In the first episode of Reply 1988, the kids of Ssangmun-dong circle around their village before dinner. Their mothers ask them to visit their neighbours and ask for lettuce in exchange for a side dish; a side dish in exchange for spices; spices in exchange for meat. If you’re a bit older — as in, you spent your childhood not knowing what a smartphone is — you’re most likely familiar with this practice: the barter system.
Before we had access to numerous talipapa stalls and online shopping malls, the barter system was popular among Filipinos. Although, our parents might say the more common practice was to give whenever you had plenty. And, it was just common decency for those who received to give something back in return.
Amid tight finances and shopping restrictions, the Filipino community has again brought the barter system back during the quarantine. Look up “barter system quarantine” on Google, and you’ll find that the practice has once again risen to fame in several spots in the country: Iloilo, Siargao, Davao, Bohol, Koronadal, Bacolod, to name a few. But why now? Why join a barter system community during a quarantine? Well, there are a lot of reasons why.
1. It gives you a sense of community
Raise your hand if you randomly received a gift during this quarantine. Raise it higher if that prompted you to randomly give a gift to someone else. Personally, that’s how I got into the barter system during this quarantine: My friend lent me some books; in exchange, I gave her cinnamon rolls.
During this lonely period, most of us just want to be extra kinder to the people we love. We can’t meet up with them; we can’t hug them like we used to. Instead, we express our love through gifts — just like how our parents did before.
2. It costs nothing
Capitalism has taken its toll on us, especially during this time of job losses and pay cuts. Most of us can barely afford anything anymore; but, the barter system during the quarantine reminds us that we’ll survive.
In the barter Facebook group I belong to, I see young parents exchange coffee for diapers; shoes for books; clothes for grocery items. Indeed, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Why pay for something when you can get it for free?
3. It gives decluttering a purpose
Before the resurgence of the barter system, the quarantine trend was decluttering à la Marie Kondo. But why waste our perfectly good items if we can give them to others that will find joy in them?
If you’re trying to be a minimalist, you can declutter household items and barter them for perishables. That way, nothing goes to waste.
4. It saves the environment
My community in the province has been practising the barter system long before the quarantine. We’ve been doing so to lessen our waste. Most of the time, we exchange used clothes to revamp our respective wardrobes.
Globally, we produce almost 12 million kilograms of textile waste every year. (For scale: That’s approximately 84 million bananas thrown into the landfill or oceans!) Among that amount of waste, around 95% of the clothes can be reused or recycled.
I understand that if you love fashion, you want to revamp your wardrobe from time to time. I do too, which is why I vouch for the barter system for whenever I want to freshen up my wardrobe. Try it out with your friends some time!
5. It allows anyone to join
The barter system is inclusive to everyone! There are no limits. With the barter system during this quarantine, people have been returning to what they know best. In the province, especially, the lack of tourist arrivals has led locals to go back to their original livelihoods (i.e. fishing, farming, dressmaking) and exchange their services for goods.
Perhaps, you’ve been into baking or cooking lately. Maybe you’re honing your artistic skills again. Why not use your products for barter — you don’t only get goods you need, you also let others experience your crafts!
Also read: No-Bake Desserts You Can Easily Make at Home
If you’re not a part of any barter system yet, you’re missing out. Give this practice a chance during the quarantine!