Online barter trade grows in Iloilo amid COVID-19 crisis

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 23) — With the coronavirus pandemic taking its toll on businesses and individuals alike, a growing online community in Iloilo has rediscovered the age-old practice of barter, or exchanging goods without the use of money.

In the Iloilo Barter Community on the web, members conduct transactions online, by posting photos and videos of items they wish to trade and products they want in exchange. If a deal is agreed on, the participants will then discuss how and where they can meet up in person for the swap.

Charity Delmo, the community's creator, told CNN Philippines on Saturday that barter was a firsthand experience for them in a different community.

"Kami ng mga Ilongga friends ko as well as my partner na hindi nga taga-dito sa amin, we thought of bringing it to Iloilo kasi kami mismong mga business owners, medyo hirap nang maglabas ng cash at hindi pa bumabalik yung operations ng mga businesses natin.]

[Translation: My Ilongga friends and I as well as my partner who isn't a resident here (in Bacolod City), we thought of bringing it (bartering) to Iloilo because we business owners ourselves already find it difficult to shell out cash and the operations of our businesses haven't resumed yet.]

With Iloilo under general community quarantine, Delmo added that participants do wear face masks and keep distance from one another when exchanging goods. They share photos of their meet-ups with the community.

Food products like salted dried fish or tuyo and fruits are among the goods traded in the Iloilo Barter Community.

They also avoid exchanging goods like live animals or anything that requires strict hygienic standards, she explained.

"We remind them, no, lagi na maging cautious pa rin when they do the bartering mismo," Delmo said.

[Translation: We remind them to always be cautious when they do the actual bartering.]

She said they started bartering around two weeks ago, not expecting the practice would become a hit online. Their online community, she added, now has around 30,000 followers and nearly 15 affiliates, which set up similar communities in Aklan, Antique and other areas on Panay island.

"Yung pinaka-una naming barter was a USB stick [exchanged for] Guimaras mangoes, so dun mo makikita na andami mong gamit and here comes people with a lot of fruits, vegetables, plants na pwedeng i-share sa'yo," explained Delmo.

[Translation: Our first barter was a USB stick [exchanged for] Guimaras mangoes, so there you will see you have so many things and here comes people with a lot of fruits, vegetables, plants that they can share with you.]

While some of the exchanges were rather "odd" as they involved products like famous car brand Volkswagen and gaming console Xbox, Delmo says what's important is that barter participants end up happy with their deals.

Gaming console Xbox and famous car brand Volkswagen are among the goods that have been traded in exchanges in the Iloilo Barter Community.

"Napaka-ganda ng nabuong community kasi hindi na naging ka-valuable yung mga branded things, no, sa mga tao sa Iloilo," she observed. "Naging mas malaki value ngayon yung bigas, face masks, alcohol, prutas, vegetables and yung mga basic needs na dati binabalewala naman ng mga tao."

[Translation: The community that was created is so lovely because branded things aren't as valuable anymore to people in Iloilo. Rice, face masks, alcohol, fruits, vegetables and basic needs people used to take for granted now have greater value.]

Bartering also relaxes people's perceptions of wealth, she added.

"Ang mga members natin, may mga boss diyan, may mga business owners, pero hindi yun ang nagma-magnify. Yung mga nama-magnify yung kindness ng Ilonggo, yung willingness to share to other people, yung kusang tumutulong," explained Delmo.

[Translation: Some of our members are bosses and business owners, but that's not what is magnified. What are magnified are the kindness of the Ilonggos, willingness to share to other people, and extending help voluntarily.]