MANILA -- The COVID-19 pandemic forced the Filipinos to embrace a cashless society. While an influx of people turned to the modern development of e-payment, millions looked back to the earliest form transaction in the country — barter, the practice of exchanging goods without the use of money.
According to the study conducted by the iPrice Group, search volume for the term “barter” and “barter trade” surged by 407 and 203 percent respectively from April to May.
The Malaysian-based information aggregator platform analyzed 85 popular Facebook barter groups in the Philippines and found over 2 million Filipinos belonged to these online communities. Around 72 percent of the pages, which were mostly location-based such as “Silay City Barter,” “Illoilo Barter Society,” and “First Cavite Barter Community,” come from outside Metro Manila.
Usually a party posts photos and videos of objects they wish to swap while listing the items they want in exchange. Other members then post their counteroffers on the comments section. If a deal is agreed upon, the parties discuss the terms of the trade.
The sky is the limit for most of the swaps. Some of the typical deals were baby clothes for vitamins, plants for rice, gadgets for kitchenware, while the less common transactions were commissioned sketches for groceries, customized cakes for makeup, phone cases for soft drinks, pocket wifi for face masks, among others — proving the old cliché that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.
Aside from decluttering their homes, and providing a convenient and eco-friendly alternative, bartering ushered Filipinos an opportunity to acquire goods they need without hurting their wallets during the economic crisis spurred by the pandemic.
The data gathered by the meta-search website suggested many of the barter communities emerged during the enhanced community quarantine when the pandemic wiped out millions of jobs.
The Philippine Statistics Authority said the unemployment rate soared to a record high of 17.7 percent in April 2020, leaving around 7.3 million Filipinos jobless.
iPrice reviewed the online groups and data on keywords related to barter and discovered the following to be the commonly bartered items:
FOOD AND PRODUCE
According to iPrice, the data they gathered suggested “the biggest reason many Filipinos ventured into bartering is to grab essential items.” The group reported searches for the keywords related to “food barter” grew by 300 percent during the quarantine period.
When COVID-19 broke out in the country, so did panic-buying, leaving grocery stores packed with long lines and shelves stripped of basic commodities such as food and produce. Moreover, with restricted mobility during the lockdown, bartering items within nearby communities made it easier for Filipinos to access these essentials.
Among the most traded items in the online community were canned goods, milk, fresh fruits, veggies, and meat.
BICYCLE AND PARTS
According to iPrice group’s data, searches for keywords related to “barter bicycles” spiked in May — around the time more Filipinos were allowed to resume their work.
The Inter-Agency Task Force (IATF) for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases, urged the public to use bicycles as the primary mode of transportation. Although some public transportation have resumed their routes, the Department of Transportation required them to reduce passengers by 50 percent to minimize human-to-human contact and curb the possible exposure to the coronavirus. For instance, MRT and LRT lines are operating at limited capacity to accommodate the social distancing policy, forcing many to turn to other means of mobility, such as cycling.
Aside from being an alternative mode of transport, many fitness junkies also turned to bicycles for exercise while gyms and fitness centers remain locked.
According to the data, interest in infant products for swapping also began to spike in May. Baby products after all often have a short service life — pajamas get tight, cribs get smaller, and rattles get boring.
Items quickly outgrown by infants such as cradles, clothes, and toys were among the top searches. Other baby essentials that were commonly sought in the barter communities were strollers, formula, and baby food.
PLANTS AND GARDENING
“Plant parents,” “plantito” and “planttitas” were terms that trended during the lockdown period. As people were restricted from leaving their homes, many Filipinos turned to planting to keep them busy.
While indoor plants, particularly succulents, had become popular in recent years, the hype for plants peaked during the lockdown period. Plants after all came with benefits that could possibly help the public cope with the pandemic. According to a published study by Journal of Physiological Anthropology, plants can reduce physical and psychological stress. Meanwhile, NASA reported plants can “remove up to 87% of toxins in 24 hours.”
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