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Apr 20th
Home Sections MiscellaNEWS Balikbayan-boxes’ Woes Continue to Preoccupy Illinois-based Filipino-American Cargo Company
Balikbayan-boxes’ Woes Continue to Preoccupy Illinois-based Filipino-American Cargo Company PDF Print E-mail
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Monday, 14 February 2011 13:01



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Christmas-Turned-Valentine Blues: Woman Dies Waiting for Colostomy Bags In Balikbayan Box!


C HICAGO (jGLi) – “Aanhin pa ang colostomy bags kung patay na ang pasyente?”(What good are the colostomy bags for if the patient is dead?)


This was the heart-tugging question raised by Ms. Cristina Y. Noda when she learned that her cousin, Joanna Buenaventura, had died last Jan. 6 while waiting for colostomy bags that she loaded in the Balikbayan box that was never delivered.


Perhaps, Ms. Noda, a school teacher in Chicago, Illinois, will now have to sell those bags or return them to a relative from Kentucky who asked her to send those bags to Joanna Buenaventura, who died of rectal cancer at the University of Sto. Tomas Hospital, in case the Chicago-based Shipping Express will be able to get four of its five containers out of the Bureau of Customs in Manila, Philippines.


Last October 2010, Ms. Noda said her cousin, Joanna Buenaventura, “who was suffering from rectal cancer asked her a favor to send her some colostomy bags because these are too expensive in the Philippines.”


Joanna’s husband, a policeman had died while on duty two years earlier, and left her three children, (14, 8, and 6 years). Then on Nov. 17, she sent her Balikbayan box thru Shipping Express. It was supposed to be her Christmas gift to Joanna because Ms. Noda was promised by the Chicago freight forwarder that her Balikbayan box was going to be delivered on or before Dec. 17.


When Ms. Noda received a call last Jan. 6, she thought it was Joanna on the other end of the line thanking her for getting the colostomy bags. But she was instead given the grim news that Joanna died and the colostomy bags have not yet arrived.


Ms. Noda is one of the two Balikbayan box senders whose recipient also died while waiting for Christmas gifts wrapped inside the Balikbayan box that never arrived.


They are only two of “so many of us having different stories, some got their boxes courtesy of Mr. Alex Cirera. There are 400 boxes, more containers in the Bureau of Customs, 280 pending boxes,” according to box sender, Josie “Neneng” Emnace, who is the leader of the complainants.




O ne of those senders wrapped wedding dress in the Balikbayan box that would be worn by the bride. When the Balikbayan box did not arrive, the bride reportedly went ahead with the wedding. But there was no word what kind of wedding dress the bride wore to fulfill the seventh sacrament.


Another sender posted his complaint on the“Sir Alex! Kelan po kaya namin pwedeng makuha ang kahon namin na nasa 2nd container daw po? Sana umabot po bago mag Valentines day dahil dapat Christmas gift ko yun sa gf ko. Please lang po ayaw ko maging single sa Valentines day! Thanks … gawing ko po kayong ninong pag umabot =) February 07, 2011 by Rex.” (Mr. Alex (Cirera)! When do you think can we have the second container? I hope it gets there before Valentines’ day because it was supposed to be my Christmas gift to my girlfriend. Please, I don’t want to be lonely during Valentines’ day! Thanks … I will ask you to be my (wedding) sponsor if my gift gets to her. =) Feb. 07, 2011 by Rex.”


Mr. Alex Cirera is the father of the owner of Shipping Express, Robert Cirera. Alex earlier sent $7,000 to his daughter Pinky Cirera to pay $11,000 for the release of a container of about 200 Balikbayan boxes. He will be paying the balance of $4,000 in installment.


But since there are still four containers that need to be released, Robert Cirera and his wife, Hazel, will need to come up with about $50,000 more for the release of all the containers that were supposed to be released from the Bureau of Customs warehouse since December.


Alex Cirera said, “I have done my best. I don’t have anymore money to pay for the release of those containers. It’s up to my son and his wife to raise that amount of money.”


He said he owes his son and his wife nothing.


Alex Cirera said contrary to the claim of his daughter-in-law, Hazel, he does not owe Robert $9,000.




He said when one of his containers was in transit between 2001 and 2003 in Wichita, Kansas, it caught fire when the train carrying it derailed, destroying its Balikbayan boxes contents. At that time, Robert was one of his employees.


Because he was not able to document each and every content of each Balikbayan box, for example, how many toothbrushes were there and how much did each toothbrush cost, and so on, he was not able to recover the whole amount of the insurance coverage. For instance, in a Balikbayan box there is limit of 12 of a kind for each box. If there are more than 12 toothbrushes, the excess becomes commercial, not personal quantity, and, therefore, the excess will be taxable.


So, he was forced to spend $106,000 to cover the payment of $200 for each box to pay each sender guaranteed by the insurance and because Robert was just a mere employee, he did not ask Robert to re-imburse him for the $106,000.


While waiting for his claim, Robert’s wife Hazel volunteered to follow up his claim. While he agreed to let Hazel follow it up, he did not promise nor agreed that he was going to give her or Robert anything.


In 2005, Alex entrusted the Shipping Express “lock, stock and barrel to Robert.”


When Hazel was able to collect $15,000 from his claim in 2006, Alex gave Robert close to $6,000. But Hazel wanted the whole $15,000 and he put his foot down.


Because Hazel does not adjust the “dollar-exchange rate” in their business transactions with his daughter, Pinky Cirera, who was handling Robert and Hazel’s cargo in the Philippines, Pinky has been experiencing an excessive overhead.




S o, when the problem of the delay of the Balikbayan boxes cropped up, Alex said he decided to give the $9,000 balance of the $15,000 to Pinky so the contents of one of the four or five containers will be released to avoid being sold at auction.


Because he only has $7,000 cash, he will just pay the balance of $4,000 in installment.


Meanwhile, one Balikbayan sender said his lawyer is filing a case of “fraud and misrepresentation” against Robert and Hazel because they were still accepting boxes and issuing receipts even after they dissolved Shipping Express last Sept. 10, 2010.


On the other hand, Maura Possley, Deputy Press Secretary of Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, told this reporter that her office received 32 complaints against the Shipping Express for delayed delivery.


Ms. Possley said, “We are looking at the situation and we understand the frustration of consumers and we share their concerns.”


Under Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act, a $50,000 civil penalty is imposed per violation of the act and an additional $50,000 penalty for violations found to be committed with the intent to defraud and to require the defendants to pay for prosecution costs. # # #


Editor’s Note: To contact the author, please e-mail him at:  (



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Last Updated on Monday, 14 February 2011 13:08

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