A recent study conducted by a totally unbiased government think tank concluded that leaving Balikbayan boxes unregulated and unchecked would leave a massive hole in national security. The Bureau of Customs has used this report to justify the controversial new steps being taken to screen shipments from OFWs, and may even pave the way for tougher, more stringent measures in the future.
We interviewed BOC Commissioner Allen J. Lita to get his side of the story, and to ask him to clarify the BOC’s stance on Balikbayan boxes, and their reasoning for their new policies. We met in his home office.
ACH – “Good Morning, Commissioner.”
Mr. Lita was wearing a brand-new Lacoste polo, as well as ultra-rare Nikes which could only be bought in America. He claims they were bought at a thrift shop in Makati. According to his friends, he was a jolly man, but he did not look too happy to see me.
BOC – “How did you get in here?”
ACH – “We had an appointment.”
BOC – “It’s five in the morning, and a Sunday.”
ACH – “It was a…. secret appointment?”
BOC – “Oh, so it was you who sent me that threatening letter about climbing into my house at five am. My apologies.”
ACH – “Yep. That was us. We hoped you could clarify some things for us, like your new stance on Balikbayan boxes. Is there precedence for your actions, Mr. Lita?”
BOC – “Well yes, of course. Other countries have similar laws and policies regarding imports and exports, and even the BOC’s counterparts in the countries where the boxes come from do screen the boxes as they leave. This is standard practice in most countries, and is the first line of defense against smuggling or trafficking of banned or controlled items.”
ACH – “And is smuggling really that big of a problem?”
BOC – “In my one year as Commissioner of the BOC, I have seen firsthand how important it is to control the travel of Balikbayan boxes.”
“People really do test the limits of our patience. It ranges from the small things like regulated medicines or pirated products, which we normally let slide, to things that we cannot and absolutely will not let into the country without proper papers and registration. You know, the things that we don’t want people to get because they’re bad for you, so the government has to intervene and remove them from the boxes lest they corrupt the people back home.”
“Finding drugs is rare, but there have been cases of people shipping things like ivory and elephant tusks to the Philippines from countries like America. It may be hard to believe, but there are elephant poachers in the United States who ship the Ivory to the Philippines all packaged up and marked as soap. It’s a dangerous and cruel trade, and we seize all these contraband and enforce fines on the people responsible, as per international agreement.”
ACH – “What is the worst thing the BOC has found in a Balikbayan box, Mr. Lita?”
<Mr. Lita pauses for a minute before dimming the lights and shutting the blinds. Pulling out a box of salt from beneath his desk, he encircled us in a ring of salt and made me swear to keep what he told me a secret. We may have lied to him about that.
Showing me an old antique book, bound in what forensic investigators said looked like leather but what probably could be human skin, the Commissioner spoke in a quiet, hushed tone.>
BOC – “We have reason to believe that this may be the fabled Malakingt’t’ko, a book of spells for summoning demons and bending elder gods to your will.”
ACH – “Excuse me?”
BOC – “The Malakingt’t’ko, it’s older than most civilizations.”
ACH – “How do you spell that?”
BOC -“It’s spelled the way it sounds.”
ACH – “M-a-l-a-k-i-n-g-t-i-t-i-k-o?”
BOC -“Yes, Malakingt’t’ko.”
When asked what the book does, exactly, he instead offer to show me what it contained. The Eldritch relic contained foul pictures of men in various states of undress in a variety of impossibly flexible poses.
BOC – “We consulted some experts on this, and they said that if you follow these heiroglyphic instructions exactly, you could awaken an Elder God from his slumber and bring forth the end of humanity. It’s what happened in Sodom and Gomorrah, and so it’s a good thing we caught it before it could get into the hands of the perverted cultist who it was meant for, right?”
ACH -“Who was it meant for?”
BOC – “Some N.N. Aquino, I think. It doesn’t matter, we tried to have him arrested, but the Police just swept the case under the rug and we got told to drop the charges.”
ACH -“Why do you keep this book in your desk?”
BOC – “To keep it safe and away from the devil worshippers, obviously.”
ACH – “Moving on, I have one last question to ask you. Has the BOC ever charged any of its personnel with pilfering goods from Balikbayan boxes?”
BOC – No.
ACH – “Are you sure?”
BOC – Yes, but I guess it depends on how you define pilfering.
ACH – “Illegally taking what’s not yours from something that belongs to someone else?”
BOC – Oh, then it still stands, because none of what we take is taken illegally. Everything we take was taken legally.
ACH – “How is it legal?”
BOC – Because we’re the government, silly. Everything we do is legal, because we’re a legal entity. By definition, nothing we do is illegal, because that would make us an illegal entity, which we aren’t.
ACH – “Is that… I don’t think that’s how it works. Are you sure about that?”
BOC – “Almost definitely!”