Bartering: An emerging community commerce model

Never underestimate the power of the community.

Before the general community quarantine took effect in Metro Manila on Monday, the enhanced version of the lockdown paved the way for the formation of several groups and communities as alternative platforms from which essential products and other items can be bought and sold. I am sure a lot of you belong to the countless Viber and Facebook groups (Oplan Gulay and BFRV Benguet Veggies, among others) that are now considered your go-to venues in replenishing some of your supplies.

This setup has led to the rise of community commerce, which involves the procurement of goods and services based on interest and location. One advantage of this is that the turnaround time is usually faster than doing your grocery shopping online, which could take a few days, considering the available schedule for delivery.

One aspect of community commerce that is gaining traction is the literal exchange of products and services without any money involved. The system under which this exchange happens is called a barter.

Bartering has been the form of trade in ancient civilizations where money is non-existent.

As a result of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on business and employment, it appears that bartering is making a comeback, with Iloilo province being the “pioneer” in this through its IbaCo group, which has about 44,000 members to date. In the process, many other cities followed suit. In my case, I have seen successful barters in my own communities in Las Piñas and Parañaque cities, both of which I am a member. Not only does bartering has become a fresh way of securing goods, it has also become fun.

It is interesting to see just how creative and resourceful Filipinos are. I have seen a house and lot being bartered for a farm down south, a 5-series BMW being bartered (or offered away) and so forth. Most people who barter their items prefer food, alcohol and fitness equipment. No surprises there, because truly, these are practical items that we need, day in and day out.

My observations in the barter groups I am in reveal that a lot of people leverage on bartering to:

– Declutter. Not exactly like Marie Kondo, who would tell you to ask yourself if the item you’re considering to keep or give away still sparks joy, but more like knowing that there is someone out there who may find value in the item you would like to get rid of.

– Get groceries. A few kilos of chicken, pork and beef, or rib-eye steaks and premium fish fillets are some of the most requested meat items. Others include alcohol and Spam.

– Interact with neighbors or friends during meetups. Basically, turning your neighbors into new-found friends.

– Survive. This is manifested through coping mechanisms that barter helps to address.
In order to have a successful barter community, it is important to have the following:

– Rules. Community guidelines allow group administrators to set boundaries and focus on the objective. This is important, because some members do not necessarily follow the rules, which could create confusion.

– Engagement among members. Negotiations on bartering happen in the comments section; private messages are discouraged.

– Low-ticket items. It is easier to barter, say, a P3,000 item than one that costs P100,000.

– Celebrate success. Successful barters are commonly reflected as #donedeal in the updated barter post and would sometimes include photos of the two parties.

Bartering is becoming very helpful, especially for those who have lost their jobs due to the pandemic with little money left to buy daily essentials. In fact, this is an emerging community commerce model and could very well be a sustaining one in the time of the pandemic as we try to deal with the “new normal.” Think of it as spring cleaning and grocery shopping at the same time. It’s like hitting two birds in one stone.

I encourage people to experience bartering and appreciate its benefits. It is truly a win-win situation that helps us go through this challenging time. This is the power of the community: it can be your SM, Landmark, Ralph’s and what-not, all in one.


Kay Calpo Lugtu is the chief operating officer of Hungry Workhorse, a digital and culture transformation firm. Her advocacies include nation-building, sustainability education and financial literacy. The author may be reached at