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The holiday rush is in the air! What’s inside a balikbayan box for Christmas 

Staff Report Published: December 4, 2016

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Noting they don’t have much time left if they’ll be sending holiday gifts to their loved ones back home through sea freight, overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) have resorted to air cargo and online shopping to beat the rush, forwarders and e-commerce managers told The Filipino Times.

“Tumataas na ang volume ng air cargo namin,” said Allan Bautista sales and marketing head of LBC Express for the Middle East. “Yung iba namang umuuwi for the holidays, sinasabay nila yung air cargo instead na mag-excess baggage,” he added.

LBC’s air cargo boxes are usually the medium-sized ones weighing around 30 kilos and costing around Dh8.8 dirham a kilo, according to Bautista.

“Our average is 100 to 150 units in one dispatch (flight). Regular air cargo dispatch is four times a week. We also have our Express Air service – it’s a little bit premium but flies out on a daily basis for urgent courier and parcels to 236 destinations (not just in the Philippines) and delivered within three to five days,” he said.

Michelle Q. Guinto, managing director and CEO of CMG Group, another cargo forwarder, for her part said their flight dispatch has increased from twice weekly to up to four times a week for a weekly total load of some 4,000 kilos of goodies.

“Air cargo na talaga ngayon,” said Guinto. “We tell our customers hindi na po aabot ang padala nila sa pasko kung ibabarko pa.”

Marz Marcial, Makati Express and Prime Express business development officer, said the peak season for sea cargo is now over. “Air cargo na ngayon ang nagpi-peak kasi naghahabol na ang mga kababayan natin na makapagpadala before Christmas,” he said.

Marcial said Makati Express regularly flies 1.5 tons of shipment five times a week. “In the last week of November, two shipments reached approximately 2.6 tons each. Tataas pa iyan sa December,” he said.

Air cargo takes about a week for the package to reach its destination; a sea freight takes about a month, according to the forwarders. Sea freight peaked from September to at least the first week of November, said Guinto.

She added that those who made it for the September-November peak were the experienced senders.

“Marami sa kanila (OFWs), may mga timeframe sa pagpapadala kasi sanay na,” she said.

Added Bautista, “Learning from the tight congestion issues in the previous years, they started sending before the last week of October.”

Most OFWs in the UAE have a care box stashed somewhere in their rooms that they gradually fill in with consumer items in time for the Christmas shipment.

Those who are now trying to beat the rush were usually the ones who were not able to plan ahead or did not have enough financial resources in the past months, the forwarders said.

Online shopping

Aside from air cargo, other Filipinos resort to online shopping where at least two new companies offering services unique to Filipinos have opened in recent months, apparently in time for Christmas and directed towards millennial OFWs.

“Marami-rami na rin ang mga umo-order. Mukhang dadami pa lalo na’t papalapit ang pasko” said Eduardo Burgos, Jr., CEO of Mohur, Inc., which has tied up with a UAE-based remittance company to launch its one-stop shop platform, 24/7 RegaloPlus back in October this year.

The company has a network of popular Philippine brand names, among them the Jollibee fastfood chain, Goldilocks and Red Ribbon bakeshops and Holland Tulips.

Here’s how it works: An OFW goes to Al Bader Exchange, the remittance partner, and places an order for, say, a set of Jollibee meal for a loved one celebrating something back home; within 24 hours, Jollibee in the Philippines notifies the recipient and the food is delivered or dined-in. The same goes with the other brand names.

“We had 50 transactions in our first month. This has picked to 300 in the following month. We have a total of 2,000 registered customers so far,” said Burgos.

The company has been working on a tie-up with a Philippine-based appliance company which is expected to go online around the second week of December, according to Burgos.

Another one-stop shop, web-based company is the Pinoy Online Box, which launched in January this year and offers pre-packed groceries for OFWs to send to their loved ones back home.  All an OFW has to do is click on his choice of pre-packed package on the website  and monitor the shipment through a tracking app.

“Marami-rami na rin ang client-base namin,” said Richard T. Porten, the company’s e-commerce manager.

He said it takes 10 days for the package to reach it’s the sending OFW’s beneficiary in Luzon; it takes 20 days for Visayas-bound packages.

What are OFWs sending?

A quick survey of the cargo forwarders and online shopping portal operators revealed that the top things OFWs have been sending home for the holidays are gadgets like smartphones, flat wall TVs, mobile phone accessories, home appliances, smart watches, sunglasses, fashion accessories, laptops, tablets, and power banks. These items are mostly sent through air cargo.

Sea freights cover anything from grocery items that include laundry soaps, cooking oil, even rice, peanut butter and shampoos, to brand name shoes, clothing, accessories, used gadgets and home improvement necessities like power tools.

“Siyempre, yung pang Noche Buena kasama na rin dun,” said Marcial.

Burgos, for his part said, their transactions for Jollibee, Goldilocks and Red Ribbon have also started to increase. “Because the holidays are also about a feast on the table, that’s why,” he said. (With Flav Cervania and Anne Lora Santos)

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