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Chapter 16: Billions of remittances are gifted overseas each year

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Exit Spring Mountain
Nevada Public Radio

Exit Spring Mountain

Americans send hundreds of billions of U.S. dollars a year through remittances so much that countries like the Philippines rely on these funds to stay solvent.   

In this episode of our award-winning Asian American and Pacific Islander podcast, Exit Spring Mountain, we’re looking at what this money is paying for, who sends it and why more than 80 countries depend on these financial gifts.  

"I received a letter from my sister who was 6 years old at the time. And it was just like a picture of me and her together, we were playing. She just drew like flowers on there, made it look so cute. And it really made me miss home. And I felt this sort of, I felt sort of still connected to her," said JD Reyes.

"She even sent me these little candies in the letter, just these candies, in case I wanted them. So it was just a very sweet moment to open up the letter and see the effort she put into it. "

Our Filipino listeners might be familiar with Balikbayan boxes, corrugated boxes filled with American goodies. 

Many Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders also send remittances, funds transferred from migrants or recent immigrants to their home countries. What does the money pay for? Why do AAPI communities continue this practice? And how can this be a lifeline for families and governments in other countries?  

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Everyone on our Exit Spring Mountain team has watched family members pack items and gather money to send back to their home countries. But we all wondered the same thing growing up, “Why?” 

My sisters and I saw my Dad send all kinds of stuff back to the Philippines, but being so young and so disconnected from our relatives there, it was hard to understand the duty and obligation my father felt for his extended family.  

In fact, the Philippines is very reliant on remittances and the Balikbayan economy. Constancio Arnaldo is an assistant professor in the department of interdisciplinary gender and ethnic studies at UNLV. It’s a program within Asian and Asian American Studies. He explains the history. 

"Filipino entrepreneurs actually were the ones who standardized the cardboard boxes with that Balikbayan label placed on the boxes, because before Filipino Americans would just like, find, like baby diaper boxes, or any kind of box that they would, they could fit. But you know, Filipino entrepreneurs are like, well, let's, let's actually make a box that says Balikbayan."


You can listen to the full conversation in this episode of Exit Spring Mountain, Nevada Public Radio's Asian American Pacific Islander podcast.


The Exit Spring Mountain team includes senior producer Nessa Concepcion, academic research consultant Mark Padoongpatt and assistant producer and social media manager Isabelle Chen Rice. Our sound editing, mixing and mastering is by Christopher Alvarez.

Lorraine Blanco Moss is the host and executive producer. 

Like and subscribe wherever you listen to podcasts and leave us a review. Also, follow us on Instagram @ExitSpringMountain.

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