I bought four cute animal stamps for my daughters Nicole and Nikki: a cat, a kangaroo (pink), a koala and a horse. Because Nikki loves cats, I gave her the cat stamp. I gave Nicole the kangaroo one, but Nikki wants it too because it is pink and it is her favourite colour. Unfortunately Nicole also wants the kangaroo badly because it reminds her of Australia. So Nikki said that if Nicole gets the kangaroo, then she should be getting the koala as her next stamp that Nicole, unfortunately, wants too as her second stamp. So, we were having a three-way chat trying to settle this gargantuan issue that cost me a hefty amount of $1.50 for each stamp. So, there was a lot of negotiation going on between the two sisters while I was trying to mediate. So my solution was, either Nikki gets the cat stamp and Nicole gets to choose next, then Nikki picks the third one, and the last one would be for Nicole. Or, they only get their first choice each and I give away the two stamps to their cousins. What made me smile were their reasons in being given the priority to choose:
Nicole: Mama, as the ARMM delegate for the NYFH, please give me the honour of choosing stamps first. (Nicole successfully made it to the first National Youth Forum on Heritage).
Nikki: Grabe ka, Caca, I am also a delegate to the Batang Transformer. I have not received any gift for that yet too. (Nikki was also chosen for a national program for High School Students).
Oh, oh. Now my kids are fighting over a $6 worth of stamps. I waited for their reply and reminded them that either both of them have to give up a little something and get two stamps each, or they do not budge and lose one stamp each. But the good thing with my girls is that they never actually fight over stuff. Although they love to have me as an audience in their negotiations, I know, they would eventually peacefully and fairly settle issues between them. Finally, they agreed that Nicole will get the kangaroo and koala (her baby sister gladly gave the koala to her), and Nikki will receive the cat and horse stamps.
The funny thing is these stamps are merely the first contents of a huge Balikbayan box waiting to be filled up. When it does get full, it will take months before it reaches my girls. And just in case some employees of an agency decide to poke their noses to see what is in that box, please do not bother. It is only worth $6 for four stamps. This is already my declaration, okay? But what you may never realise and just take for granted is the tremendous amount of emotional capital that we overseas Filipinos invest for every single item we put in each Balikbayan box. It is not the price that matters. My daughters love and appreciate everything I send them regardless of its price. Just imagine what would my daughters feel if after receiving the Balikbayan box and they scramble to fish for those stamps they so passionately defended to have and find them missing? That, after having waited for several months.
Balikbayan boxes are more than just taxes, business transactions, means of employment, gifts, pasalubongs and forwarders’ and Bureau of Customs employees’ interest. Among many other, intangible components, they also contain links, testaments, mementos of an absent mother’s effort to do her mothering duties despite the distance. They stand in for what is absent and symbolise a whole troupe of emotions–love, longing, homesickness, guilt, dreams and hopes.