This special balikbayan box is the best care package you can give

Published January 4, 2022, 9:00 PM

by Manila Bulletin

Why I helped create a modern gifting experience that champions local Filipino products

By Ieth Inolino Idzerda

THE NEW BALIKBAYAN BOX Mithi & Co. features artisanal and locally sourced products directly available to your loved ones in the Philippines. We want your family and friends to appreciate and enjoy high-quality Filipino-owned brands that you have personally selected for them

The pandemic has changed the world in so many ways, but what remains the same is how Filipinos crave connection, show their affection, and celebrate milestones through gifting. If Filipinos abroad can’t come home due to travel restrictions and sending packages takes longer than usual, how about they shop local or look for local solutions even when they’re abroad?

Gift local even when you’re abroad. This idea became the sounding board of many discussions that started in the last quarter of 2020 between myself and my best friend and long-time business partner Sarah Fernandez. We were later joined by Niccolo Tuason in 2021 to establish Mithi & Co., a premium online gift box curator that specializes in introducing local high-quality products to customers living abroad.

ARTISANAL CHOCOLATIER Theo & Philo honors high-quality local ingredients—from the cacao beans of Davao in Mindanao and the world-famous sugar of Bacolod—and the renowned craftsmanship of Filipinos as it shares the distinct culture and fearless flavors of the finest single-origin chocolates from The Philippines

Let’s backtrack a little. Before registering the business and building the website, we talked to several Filipinos living and working in the US, Europe, Canada, and the Middle East and asked them how they would send gifts to their loved ones in the Philippines. We discovered that a lot of them struggled because they didn’t see enough options online or they didn’t trust the website they were buying from. So they would end up asking another relative to buy the gift for them or send cash as a gift instead. In both cases, it wouldn’t feel personal or they would lose the personal connection. The pleasant surprise we got from these conversations was that Filipinos abroad were keen to support local Filipino products.

Now let’s talk about gifting local. If gift recipients are receiving gifts from their loved ones abroad, they are most likely expecting something imported. But why send a mass-produced chocolate bar from Costco in the US when some of the best chocolates in the world are made in the Philippines? Let me say that again. Some of the best products in the world are made in The Philippines. And yet some Filipinos, whether in the Philippines or abroad, haven’t heard of them.

This is how we came up with The New Balikbayan Box. We’ve selected products that not only show how you care but also support Filipino artisans and entrepreneurs. Aside from saving time and money from freight or shipment, you also reduce your carbon footprint by being sustainable and buying local.

If gift recipients are receiving gifts from their loved ones abroad, they are most likely expecting something imported. But why send a mass-produced chocolate bar from Costco in the US when some of the best chocolates in the world are made in the Philippines?

Filipinos abroad now have the unique opportunity to gift their loved ones in the Philippines with Filipino products bundled together in Mithi & Co.’s The New Balikbayan Box, a reimagination of the ultimate Filipino care package. Why the balikbayan box? More than what’s inside the box, it’s the joy of unboxing that makes this Filipino tradition special. Veering away from sending random imported products that could take weeks or months to be delivered, we want your family and friends to appreciate and enjoy high-quality Filipino-owned brands that you have personally selected for them. Purchased from abroad but packaged, delivered, and enjoyed locally.

BY DESIGN J Makitalo Fine Art Jewelry was created by award winning jewelry designer Joyce Makitalo who works with third generation jewelry artisans, local tribes, and other Filipino communities such as the goldsmiths of Bulacan and the sculptors of Paete, Laguna

At the heart and soul of Mithi & Co. are the Filipino makers and merchants that represent every Filipino’s earnest wishes and greatest ambitions. They represent families back home, and those who are abroad who miss home. “We believe that who makes the things you buy and where they come from matter—a lot. That’s why we shine the spotlight on the coolest local brands, championing Filipino artisans and micro-entrepreneurs. Our platform is an avenue to connect their products and ultimately their brand story to Filipinos all over the world,” says Sarah.

The growing number of Mithi & Co.’s brand partners include award-winning creative Filipino brands like Theo & Philo Artisan Chocolates and J Makitalo Fine Art Jewelry, and local makers and merchants such as Luid Lokal, Marta’s Handmade, Happy Camper, Marikit MNL Candles Co., Coco Dolce, Cheese Crafter MNL, and Una Ricci.

If your product, brand, or advocacy falls under one of these categories: cause-driven brand (rooted in advocacy or works directly with the community), woman-owned brand, equal opportunity employer, founder is from an underrepresented group, artisanal and handmade, conscious and sustainable, then you have our attention. “We believe that behind every great gift is a unique and exceptional story. Gifting has the power to connect and delight when given with meaning and intention. With our thoughtfully curated gift boxes, we aim to inspire communities and deepen relationships,” continues Niccolo.

This idea (and the pandemic) brought together three Filipinos from different parts of the globe, whose diverse yet similar backgrounds are common scenarios of Filipinos all over the world—an immigrant in Europe raising biracial kids, a second generation Filipino-American born and raised in California, and a daughter of an OFW who spent her childhood in the Middle East. Working together, although separated by continents and time zones (I am in Amsterdam, Niccolo is in San Francisco, and Sarah is in Manila), has strengthened our mutual belief in genuine connection, thoughtful giving, and Filipino creativity.

For more information, visit www.shopmithi.com and follow along @shopmithi.

 
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