure something that as a kid everytime the delivery guys comes or whenever a family member is home for christmas as soon as we open the box i think im more excited to finally smell that “imported” smell rahter than receiving my pasalubong!!! And now that i’ve been back home a few times, i still do the same old thing i used to do when i was a kid, and that’s smelling the contents of the box and telling myslef “uhm…amoy imported” !!!

  26. Hi everyone,

    I’m moving to Manila in august and i need some help packing my boxes :)

    Ive already stocked up on; my favourite crackers from rice crackers to lavosh, about 50 jars of different mustard’s, biscuits, balsamic vinegars, good oils, Lindt choc, 36 jars+stock of spices and counting, boxes of chai and earl grey, coffee, Nandos Peri Peri mayo, kilo tubs of Nutella, olives and boxes of dried dates and figs, pretty much an Ikea kitchen and of course my appliances from my pie maker to juicer to processor.

    Food is my religion and i need all my bases covered :) Any advice what else i should be throwing in my boxes?

    I have one quite important question :), i cant recall, but what is the selection of baked beans there like? I know, some, well most of you might be thinking What The… but go easy, I need my HP and baked beans with my breakfast fry ups :)

    any heads up would be great :)


  27. “Now if only we could send you bboxes filled with green mango, bottled bagoong, dried danggit or tuyo, a bibingka or two and some fresh sampalok…”
    Not necessary, there are so many Filipino Store here in California. I do not know about the other states. The only thing we want is a “THANK YOU CARD or NOTE” not the note from the BBayan Box company.

  28. Thanks, MM, for all the above pasalubong ideas. Like others living out-of-country, I send bboxes to relatives at home, especially at Christmas time. Most of the stuff mentioned here are familiar to me, including Canadian rice. However, there are a few you mentioned, which I never thought would be appreciated home. The maple syrup, for example; also, canned plum tomatoes, dried fruits, Earl Grey Tea and balsamic vinegar. I am visiting next month, and I will have all these, plus other suggestions from your other readers, in my suitcase/bbox. Thanks again.

    Amen to your sentiment, B. Delmundo.

  29. We just got our “beloved” box last friday from my brother in Florida. The usual’s are in with the staple chocolates, towels, teflon pans, huge ketchups, huge oatmeals, shirts, bags, shoes, huge toothpaste, spams, corned beef’s and vienna sausages, books, etc. I love the euphoria of digging on these boxes and be surprised at what’s inside. I think that is the most precious moment you bond with your whole family.



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