With the coronavirus pandemic hitting the Philippines hard, Filipinos have started flocking to Facebook groups to trade their possessions for food, a report by Agence France-Presse (AFP) found.
“Online bartering groups have provided a lifeline to…Filipinos hit hard by the country’s months-long virus restrictions that started in March and have sent the economy plunging into a deep recession,” it said.
According to AFP’s tally, at least 98 groups are operating across the archipelago, of which some have tens of thousands of members.
“Nearly all of them started during the pandemic as many Filipinos resorted to the ancient trading practice to feed their families,” the report said.
One of the affected Filipinos who resorted to the barter system was Lorraine Imperio, a mother of two whose husband works part-time at a doughnut shop in Manila. She traded possessions such as a baby’s down jacket and a Ralph Lauren hoodie for six kilograms (13 pounds) of rice.
She also bartered a pair of Nike slip-on shoes for chicken.
“It’s so difficult nowadays. You don’t know where you’ll get the money to settle the bills for groceries,” she was quoted saying.
“With bartering, it’s easier to convert them into food,” she added.
Citing information aggregator iPrice Group’s recent study, AFP said the Google search volume in the Philippines for the keywords “barter food” soared 300% in May from April as lockdowns were enforced.
“Its analysis of 85 popular Facebook barter groups, with more than two million members in total, found food and other groceries were among the most sought-after items,” AFP reported.
“People post photos and specifications of the goods they want to swap, indicate what they want in return and then negotiate via the comments section,” it added.
Jocelle Batapa Sigue, who launched Bacolod Barter Community four months ago, attributed the influx of barter groups to the pandemic.
“Without the pandemic, I don’t think the barter community would be popular,” she said.
Charles Ramirez, who runs a 14,000-member bartering site in the capital, echoed this sentiment.
“People are realizing that while they have no money, they have accumulated a lot of material things (they can swap),” he said.
“It’s a depressing feeling, of course, having to let go of things you have accumulated just to be able to survive,” he added.