Inside the Massive, Elaborate Care Packages Filipinos Send Home
An extensive shipping network allows millions to stay connected to the friends, relatives, and children they rarely see.
The promise of better wages overseas has lured tens of millions of Filipinos to work abroad. In fact, since the 1970s, the government has encouraged its citizens to go overseas and send home remittances, which make up nearly 10 percent of the Philippines’s GDP. Around half of these expats — known as balikbayans, a Tagalog word for “to return to one’s home country” — are women who serve as caretakers, nannies, and housekeepers. Seldom able to journey back, the migrant workers send balikbayan boxes, some 5.5 million a year. In places like Hong Kong, where many now live, balikbayans huddle on sidewalks and in plazas of the Central District, where the cargo companies are located, packing gifts and sundries gathered meticulously over months: canned food and bulk detergent, shoes and chocolates and secondhand electronics. Weeks later, the packages arrive at their families’ doorsteps.