Anyone looking for a private island? Photo for illustrative purposes only. Photo: Andry Roby, Unsplash
Fritz Sy, 22, couldn’t believe it when he spotted a private island for sale in an online buy and sell group. What makes the listing unusual is not so much what was for sale, but where it was being sold: a Facebook group for college students.
These private trading groups, whose members come from the same university, are popular in the Philippines and have emerged as a way for students and alumni to exchange items with each other in a familiar environment. In most of these communities, you will find your school books, your lab coats and your second-hand clothes. But in the groups formed for the higher-end institutions, you’ll also find some pretty ridiculous lists, like Sy Island spotted.
“Some people would sell real business buildings for hundreds of millions of pesos. I remember [seeing a] used helicopter for 30 million pesos ($573,300),” Andrea Atienza, 25, told VICE of the types of positions she sees in her college business group.
“I think my friend [listed] an abandoned mansion, also by the sea, and with [a] eight or nine digit heliport,” said Kio Llovares, 22, a member of another college trade group.
Real estate listings are commonly found in these Facebook communities. Krista, a member of the Llovares business group who requested the use of a pseudonym to protect her privacy, said she once saw someone selling access to a luxury resort.
“I once saw a listing for 200 million pesos ($3.8 million) for a property and also an unused membership (or voucher) for a few nights’ stay at Amanpulo,” Krista said.
A quick search for “island” in a group brings up at least three listings of private island beach properties.
Private islands, sports cars, and even heavy factory machinery are common listings in these student trade groups. There are also Rolex watches, heirloom jewelry and designer items up for grabs. Atienza recalled someone selling an anchor — yes, the one to moor ships — to buy Paramore concert tickets.
Ridiculous lists are not limited to the usual luxuries. Christine Saavedra, 28, said the strangest thing she had seen sold in her student trade group was a space rock.
“Someone was selling a meteorite – a literal meteorite,” she said, adding that the listing was later removed after it was discovered the poster wasn’t actually from their university.
Most of these groups were created by students and are not officially affiliated with any university. Usually they are designed to create a community for students to easily decide which teachers to take or find used books. But entrepreneurs eventually capitalized on the idea of selling to a very specific market, one they’d like to think had more buying power.
“I guess they… have more budget and are more likely to buy my products,” said entrepreneur Albert Sarabia.
“You’re really aware of the community network,” Atienza said, adding that many people post “just in case ‘a member might know’ someone who’s in the market for it.”
But Sy questions the real effectiveness of this marketing tactic.
“I find it weird,” Sy said. “The audience they’re targeting are students who probably don’t have that money anyway, unless, I guess, they refer it to their parents.”
Meanwhile, others see these posts as just another way for people to show off their wealth.
“[In my opinion], the posters are just trying to flex and not actually selling an island. I highly doubt that a student or even an alumnus could be a market for these things,” said 24-year-old Jadrin Edison Jetha.
Both Atienza and Saavedra are administrators in the same trades group for students at a major Philippine university. Saavedra is on financial aid and said it can be shocking to see this type of wealth, but added: “I’m just desensitized to the idea of seeing beachfront properties [in this group].”
She recalled a member of the group who posted an ad for a Chanel bag worth 100,000 Philippine pesos ($1,910) whose reason for selling was “impulse buying.” Another similar post said they “accidentally bought two.”
“How did you accidentally buy two designer bags?” Saavedra wondered.
For many, these messages are both comical and disturbing.
“I was both amused, flabbergasted and appalled to see them,” said Murphy Ryan Pe, 31. “The band itself microcosmically reflects the extreme polarity of the Philippines and its social realities.”
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