A Balikbayan Box Away

FEU Advocate
October 23, 2023 07:15

Inang! Nandito na ‘yong box!” 

The announcement was enough to have excited pairs of feet rush out of their rooms and into the gates of the Agbayani compound. After all, nothing beats the thrill of cutting a balikbayan box open and calling dibs on the surprises that come with it. 

It has been a long while since the ancestral house boomed with glee and the family felt this ‘extended.’ Excited niblings and curious aunties and uncles flocked around the heavy boxes that sat in the living room, relishing the unboxing experience.

“Quick, let’s video call Manang.”

On the other line, a woman in her mid-40s flashed a smile before waving, “I heard you got the boxes. Did you like what we sent you?”

The chorus of “Yes po, Tita Barbie” and “Thank you so much po!” made her chuckle. 

“Thank you for the food stock and toiletries, nakkong.” Inang Pilar began, “Nangina ti magatang, simula no’ng naupo si–”

“Ay, ‘Ma,” Barbara playfully scoffed, “Talking about politics spoils the mood. Stress is bad for your high blood, ‘di ba?”

The plight of the masses on the unjust prices of commodities sounds so foreign to Barbara’s heart that she struggles to sympathize. In her eyes, Filipinos are bound to this vicious poverty trap unless they do something about it — or else, they are only suffering by choice.

Ma, the Philippines is just beyond saving.” Barbara quipped, “Don’t worry, I’ll petition for all of you to go here. Life is good in Canada.”

“I am not asking for that, ‘nak, Inang Pilar tried to argue, but she was cut off.

“I’ll have to say goodbye, ‘Ma. We’ll have to take the kids shopping for their trick-or-treating costumes.”

Inang Pilar sighed, defeated. Never did it cross her mind that she would lose her little Barbara to the American dream—the same Barbara who conquered her nursing studies and vowed to help Filipino healthcare become more accessible. 

The old lady started typing on her Messenger application. There were a lot of things she would like to tell her: how, as years pass by, the distance between them starts to feel beyond a 15-hour international flight; that it has been so long since she has last seen her apos, who can barely even speak Tagalog.

But Inang Pilar knew better than to upset her panganay. So instead, she left Barbara a message to think about.

"Dumating na ang balikbayan box niyo anak, kayo kaya? Kailan kayo babalik dito?"

-Valerie Rose V. Ferido

(Illustration by Darlyn Baybayon /FEU Advocate)