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I tried trading my teenage diary and other TMI items in a swap meet

“What the hell is a swap meet?”

In my head, swap meets are what happens in American flea markets. They go back to the old days where commerce is primarily bartering. But of course, that’s the limitation of my knowledge. I’m a 21st century girl after all.

When we were invited to last week’s National Swap Meet, I was Cher Horowitz—completely clueless.

I attended with a lot of questions in mind: What’s a swap meet in the modern age? What do people swap? May I swap my tainted soul for an old Depeche Mode record? You know, some unanswered FAQs.

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Wasting my time pondering on questions won’t help me. That’s why I decided to go big or go home. Unsure of what to swap, I’ve gathered relics from my childhood and adolescence to swap with whoever is willing. Eyes closed, head first, can’t lose right?

Here are some of the items I decided to barter:

  • My teenage diary filled with dark thoughts
  • A card from a fast food chainI had when I was in kindergarten
  • This birthday mixtape I made when I was 14 years old
  • A library book I may or may not have stolen in high school

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Will I get a stuffed toy or a figure out of it? Not a damn clue. But still, I went for it anyway to see what happens. Some people got goosebumps, some laughed at me, and some didn’t give a shit—they were willing to trade.

This is what went down when I tried swapping my personal, childhood items to strangers in the country’s biggest swap meet gathering.

“The people I’ve met last year are still close to me right now, so that’s why I like events like this. It’s not about the money anymore.”

Zyra Bermudez, Genki Shoppu Shoppu 

Her stall sells and trades Japanese items, from Gudetama plush toys to anime figurines of Free! or Vocaloids. I decided to trade my teenage diary with her to see what will happen.

Could I trade you some items from my childhood?
Sure, let’s see them.

Okay, this is my teenage diary filled with dark thoughts.
There’s actually something here about you? You actually gave me goosebumps!

That’s kind of scary! For me, it’s something priceless. This is something you cannot buy with any of the items that I have or money. I don’t think I can really swap it with anything in my store, unless I have a diary as well. 

What are some items you’ll usually swap for?
Japanese items as well: kimonos, randoserus, anime figurines and the like. Any item that will help me grow my collection or any item I can also sell.

How did you get into this scene?
I love traveling. One of my friends, who’s a store owner as well, advised me that I should just put up a shop, instead of going to Japan back and forth. And ever since I was a kid, I loved anime.

I love Miku and I don’t sell figurines of her because I collect them. Another Western franchise that I like is Star Wars. I like to sell stuff that I like, so I know how to sell them. 

Is it your first time here?
No, last year was my first swap meet. I was a newbie back then. I’m not going to earn anything from this. What I like about this is not the selling part, but the community. The people I’ve met last year are still close to me right now, so that’s why I like events like this. It’s not about the money anymore.

The National Swap Meet has a niche community—but its an inclusive one.

Ericson, fast food toys collector

His stall sells various figurines; from Kamen Rider to defunct Happy Meal toys. This prompted me to trade my Jollibee Superkids Card from the time I was in Kindergarten. 

Do you accept swaps?
Wala pa namang nakikipag-swap sa amin.

Can I swap my card from kindergarten?
Pwede naman. Pakukuhain kita dito ng kahit anong toy na gusto mo pero ‘di ko na kukunin ‘to. Sa iyo na ‘yung card mo.

May value ito, iba ‘yung value nito. ID ‘to. Ikaw ‘to eh. 

Is this your first time exhibiting here?
Sa ibang events nag-e-exhibit rin kami pero first time namin mag-exhibit sa swap meet. 

What do you usually sell in your store?
May store kami sa Greenhills. Usually, assorted items ‘yung binebenta namin: action figures, Happy Meal toys, anime. Mga ganoon. 

When did you start collecting?
Noong bata ako, mahilig ako mangolekta ng Happy Meal toys. Dati 101 Dalmatians ng McDo ‘yung kinolekta ko. Since then, inisip ko na pwede ko siyang pagkitaan, kaya nag tayo ako ng shop. 

Did you ever complete the 101 Dalmatians collection?
Hindi [laughs]. Frustration ko nga ‘yun dati pa. 

They welcome newcomers and engaged me in conversations. The fact that I’m a younger female nerd didn’t come into play at all.

Little Miss Pollyholics + Corner

Little Miss Pollyholics + Corner is a store specializing in all things Polly Pocket related. They also sell Goosebumps, Lizzie McGuire TV-book tie ins, and the like. This is your ‘90s childhood in one store. With that in mind, I tried trading a book I may or may not have stolen from a library.

So here’s a book called Te of Piglet. I may or may not have stolen this back in high school. I also have my high school theme paper as well.

Okay, okay.

What can I get for the book + my writings?
Okay lang, I guess a toy or a book kung book pa rin ang gusto mo. Since the event is about trading and buying toys and other collectibles, so yes you absolutely can. As long as the book you’ll trade for it has the same value. It’s all good. 

Even if this book might have been stolen?
Hindi naman. Honestly before, we tried to bring toys in the National Swap Meet last year paano kasi balak namin makipag-swap. But seldom sa sellers willing makipag-swap, a lot of people come here to sell more than to swap.

Realin Rodel, vintage collector

At first glance, it looks like they sell everythingTheir selection ranges from Metallica and Mariah Carey CDs, old video consoles like Game Cubes and NES Family Computers, to hard to find instruments like accordions. This made me decide to trade the mixtape I made for my 14th birthday.

What do you think I can get for this mixtape?
Ano ba po yan?

It’s a mixtape I made when I was 14 years old. It was a blank tape, now it’s filled with songs from different indie artists.
Sige, pwede naman poSiguro papapiliin ko na lang kayo sa mga tapes o CDs na meron kami.

It doesn’t bother you that’s its a personal item?
Hindi naman po. Business is business.

On my first National Swap Meet, I’ll be lying if I say I didn’t feel intimidated. It’s nothing like the other nerd conventions all year round. We were surrounded by seasoned male nerds who know their stuff for three decades or more. But unlike the average convention, they didn’t tend to be elitists. 

They welcome newcomers and engaged me in conversations. The fact that I’m a younger female nerd didn’t come into play at all. What they wanted to talk about was the TV show or the movie in question. And the people I interviewed above? Some of them gave me a stuffed toys, while others decided to bring me a bigger tote bag for all my stuff.

The National Swap Meet has a niche community—but its an inclusive one. So if ever this event returns, try dropping by. They’ll be happy to show you the ropes. And no, you don’t need to trade anything personal items like I did. 


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