By Marivir R. Montebon
New York – How about chicken in exchange for tempura? Or a pair of shoes in exchange for a sack of rice? Sometimes, it is not always the money, but a community of innovators and givers who will save the day.
Young entrepreneurs in the Philippine cities of Tagbilaran, Cebu, and Bacolod have revived barter as a way to respond to their needs and wants in this time of global coronavirus pandemic.
Barter is an ancient form of exchange in pre-colonial Philippines where natives and travelers exchange goods according to their mutual interest. In modern times, barter is a common activity among friends and family.
Dalareich Polot, known as the Chocolate Princess in Tagbilaran in Bohol province, and Gabrielle Marie Moquiala said that the barter among their friends started only as ‘lingaw-lingaw’ (fun) while the entire country was on lockdown. A friend-entrepreneur from Bacolod introduced their barter experience to their Bohol counterparts, said Moquiala, and they tried to duplicate the Bacolod experience.
“We grew enormously on Facebook. We reached 41,000 followers since we opened on May 15 until early June when Facebook shut us down to regulate the items that were exchanged,” said Polot during an interview with Women’s World, a zoom-driven digital platform tackling on productivity and innovation in the midst of the global pandemic.
Polot explained that they had to regulate against the exchange of domestic animals and liquor identified by Facebook. “Today, we have invited again our friends, and so far, we are 11,000 followers who are back,” she said.
Polot runs her local chocolate business with her parents and has gained international recognition for her innovations of local chocolate and promotion of the traditional home-made tsokolate (pure chocolate).
Moquiala noted that the impact that the barter movement has created was overwhelming and encouraging. “A mother posted four drawings of her child with cerebral palsy in exchange for a Big Mac hamburger. They got more than just a burger. My friend Karla informed the owner of McDonalds here who sent the child more than just Big Mac. She sent toys, merch, food, and toiletries,” said Moquiala who runs her own laundry service business.
The child’s art works, although already being exchanged with the Big Mac items, took the interest of other Barter members who asked to reproduce the art work and sent her ice cream and other food. Moquiala said that this was one of the most heartwarming barter stories that happened.
In the barter system, they continue to observe social distancing and wear masks and gloves when they meet up for the actual exchange. They also encourage the members to thoroughly clean their barter items.
Polot said that the quarantine had made her realize that as a young person who used to want to acquire things and travel are not essentials. “What is essential is food and sustainable way of living, so we started this barter and home gardening campaign,” she remarked.
The archbishop of Tagbilaran Alberto S. Uy has recently joined the young entrepreneur’s barter movement. He has offered a pair of shoes in exchange for some sacks of rice to donate to a needy family.
“We didn’t realize it could get this big,” beamed Polot who had earlier started a neighborhood campaign on creating your own vegetable garden as a sustainable measure of responding to poverty. “The government is giving out 1 sack of rice for each family. But that is not sustainable. So we thought of doing home gardening in order to produce our own food,” explained Polot.
The young entrepreneurs barter and gardening program are now widely participated in the entire province. Co-host Dr. Arceli Hernando said that seeing what the young people are doing, she is feeling at peace that the future will be well with this kind of leadership and initiative.
Co-hosts Marivir Montebon and Merly Barlaan also exchanged ideas to begin a barter movement within New York and New Jersey.