By James Tabafunda
Northwest Asian Weekly
Pia Dizon, a Filipino American woman, is a hero.
During the summer of 2010, she called her family members living in the Philippines to find out what items they needed. Then, she went shopping for the clothes, gifts, food items, and medical supplies that they had requested, placing all the items in large-sized care packages known as balikbayan boxes.
Balikbayan is a Filipino word that means “returning to the country.”
A Lynnwood resident, who has lived in the United States for the last 30 years, Dizon made the necessary arrangements for international shipping. Her balikbayan boxes arrived on time in Quezon City, 30 days later.
She sent her second group of balikbayan boxes in November 2011.
“That arrived really late,” she said. The delivery took an unanticipated two months before reaching her cousin.
David Patacsil, 43, is a second-generation owner of a Tukwila business that receives and sends balikbayan boxes throughout the Philippines.
He respects people like Dizon, who send balikbayan boxes as well as remittances. “Yeah, they are definitely heroes, especially during the earthquakes. People were able to send stuff back, and that helps out tremendously just because of the bad economic conditions in the Philippines,” he said.
During the devastating flood caused by Typhoon Ondoy in 2009, he noticed a huge increase of people sending such essentials as clothing and health items.
Patacsil added, “When I first started [almost 20 years ago], we were averaging about 200 to 400 boxes a month.” Today, his latest venture sends almost 15,000 boxes a year to the Philippines.
Three years ago, he thought about taking his business online to get “everything there faster and more secure and everything in great condition.” After doing research on existing online business models, he worked with Jerry Lapuz, a friend and computer programmer, for eight months. They constructed a website in 2010. By the beginning of 2011, he started compiling research on which products to sell.
Six months ago, Patacsil opened his e-commerce website, BayaniStore.com, which features more than 1,000 U.S. products for sale. It receives almost 300 to 400 hits each day. Pronounced “by-yon-NEE,” Bayani is a Filipino word meaning “hero.”
The website does not sell used, damaged, or refurbished products.
He said, “[The] Bayani Store pretty much eliminates any problem that you can think of. It saves you the hassle of shopping around. It’s faster. It’s cheaper. You don’t have to worry about a broken item.”
Dizon agrees. After shopping at Bayani Store for the first time two weeks ago for candies, cookies, and home products, she appreciates its customer service representative, for helping her with a technical problem that occurred when she placed her order. Just seven days later, her cousin received all the items.
She said, “I think that was very helpful. The mere fact there’s someone live, that’s always a plus.”
Bayani Store customers have their purchases automatically tracked and delivered to about 90 percent of the Philippines. Recipients are required to prove their identity by showing government-issued identification at the time of delivery.
Unlike the industry standard rate of $55 per box, Patacsil said, “We charge per order. One flat fee pays for multiple boxes.”
For those who “like to send a lot of boxes or are constantly helping your family back home,” Bayani Store offers a $100 annual membership program that allows senders to send an unlimited number of boxes.
Traditional shipping requires 30 to 90 days — as Dizon can attest to. Bayani Store touts a shorter delivery time, just seven to 10 days.
Bayani Store is competitive on pricing, too. “Electronics are three times more expensive in the Philippines,” said Patacsil, about one of the site’s most popular selling items. The biggest selling item is the 12-ounce containers of SPAM.
“On our site, rice is one of the best sellers. It’s hard for us to keep that in stock,” Patacsil said.
Bayani Store’s customers range in age from 20 to 40.
Patacsil said, “We do have customers who are older. What they do is just ask their grandkids for help.”
“We’ve had somebody from Saudi Arabia, from Australia, one from Singapore.”
Patacsil’s company has an affiliate program aimed at helping organizations with their fundraising efforts. The first organization selected to participate will be the Filipino American National Historical Society. His company is also open to accepting vendors.
With an executive committee consisting of himself and three others, Patacsil pointed out, “We’re focusing on growth, and that’s our main goal right now over the next couple of years.”
“We want to be the Amazon (dot com) of the Philippines.” (end)
For more information about Bayani Store, visit bayanistore.com.
James Tabafunda can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.