This time of year, right in the middle of the holiday season, there’s a beloved, frenzied tradition playing out in Filipino households all around the world, with which reporter Gabrielle Berbey is intimately familiar.
A Balikbayan box is a huge cardboard box (often weighing over 100 pounds) that Filipinos living all over the world send to family members who are still living in the Philippines. The word Balikbayan literally means homecoming in Tagalog.
400,000 thousand of these Balikbayan boxes arrive in the Philippines from around the world per month. But the holiday season is the busiest, with mothers sending to sons, brothers to sisters, and hundreds of thousands waiting in the Philippines for their box.
There is a bittersweet beauty to this box-sending phenomenon. On the one hand, it creates an incredible sense of connection across vast distances, but it’s also a reminder of how many Filipino people have had to leave friends and family behind to venture out into the world.