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A balikbayan box (literally "repatriate box") is a corrugated box containing items sent by overseas Filipinos (known as "balikbayans"). Though often shipped by freight forwarders specializing in balikbayan boxes by sea, such boxes can be brought by Filipinos returning to the Philippines by air.
Balikbayan boxes may contain items the sender thinks the recipient would like, regardless of whether those items can be bought cheaply in the Philippines, such as non-perishable food, toiletries, household items, electronics, toys, designer clothing, or items difficult to find in the Philippines.
A balikbayan box intended for air travel is designed to conform to airline luggage restrictions and many Filipino stores sell them. Some boxes come with a cloth cover and side handles. Others are tightly secured with tape or rope, and thus not confused with an ordinary moving box that is lightly wrapped.
The balikbayan boxes come in three standard sizes:
Shipped boxes are delivered directly to the recipient, usually the family of the overseas Filipino.
Part of the attraction of the balikbayan box is its economic value, as it allows cheaper bulk shipment of items vice sending each individually or in smaller boxes through postal services. The tradeoff though is longer transit time by container ship, which typically requires several weeks, along with the lack of a firm delivery date.
The balikbayan box is a modern manifestation of the general Philippine practice of pasalubong, where travellers within or without the country are culturally expected to bring home gifts to family, friends and colleagues.
The balikbayan box arose in the 1980s when a law[which?] enacted by former Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos caused a resurgence of Filipinos working overseas. The Philippine Bureau of Customs Circular allowed tax-free entry of personal goods in the country from Filipinos overseas. People then began sending items through friends and co-workers who were returning to the Philippines.
The balikbayan box business started in 1981 in New York by Monet Ungco, who founded Port Jersey Shipping. Two months later, Rico Nunga started REN International, based in Los Angeles, CA. REN is no longer in business per California Corporate Commission. Its license has been suspended and the number advertised on its website has also been disconnected.
In 1998, Manny Paez of Manila Forwarder offered a bigger balikbayan box and called it jumbo box. After Typhoon Ketsana (Ondoy) hit the Philippines in 2009, Manila Forwarder introduced a re-usable plastic shipping container called Bianca and Roland Shipping drums.[why?]