Never say it out loud.
Whisper, if you must.
Or better yet, don’t mention it at all.
If you’re a Filipino abroad about to go back to the land of Kris and Ruffa and Annabelle… be prepared to be inundated with requests by kababayans to facilitate the much-dreaded…
The padala is an overseas Filipino’s way of expressing his/her long distance love to his/her family back home. Through material things. Through someone… anyone… who has a scheduled flight to Manila. And a bit of space in his/her already overweight luggage or balikbayan box.
It is a culturally unavoidable blessing and curse that comes in many forms. Let’s tackle the most popular and the weirdest in this post.
1. Dollars. Pinoys are notorious for avoiding the remittance fees that banks and Western Union levy. So for the biggest “bang” for their dollars, you are “it”. This is easy… paper bills are relatively light, with little inconvenience for you – unless the amount is in the money-laundering zone of several thousand dollars.
2. Chocolates. Quite harmless, really. The chocolates of choice: big Toblerones – the bigger, the better. Never mind if these are available everywhere in Manila.
3. Corned beef and Spam. Again, available even in the remotest sari-sari stores of our islands… but a fact that most kababayans tend to (intentionally) overlook.
4. Alcohol. Hebigat items. There’s the coveted Johnny Walker Blue Label or the family-size Jack Daniels. And a Chivas is a consistent “must send”.
5. Sale items. Once in a while, merchandise from designer label outlets. But, usually trinkets from the 99-cents store or thrift shops. The thoughtfulness is touching… though the wrapping is a tad inconsiderate – in gift boxes sealed by miles of duct tape and emblazoned with the 12-inch bold name of the recipient. (Whatever happened to “trusting a compatriot” who had the good heart to bring home your stuff – with no strings attached?)
6. Auto parts. A few nuts and bolts is really no big deal. But a whole transmission?
7. Sports equipment. This is tricky – especially when going through customs X-ray. Paintball guns and billiard cue sticks will delay you at secondary inspection for at least 30 minutes. And unless you’re Paeng Nepumuceno, please don’t even attempt to ask the favor.
8. Musical instruments. Guitar picks, strings and cables should be okay. An occasional Shure microphone? Why not. A tambourine? By all means.
But anything bigger than those just might bring you some inconvenience.
9. Electronic gadgets. Avoid certain padalas at all costs especially the baddest of them all – the iPad… and its smaller version known as the iPhone. These padala toys have invisible magnetic sensors that attract crooked baggage handlers the way sugar seduces ants. And if they get pilfered… guess who will end up paying? Bingo!
Whatever the item for padala… chances are it’ll end up a lose-lose situation. For you.
So just take a cue from Nancy Reagan.
Then walk away.