Thursday, August 24, 2006

Trust brings back Balikbayans

Learning & Innovation – August 24, 2006
By Moje Ramos-Aquino, FPM

Trust brings back Balikbayans

We have had several relatives and friends on nostalgic trip back here as Balikbayans very recently—Jennifer Aquino, Delia and Awe Aquino, Auring de la Rhea and Venus, Bobby, Jordan and Jason Tiamson, among others. A dear friend Edith Cabalu just left to accompany her Balikbayan granddaughter, Camille, back to California.

When Balikbayans come here, they are always brimming with joy at the prospect of coming home and their luggage is crammed with pasalubongs. And when they go home, they usually carry only a small piece of luggage because they have given away most everything they brought in, including some of their personal belongings like clothes and shoes and cosmetics.

While here they are interested mostly in reuniting with long-time-no-see relatives and friends, visiting interesting sites and memorable nooks and crannies of their childhood or salad days, and pigging out on Filipino foods.. They do go shopping, especially at the Duty Free Shop, to buy more goodies for their friends and relatives.

I notice in recent times, that many Balikbayans do real shopping here. Meaning, they shop to bring home back to where they now live. Most Balikbayans now go home with packed luggage. They used to bring home delicacies like dried fish and squid, dried fruits, especially mango, atchara and mango chutney (yes!), Choc-nut, Chippy, patis, bagoong and other native delicacies. They also bring home bags and sandals made of local materials like abaca.

Of late, Balikbayans have discovered Boy Bawang, Nagaraya, Tiendesitas, Market Market! and 168. And have rediscovered Liliw in Laguna, Greenhills, Tutuban, Ylaya, Ille de Tulle (Ilalim ng Tulay in Quiapo, Manila) to their hearts and pockets delight. A new item in their suitcase are tons of prepared mixes for cooking Filipino food with that distinctive Filipino taste—sinigang sa sampaloic, sinigang sa bayabas, sinigang sa kalamansi, kare-kare, etc. Our kababayans abroad might look and talk like their neighbors, but inside, they are very much Filipinos. As Dr. F. Landa Jocano would say, at the end of the day when the Filipina removes her make-up (Lancome powder, O’real eye make-up, Estee Lauder lipstick), the real Filipina comes out. They speak very good English outside the home, but inside most Filipino homes abroad, the lengua franca is still Filpino or Cebuano or Ilocano.

These products are available in Asian and Filipino stores abroad, why bother to buy them here, lug them thousand miles back to their adopted homes, hurdle stringent customs and security restrictions?

The answer is “trust.”

After being away for 15 years, my niece Jennifer was delighted to find a variety of quality products here at very low prices. She brought home two suitcases of clothing items, Boy Bawang, Nagaraya, banana chips, dried mango and food mixes. Where she now lives in Berkeley, California, independent of her parents, Gemma and Joven, her neighbors would resent her if she cooks tuyo and daing, so she skipped those. But she had a fill of them while here. She particularly enjoyed dining at Gerry’s Grill and Dencio’s.

Edith says her daughter in Los Angeles, Joyce, have asked her to buy a long list of things from here; some of which are even made in the USA, yet are sold cheaper here

Mommy Auring had a Barong Tagalog for her son, Anthony, and party dresses for all her grandchildren in San Diego tailor-made here. She said, “there’s nothing like a dress made especially fit to your measurements. Tailor-made clothes are not so affordable there; they normally settle for off-the-rack ones.

At the base of all that is “trust.” Our Balikbayans are coming back again and again because they are willing to invest their trust in our country and people and because we, who choose to stay here, are doing our part of the trust equation by coming up with quality products, beautiful and livable communities, authentic communication, and upholding our Filipino traditions.

(Moje consults on human resource and organization development and could be reached at

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