This is opinion editor Dustin Watchman, founder of the bitcoin community education group Cloud 21 Siargo.
What if we could recreate the elements of a big city we all love, but on a smaller scale? What will be these elements that we will try to repeat? For most of history, cities have been places that provided opportunity, hope, and connection to others. Cities hoped to bring the best and brightest together to work hard and build what the world needed. Then came El Zonte, also known as Bitcoin Beach. A massive paradigm shift has occurred, asking the question: “What if we could provide opportunity, hope and connection to others by building education and knowledge around bitcoin in small communities?” And just like that, the idea spread around the world.
El Zonte is not only the community that inspired President Nayib Bukele to envision the first bitcoin legal tender country, but they have also inspired many smaller communities with their vision and success in execution. Now we can see bitcoin inspired communities being built with Bitcoin Ekasi in South Africa, BTC Beach Camp in Thailand, Bitcoin Lisboa in Portugal. Harlem Bitcoin New York and more! The common denominator in all these communities are bitcoin educators who are willing to tirelessly dedicate their time to educating the communities around them. Due to the lockdowns and COVID-19 restrictions of the past few years, people have been looking for a purpose, and many have found it by building bitcoin communities in their backyards. The hope for a better future derived from Bitcoin has led many to make positive changes in their lifestyles and contribute more to giving back through community growth initiatives.
One such project is known as Cloud 21 Siargao on a small island off the southeastern side of the Philippines. This is a beautiful and up-and-coming island that has kept a hidden gem of a surf spot called Cloud 9 under wraps for years, so give a nod to this epic surf spot by the name of Cloud 21 Siargao. In December 2021, the island was devastated by the massively destructive Super Typhoon Odette. During the first few months after the destruction, recovery was slow. Supplies were hard to come by and debris was everywhere. In short, opportunity and hope were near all-time lows, and that’s where bitcoin typically thrives. Fast forward nearly nine months after the storm, and local communities are buzzing with energy as businesses reopen and tourism quickly returns to the island. With this onslaught of growth and tourism, knowledge of bitcoin began to grow rapidly along with it. Cloud 21 Siargao set out to help local small businesses learn how they can accept bitcoin as payment to drive further growth in tourism, just like El Zonte has done for the past few years.
Through Twitter Spaces hosted by Paxful and Global Bitcoin Fest, we were able to engage with bitcoiners in these regions on common issues related to bitcoin adoption in Southeast Asia. Through these talks, I have shaped my approach to further education about bitcoin to overcome some of these common obstacles. The biggest obstacle is probably the gambling mentality that many people have in these areas. It’s kind of an all-or-nothing mentality for long-term wealth-building strategies, rather than a more moderate approach of gradually incorporating bitcoin into their lives. Additional barriers to bitcoin adoption here are proper education on what differentiates bitcoin from the 20,000+ other altcoins and the perception that bitcoin as a whole is just a generic brand name. These are the main points that Cloud 21 Siargao started working on.
For people who often don’t save much, putting everything in can potentially set them off and force them to never take full advantage of bitcoin. The biggest need for small businesses here is that they still need pesos for day-to-day expenses, but are open to the added benefits of converting just a small amount to satoshis. Slowly dipping their toes into the bitcoin waters is more likely to get them to see the potential as we slowly move from bear market to bull market in 2022. Locally in the Philippines, they have a digital cash app called G-cash that they are familiar with and the Wallet App (Lightning app) has similar features but gives them the added benefit of converting some of their pesos into satoshis. Mainly using their previous knowledge of digital money applications, locals can now safely start furthering their bitcoin education.
Cloud 21 Siargao has launched a multi-pronged campaign to address these challenges of brand recognition, proper education about the unique qualities of bitcoin, and proper use and security of bitcoin. Through social media, I am reaching out to all local small businesses to let them know they can use Cloud 21 Siargao for any bitcoin related education. Many business owners have asked great questions and are actively looking to adopt it soon. I’ve also started community art projects that involve beautifying various concrete walls around town with Bitcoin-themed murals. Reputation is also extremely important in any small community, so actually speaking to many owners and fosters in person often leads to the greatest discussions and potential adoptions. There are currently a handful of bitcoiners living in Siargao and they have also given great feedback on the localized issues of bitcoin adoption. Volunteering with local NGOs has also been fruitful in helping organizations that revolve around a lot of fundraising to understand how bitcoin can help them do so. Finally, talking to local government officials and opening discussions about how their social programs, which often provide little income for local populations in need of financial assistance, can benefit from bitcoin payments.
Building a small bitcoin community from scratch will only continue to grow if the necessary resources for further education are provided. Locals and expats will continue to come and go as Siargao continues its journey towards becoming the next Bali and digital nomad hub. The key to maintaining sustainable development when building a Bitcoin community is to ensure that resources remain on an island for everyone to use as needed in the future. The torch of knowledge needs to be passed on to locals so that they can step up and become community leaders themselves so that they can continue to educate their neighbors and friends about bitcoin, eventually expanding the bitcoin community beyond locals and expats who come and go seasonally. the tides.
In response to this need, I’ve written many books discussing how to use bitcoin in your family, community, and why small businesses should start offering bitcoin payments late. The latest book to be published is a guidebook for community leaders that new bitcoin educators can use as a resource for educating others in the future. You can find these books at Cloud21Siargao.com.
Siargao has a lot of potential to be the perfect blend of Bali and El Zonte and I personally look forward to welcoming more bitcoin tourism as bitcoin adoption grows here! If you’re a bitcoin tourist, put Siargao, Philippines on your must-see list. You will not be disappointed!
This is a guest post by Dustin Watchman. The views expressed are entirely their own and do not necessarily reflect the views of BTC Inc or Bitcoin Magazine.