One of the things overseas Filipino workers look forward to is their trip to the Philippines for vacation, no matter how short it may be.
As OFWs prepare for the trip, among the can’t-miss items on the list are the freebies, popularly known as pasalubongs, handed out to friends and family back home. These consist of a variety of “imported” items ranging from candy bars to critical chains and expensive cigars to perfumes. But it’s not only the traveling balikbayan who gets the chance to hand out these gifts. Friends who have no opportunity to go home shortly can also be accommodated.
That’s when things can get interesting.
Friends who wish to bring happiness to their family despite their absence can ask this traveling OFW to carry items — cash, old clothing, or mobile phones — on their behalf. An anxious traveler may be too excited about the trip, and gladly accommodates the request. That’s what friends are for. Wrong, at least on some occasions. Handling items for friends and making other people happy is a noble thing to do. However, there is a limit to this. Remember, when we travel, we are private persons and not couriers, so due diligence needs to be done before committing.
The case of drug mules
Drug mules caught in airports are classic examples of people who were asked to carry items on behalf of other people from one place to another. They may not know the sender, but if this person entices them with thousands of dollars in cash to carry a small package, it can be a drooling proposition. But one must realize that the “high” price they pay is only a fraction of the value of the package, which is probably illicit, and carriers face a steep punishment: long jail term or even death sentence.
Philippine airports are notorious for operating inefficiently. A suspicious item can get scrutinized for several minutes or hours, and reports circulate about corrupt officials letting troubled travelers off the hook only after they are paid bribes or receiving “pasalubong” from travelers. At the very least, further questions mean delays in getting out of the airport.
Expensive excess baggage charges
Some OFWs make a verbal commitment to accept whatever friends ask them to carry. Only at the airline check-in counter do they realize that they exceeded the free baggage allowance if any. Worse, some airlines like Cebu Pacific do not offer free luggage allowance. As a result, the OFW, who acts as Good Samaritan, ends up not only carrying the package, he or also shoulders the exorbitant fees imposed on excess luggage weight. Some friends offer petty cash for “merienda” for the traveler’s effort and time. But many others do not, and why should they? OFWs who travel politely said yes, and unless they demand cash, that “yes” is often understood as “I will bring the package to your friend/family for free.”
Assuming travelers don’t get charged extra and pass through the X-ray machine unscathed, these packages need to be delivered somewhere. As a “courier,” the traveler must finish the business by not only carrying the bag from one airport to another but also giving it to the intended recipient. Whether meeting in a shopping mall nearby, a 30-minute commute, or even at the balikbayan’s house, it consumes part of the brief time an OFW is supposed to spend quality time with family and loved ones.
If carrying a package for a friend abroad is an irresistible urge and just returning a favor:
- Ask the sender what’s inside the box. Remind friends of prohibited items (live bullets, bladed weapons, drugs, etc.)
- Check the inside content of the box and ensure nothing is concealed. Even when you’re good friends with the sender, it pays off to be cautious. After all, until you hand it over to the rightful recipient, every piece of luggage you carry is your responsibility.
- Ask for an extra luggage fee. If your luggage is on the threshold of its weight limit, and your friend’s “padala” has a significant weight, be frank, and share the possibility of reaching the excess limit. The friend can now consider asking you a favor or taking the traditional courier services.
- Ask recipients to pick them up at your house. To save time and effort on your part, ask a friend to tell the recipient to pick up the package at your home instead of elsewhere, which can be time-consuming.