It's now a month ago since we shipped a “balikbayan box" for my family in the Philippines. It took some time too bcoz I made a mistake of having it a little over the 30 kgs. limit that Telepost refused to handle the shipment and referred us to RAL, where we found out it will cost me more than the total cost of the contents! Left with no other cheaper choice, I had to remove 10kgs. worth of items. The box contained stuff I had been collecting for months and it is intended for my not so big yet widely extended family.
My husband being Danish find it bizarre as to why should I be sending a box with just some ordinary things. I told him unless you’re a Filipino or chosen to become a Filipino on your way of thinking, you can never "understand" the Filipino family ties. I know that they can buy some of the stuff in the box also in the Philippines but that is not the point. It's that gesture of sending your love and thoughts that you remember them even you’re here, a thousand miles away, then the ordinary things becomes extra-ordinary. For them, a bar of soap from abroad is different from a bar of soap from a local store. I tell you, they will rather keep it in their cabinets instead of using it and sometimes they will even show it off to others.In my Filipino family, we know each other up to the third and fourth cousins even the so called long- distant relatives bcoz its like a tradition that we have to know who are our family and I remember when I was small we were always get to be introduced to a relative every time they come for a visit with our Lola Diding telling us a story how come we are relatives. Bcoz of this upbringing, I am able to maintain a close relationship with immediate relatives like my first and second cousins from both my mother and my father's side. This year we are expecting a new addition to the family. A second cousin from my mother side (her father and my mother are first cousins) is to have a baby in the spring. So that makes that baby and my son, Milton third cousins! When we get to travel to the Philippines again, it's expected of me to visit if possible all family members, even those who had passed away and say hello.
My husband's Danish family is relatively small compared to mine. The first time I went to Denmark for Christmas in 2009, i expected to meet his “family”. And I indeed met his parents and the only sister along with her husband and 2 kids. But I was wondering where are the others. So I asked about his cousins, uncles and aunties, etc. I was surprised to know they also live in Denmark but only the parents have a regular contact with the tita's and tito's. As a new member of the family I wanted to know more about them. Typical Danish family, only few children. But it was quite interesting to know that a couple of the family members are successful public personalities. His first cousin, whose mother is his father's sister, is a writer who published a number of books. Another cousin, whose father is his mother's brother, is a successful nurse and public figure whose name you can read on a posted curricular in every daycare bulletin board in the city of Nuuk. My husband said they only met a few times and that was a very long, long time ago so they hardly knew each other. It's not uncommon in Denmark where people value their independence a lot. Danes are somewhat perceived to be private and reserved, if you're a foreigner like me you'll find it frustrating sometimes when it comes to communication especially if you hardly understand what they are talking about especially when if they think your balikbayan box is a weird idea in spite of a lengthy explanation!If you who are reading this entry is wondering what a balikbayan box is, Wikipedia defines it like this:
A balikbayan box (literally, "Repatriate box") is a ubiquitous, corrugated box containing any number of small items sent by an overseas Filipino known as a "balikbayan". 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.These boxes might contain nearly anything that can fit and that 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 hard to find in the Philippines.
Our "balikbayan box" will need another month of journey (it takes 2 months for a shipment of this kind to arrive from Greenland to the Philippines). It may not cost that much but it means a lot to them that will receive it.Like it’s said, we can choose or even buy our friends but there's only one family and it's priceless.
This post first appeared on Dani's blog here. All original material is copyright of its author. Fair use permitted. Contact via comment. Nothing here should be taken as personal advice, financial or otherwise. No liability is accepted for third-party content, whether incorporated in or linked to this blog; or for unintentional error and inaccuracy.