Many OFWs might not be able to go home in time for Christmas this year due to travel restrictions and quarantine requirements. However, most of them as early as now are sending their love in big boxes.
Dubai-based OFW ‘Jackie’, for instance, will not be seeing her family back home this 2020 since she fears that she might contract the coronavirus disease. In lieu of flying to the Philippines, she is sending two large balikbayan boxes for her family.
“Mas nanaisin kong magtiis muna ngayong taon kahit gustong gusto ko na ulit makapiling ang mga anak ko, basta safe sila. Kaya dinagdagan ko na lang ang padala ko ngayong taon,” said Jackie.
OFWs who have chosen to skip flights this year are using their budget for their supposed flight tickets to buy more items for their care boxes. These include essentials such as laundry detergents, shampoo, chocolates, rice, toothpaste, and other items which would have been more expensive if bought from the Philippines.
MORE ESSENTIAL GOODS
Interviews conducted by The Filipino Times among OFWs preparing their balikbayan boxes reveal that 65% of them will fill their packages with essentials only, 20% will find ways to include a few gadgets for their kids’ online learning, while the remaining 15% will put some branded shoes and items as gifts for Christmas.
Abu Dhabi-based Filipino Marian Borlaza thinks it’s wise to send her relatives essential goods than other things such as shoes and clothes which are of no use for them under the current circumstances.
“Mas kailangan nila ngayon ang padalhan ng balikbayan box bilang tulong o ayuda sa Pilipinas dahil may ilan na nawalan ng trabaho,”said Borlaza.
As early as this month, Borzala started packing basic goods including food, biscuits, canned goods, powdered milk, coffee and more.
Dr. Jhune Santiago, a retail manager in Dubai for over 18 years, said that he slowly filled the box up by cutting down on his own expenses monthly.
“Mahirap ang situation natin right now. Pero kakayanin naman if gusto natin. In my case, marami akong tinipid para maka bili pa unti unti ng pang bagahe. Saka tyaga lang sa pila pag sale malaking bagay ang pag bili ng discounted items,” said Dr. Santiago.
Abu Dhabi-based travel consultant Paula Liwanag, meanwhile, said that in her 10 years of stay in the country, she usually sends home a box every time she goes on a vacation. This year, she hopes that her balikbayan box would send a spark of happiness amid these troubling times.
“Binilhan ko sila ng damit, shoes, vitamins, some groceries like chocolates/nuts, perfume at iba pa. Sana ang mga regalong ito ay magbigay ng kaunting saya sa pamilya ko sa Pilipinas lalo na sa sitwasyon ngayon,” said Liwanag.
SYMBOL OF LOVE
LBC Middle East Sales and Marketing Senior Manager Allan Michael Bautista, who also serves as the Chairman of the League of Filipino Freight Forwarders (LFF) under the Philippine Business Council in Dubai (PBC-Dubai), noted that not even a pandemic can stop OFWs here in the UAE from expressing their love for their families through the yearly tradition of sending balikbayan boxes.
The PBC-LFF Chairman states that while some freight forwarders have temporarily suspended services during the early months of the pandemic, business has picked up with the increased demand among OFWs to send balikbayan boxes in time for Christmas.
“As the months followed, demand eventually picked up as policies eased and commercial businesses re-opened. Even in the midst of the pandemic and during lockdown, OFWs pushed for ways to send whatever their families needed back home,” explained Bautista.
Star Pinoy Cargo Country Manager Von Ryan Tayag said that the ‘-ber’ months is the period where many OFWs begin to send their boxes to bring the spirit of Christmas back home.
“Expect natin ang pagdami ng mga balikbayan boxes na ipapadala ng ating mga Kabayan pagsapit palang ng BER months. Excited ang buong STAR Team na mapaglingkuran ang lahat ng OFW dito sa UAE,” said Tayag.
HOPE FOR HAPPINESS
Borlaza’s only wish is for her family to feel the spirit of joy this Christmas through the balikbayan box that she will send for her loved ones.
Dr. Santiago shared that no pandemic nor calamity will ever stop OFWs from sending their balikbayan boxes to their loved ones, especially since giving them a better life are among the main reasons why they left the Philippines to find better jobs.
Liwanag can’t wait for the day when she could travel back home so that they could all enjoy more bonding moments – but her balikbayan box would have to make do for now.
Bautista assured the public that fellow freight forwarders who have been serving the Filipino public will work together to ensure that their boxes reach their loved ones safely. He also reminded them to send their boxes as soon as possible to make sure that the boxes will arrive at their homes this December.
“Today, more than ever, we see the need for a balikbayan box to connect you and your loved ones from thousands of miles away. Since the lead time for delivery may take longer due to the ongoing restrictions in the Philippines, we encourage you to take advantage of our many programs to ensure that your box will reach your loved ones in time for the Christmas season,” reminded Bautista.
Tayag shared that OFWs are naturally resilient, and out of pure love for their families, they will find ways and means to fill out their balikbayan boxes to send back home.