Unless you’re a Filipino or have close ties to Filipinos, you may have no idea what I mean when I mention balikbayan boxes. The word “balikbayan” is a Tagalog word that was coined way back in the 1970s. It refers to a Filipino who returns to the Philippines. The word “balik” means “going back” or “return” while “bayan” means “country” or “birthplace”.
Balikbayan boxes are large cardboard boxes, containing cargo. They’re usually transported by ship instead of air, where the weight of the boxes aren’t of any concern. They’re still sometimes shipped by air when time is of the essence.
If you want to ship stuff to the Philippines, using a postal service, UPS, DHL, or FedEx is probably the most expensive way. Balikbayan box cargo shipping services are generally far less expensive. Before you ship anything, however, please think about what you’re shipping. Your relatives can buy many of the things in the Philippines at nearly the same price it would cost you. A few examples are instant coffee, corned beef and luncheon meat.
Shipping balikbayan boxes can be an interesting experience in frustration if you don’t know where to go or who to contact.
Contacts and Empty Boxes
The best way to find out about cargo services in your area is to go to an Asian market or supermarket. A lot of them are affiliated with one cargo company or another. They will usually have the empty boxes you can use for balikbayan boxes. You can call one of these markets if it’s a hassle driving to them, but I can’t guarantee you’ll get answers to your questions.
In my experience, only a Filipino can talk to a Filipino without getting frustrated by the language barrier. That is, unless the Filipino on the other end speaks good English. Regardless of where you get the empty boxes, and you can’t just get them anywhere, you may or may not have to pay for them. Most of them typically give you empty boxes to replace the boxes you’re currently shipping.
I believe all of them charge for the first batch of empty boxes, although they’re not expensive. It’s probably a practice used to discourage people from using them as home storage containers. The 24x18x18 size box is pretty big.
Balikbayan Box Cargo Services
I used to maintain a list of services, but you can find them with a search engine as easily as I can. Over the years, I’ve only dealt with a few:
- Forex Cargo
- LBC Express
- Manila Forwarders
I’ve seen “Atlas Shippers International” at places like “Seafood City” in Hawaii and Washington State, but I’ve never used them.