Returning Filipino is a social engagement project designed to serve transnational Filpino-American families. Participants of the project will use the balikbayan box, an international shipping service specific to Philippines, to provide goods to their overseas families and share stories about their gift-giving experiences.

The balikbayan box is a symbol of the Filipino diaspora. In English, balikbayan translates to “returning filipino” a phrase referring to Filipinos that leave their homeland and return; a rare occurrence in the Philippines today. As increasing amounts of Filipinos continue to leave their country, in search for better opportunities, a shipping service transformed this popular phrase into a million dollar industry. The main purpose of the balikbayan box is to connect families separated by international waters.


“Either they send money or balikbayan boxes because some of them have families back home in the Philippines and then some people they want to just share their love through those goods. They put them in the boxes. Anything they can give, like clothes or groceries and stuff so they can send it to the family to help them out. Filipinos are very caring and loving. Even though we're here[San Diego], we want to show them that we still care. That's why we send those thanks.”






Returning Filipino served the community in a pilot project during the 2018 San Diego FilAm Festival. Since then, the project has evolved in different ways, meeting the needs and stories of the Filipino and Filipino-American community at large.

In our first public engagement workshop, participants made small versions of balikbayan boxes while addressing the questions:

  • Who would you send this to and why?

  • What would be the contents of your box?

People did not hesitate to tell their stories, eagerly sharing the emotions they felt, the people they missed and how they wish they could see them more often. The workshop served as an opportunity to open dialogue on the topic, when we realized how welcoming people were with their stories, we began to interview them. That was the day the film began.



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Submit a story online. Participants of the Returning Filipino project are welcome to share their stories through an online submission form. Contribute to an online archive that is dedicated to bringing education and comfort to the Filipino community.

Magpasa ng isang kuwento sa online. Ang mga kalahok ng proyektong Bumabalik na Filipino / Balikbayan ay malugod na tinatanggap ang pagbabahagi ng kanilang mga kuwento sa pamamagitan ng online form na ipapasa. Mag-ambag sa isang koleksyon sa online na nakatuon sa pagdadala ng edukasyon at kaginhawaan sa komunidad ng mga Filipino.



Cheese, 2018

Cheese, 2018

Slippers, 2018

Slippers, 2018