Bartering in goodwill
These days when the country and its decision-makers are stumbling about trying to find the balance between protection and productivity, isolation and involvement, ordinary people are finding ways to cope in their own ways with the challenges posed by the COVID-19 contagion.
One challenge is finding ways to obtain things people need and want without having to spend scarce cash or brave the limits imposed by community quarantine.
Citizens of Bacolod City have found one such way of skirting the limits of quarantine orders and trade barriers by joining what has been dubbed the “Bacolod Barter Community.” Started just the other week, the Community has grown to over 16,000 members, connected mainly by a Facebook page where “traders” offer items or services. No cash is exchanged. So enthusiastic and successful has the community barter been that, says Jocelle Batapa-
Sigue, an ICT professional who created the page, it “drew so much attention that private and public sector leaders and citizens of other cities and municipalities in Negros Occidental (wanted to) copy the format. Today, more than a dozen cities in Visayas have already started their own barter community page.”The barter arrangements are as varied and creative as they are satisfying. Some of the “trades” completed through the community barter, writes Batapa-Sigue in an article for ANC-X, have been “a whole lechon in exchange for anything other than food, large orchid plants for a sack of rice to be given to a poor senior citizen, a refrigerator for a COVID-19 center in exchange for a Red Cross pin, or a bowl of ‘aratiles for happy hormones’ in exchange for a branded cologne.”
Other items featured in the community barter page have been microwave ovens, industrial coffee makers, electric fans, television sets, sacks of rice, trays of eggs, orchids and large potted plants, garden soil, branded clothes, bags and perfumes, cakes and dishes, signature watches and shoes, cosmetics and toiletries, infant formula, baby cribs and toys, books and paintings, jewelry, guitars, chandeliers, dog food, and even a second-hand Ford EcoSport.
The barter system dates back to the beginnings of human society; the practice started by “Mesopotamian tribes, Phoenicians, and Babylonians some 8,000 years ago has now been resurrected with a more meaningful dimension, triggering the Filipino ‘Bayanihan’ spirit of giving.”
In the page, no cash transactions are allowed, with buying or selling strictly prohibited. Batapa-Sigue says members can post pictures of the item they want to barter with detailed descriptions and estimated worth. They can also mention the things they want or are looking for in exchange. Other members can then comment in the thread, ask questions, or offer an item. “The process continues until the owner of the item chooses from the thread. Once the choice has been made, the barter is now deemed completed and both parties are asked to shout out ‘deal.’”
She stresses that “no harmful, unlawful, expired, indecent, or unlicensed items are allowed. Members are also asked to immediately report posts that violate rules or appear suspicious, illegal, or bearing any misrepresentation.” The parties in the trade then agree in the thread, or through messenger or SMS, for exchange or delivery arrangement. Members, Batapa-Sigue adds, “are encouraged to keep their contact numbers, delivery addresses and other personal information secure.”
Other caveats in the community barter are: Strictly no minors are allowed in the page; members shall be responsible as consenting adults dealing with one another in good faith; it is presumed that all the items being bartered are owned or can be rightfully disposed of by the person bartering; and members are also required to fully disclose the correct class, grade, model, state, or quality of the items.
Aside from managing the Bacolod Barter Community page, Batapa-Sigue was also a “The Outstanding Women in the Nation’s Service” (TOWNS) awardee for ICT in 2016. When the TOWNS women launched their highly successful drive to raise funds for personal protective equipment and meals for medical frontliners in the early days, she jumped into the project enthusiastically to help organize, document, and publicize the effort. To date, the TOWNS campaign has donated more than 120,000 sets of PPEs to more than 400 hospitals around the country. More on this TOWNS effort in future columns.
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