By Patricia Bianca S. Taculao
Bartering is defined as a transaction where the participants directly exchange goods and services without having to ask for money. This has been one of the earliest trade systems in the Philippines, and in other countries, that has been recorded in our history books.
With the rise of currency, bartering seemed to only occur on rare occasions and sometimes with only few people involved–until now.
Jocelle Batapa-Sigue, a lawyer from Bacolod who also served as the city’s councilor for nine years, revived the traditional barter system and partnered it with the latest technology to create a platform where participants not only get the item that they want, but also establishes a connection with the community by allowing them to helping each other out in whatever way they can.
The Bacolod Barter Community is a Facebook group where members can post their items up for barter and other members can make their offers.
It is composed of residents of Bacolod, their neighboring local government units, and even those from other provinces and countries that mostly hail from Bacolod and Negros Occidental.
Due to the enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, people are urged to stay at home to keep from becoming infected. However, this greatly affected their source of income.
“I started the barter community because the pandemic has greatly affected the local economy–with people out of work or not able to earn every day, where there is a paralysis of daily economic activities–poverty will reach its highest numbers,” Batapa-Sigue said.
She added that she also had in mind the resiliency of the Bacolodnons and how she could somehow create a silver lining on the negativity of the current situation by having people communicate and safely exchange items.
From 20 members to thousands more
Having worked on several innovations such as establishing online medical consultations and community kitchens to help better her community, Batapa-Sigue wanted to be able to do something within her power that is inclusive and accessible for all.
On May 8, the former Bacolod councilor created the Facebook group and added 20 friends to kickstart her plan.
“I set up rules to define the barter system and posted my first item: a liquid eyeliner I bought but has the wrong color. Somebody offered squash and pineapples [for it] and we had a deal,” she said.
The following day, Batapa-Sigue was surprised to see that more than a hundred users joined the group. By May 12, the group had more than 75,000 members.
Eventually, many members have been using the group page as a means to raise resources for poor families.
“People are bartering their orchids as well as expensive shoes and bags to acquire sacks of rice to give to the poor families,” the lawyer said.
The rules of the group
With the numbers of the group continuously increasing, Batapa-Sigue had to face strong personalities who have a different perspective on bartering or have been wanting to impose their own rules on the group. She also had to deal with people trying to take advantage of the group.
“I have [had] to balance the changes with my original purpose for opening the group,” she said.
Basically, Bacolod Barter Community’s rules are heavily anchored on exchanging items or services with no cash involved, fully disclosing the description and condition of the item, being respectful to the other members, and keeping the group fun, useful, and dynamic during the pandemic.
Everyone is accepted within Bacolod City preferably, no minors are allowed, and fake accounts are screened.
Presently, there are many other barter communities from other parts of the country who have also turned to Facebook to transact and interact. Even overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) reached out to Batapa-Sigue and copied the rules of her barter community.
“[Having a barter community is] very beneficial in this situation. It allows people to put the things they don’t need to good use while also looking out for what they need in return. It also gives value to services, artworks, and the special skills of people while exchanging them for food [and other necessities],” the lawyer said.
Moreover, the Bacolod Barter Community also spreads a sense of togetherness because people get to meet new friends and acquire new items while being beneficial to the environment because it lessens the amount of waste from throwing away useful but unwanted items.