April 21, 2008 - News

Metro Filipinos ship rice to families back home
Gift packages from Canadian residents ease shortages in homeland

Filipino expatriates and, in particular, workers who go abroad seeking employment, are famed for remitting significant cash earnings to support their families back home. But aside from wiring money, many also regularly send by sea so-called balikbayan boxes filled with gifts from abroad: toys, used clothing, shoes, toiletries and specialty treats that are hard to find in the Philippines -- everything from cans of sockeye salmon to Swiss chocolate bars, depending on where they are in the world. Businesses that focus solely on the delivery of these balikbayan boxes to the Philippines have "mushroomed" in Metro Vancouver, just as they have in Hong Kong, Saudi Arabia and several U.S. cities with significant Filipino populations, according to Carmelita Tapia, president of the Canada-ASEAN Trade Council. In the past few weeks, as the Philippines finds itself at the centre of the global rice shortage, some Metro Vancouver residents have been watching the news overseas, hearing the complaints of friends and relatives there, and slipping an extra 40-pound sack of rice or two into these balikbayan boxes.