AS THE coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic disrupted the mobility of the people especially in areas under a community quarantine like Negros Occidental, an online barter community has thrived in the province.

In fact, it is now connecting thousands of Negrenses across communities.

Lawyer Jocelle Batapa-Sigue, an innovation leader, said the pandemic has triggered a mode of exchange of good and services to resurface and now been resurrected with a more meaningful dimension, triggering the Filipino “Bayanihan” spirit of giving.

On May 8, while Bacolod City and Negros Occidental were still under enhanced community quarantine and general community quarantine, respectively, Batapa-Sigue founded the Bacolod Barter Community Facebook group page.

There, lechon can be exchanged for anything other than food, large orchid plants for a sack of rice to be given to a poor senior citizen, or a bowl of “aratiles for happy hormones” in exchange for a branded cologne.

Batapa-Sigue said this was actually one of the ideas she posted including community vegetable kitchen, mobile drugstore, Barangay QR Registration and telemedicine during the start of the community quarantine in the city on March 25.

As of Monday, May 18, the group page already has about 42,000 active members in the province.

Such product of innovation is now being replicated by over 20 local government units (LGUs) in Negros Occidental and even areas outside the province including Manila, Makati, Ormoc, Bohol, Dumaguete, Ifugao, and Capiz, among others.

“Just when the country’s economy faces a potential collapse, Bacolodnons have started to show the world that money is not everything,” she said, adding that “as councilor of Bacolod City for nine years and an advocate for information and communications technology (ICT), I have always championed the use of social media for good.”

With thousands of Facebook followers and more than fifty pages and groups, Batapa-Sigue thought about starting a page where people can exchange goods without using money.

In trade, barter is defined as system of exchange where participants in a transaction directly exchange goods or services for other goods or services without using a medium of exchange, such as money.

For Batapa-Sigue, however, this traditional activity has become more inspiring today since there is a need to create innovative solutions to the adverse effects of the quarantine.

“I am particularly inspired to see members letting go of expensive bags, perfumes, and other personal items in exchange for sacks of rice, sardines, noodles, milk, used foams and blankets for poor families,” the founder said.

Among other items being exchanged at the Bacolod Barter Community include second-hand Ford Ecosport, microwave ovens, industrial coffee makers, electric fans, television sets, sacks of rice and 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, jewelries, guitars, chandeliers, and dog food.

“I am inspired to see people finding what they need from other members like seafood, a can of Spam or corned beef, large water containers, used bicycles, electric mixers, seedlings, art materials and even cravings for aratiles,” she added.

But, how the barter is done?

Based on the mechanics of the page, the medium of exchange are items but no cash is allowed. Buying or selling is strictly prohibited.

Members can post pictures of the item they want to barter with its details or description and estimated worth. They can also mention the things they want or are looking for in exchange for the items they posted.

Then, other members can comment in the thread, particularly to ask questions or to 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.”

Once exchange is completed, the members are requested to edit their post and indicate that the barter is completed, done, or closed.

Initially, the page encourages food, ingredients, edibles, beauty products or toiletries, but after a week, it has become a source of a variety of items.

It said that no harmful, unlawful, expired, indecent or unlicensed items are allowed, and members are immediately asked to report posts that violate rules or appear suspicious, illegal, or bearing any misrepresentation.

The parties then agree in the thread or through messenger and direct short messaging system (SMS) for exchange or delivery arrangements.

Members are encouraged to keep their contact numbers, delivery addresses and other personal information secure and discuss delivery arrangements in private messages.

Strictly no minors are allowed in the page. Each member shall be responsible as consenting adults dealing with one another in good faith, it added.

It is presumed that all the items being bartered are owned or can be rightfully disposed by the person bartering them off.

Members are also required to fully disclose the correct class, grade, model, state, or quality of the items.

As part of the mechanics, the page also encourages the members to keep the page fun, dynamic, useful, and inspiring in this time of pandemic.

Batapa-Sigue said, today, modern barter and trade is said to have evolved considerably to become an effective method of increasing sales, conserving cash, moving inventory, and making use of excess production capacity for businesses around the world.

Barter has taken on a new meaning amidst the pandemic. It has become a platform for people to find what they need and to let go of things that they do not need anymore.

Also, it helps the environment by making sure that things are used and not just wasted. It also allows members to raise resources using items so they can give out to communities in need, she said.

“The Digital Age has greatly boosted humanitarian advocacies today, allowing people to create more meaningful impact to their communities in the face of global crisis with the ‘Bayanihan’ spirit,” the founder added.