This is an opinion editorial by 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 much smaller scale? What would these elements be that we would like to replicate? For much of history, cities have been places that offer opportunity, hope, and connection with others. Cities hoped to bring together the best and brightest to work hard and build things the world needs. Then came El Zonte, better known as Bitcoin Beach. A massive paradigm shift occurred and begged the question, “What if we could provide opportunity, hope, and connection to others by creating education and knowledge around bitcoin in smaller communities?” And likewise, the idea has spread throughout the world.
El Zonte was not only the community that inspired President Nayib Bukele to envision the first legal tender country for bitcoin, but they have inspired many smaller communities with their vision and success in execution. We can now see bitcoin-inspired communities being built from the ground up with Bitcoin Ekasi in South Africa, BTC Beach Camp in Thailand, Bitcoin Lisbon in Portugal, Harlem Bitcoin in New York and many more! The common denominator in all of these communities is bitcoin educators willing to tirelessly dedicate their time to educating the communities around them. Due to the COVID-19 lockdowns and restrictions of the past few years, people have been looking for a purpose and for many that purpose was found by building bitcoin communities in their own backyards. The hope of a better future derived from bitcoin has led many to make positive changes in their own lifestyles and contribute more to giving back through community growth initiatives.
One such project is known as Cloud 21 Siargao on a small island in the southeast of the Philippines. It’s a beautiful and up-and-coming island that for years secretly kept a hidden gem of a surf spot called Cloud 9, hence the sneak peek of this epic surf spot named Cloud 21 Siargao. In December 2021, the island was devastated by the destructive super typhoon Odette. During the first months after the destruction, reconstruction was slow. Supplies were hard to come by and there were scraps everywhere. In short, opportunity and hope were near all-time lows, and that’s where bitcoin usually succeeds. Fast forward about nine months after the storm and the local communities are buzzing with energy as businesses have reopened and tourism is quickly returning to the island. With this onslaught of growth and tourism, bitcoin knowledge began to grow rapidly alongside it. Cloud 21 Siargao set out to help small local businesses learn how they can accept bitcoins as payment to drive more tourism growth, similar to what El Zonte has done in recent years.
Through Twitter Spaces hosted by Paxful and Global Bitcoin Fest, we were able to collaborate on common issues related to bitcoin adoption in Southeast Asia with bitcoiners in these regions. Through these talks, I shaped my approach to educating more about bitcoin to overcome some of these common obstacles. The biggest obstacle is probably the gambling mentality that many people have in these regions. It’s kind of an all-or-nothing mentality that they go all-in instead of taking a more moderate approach of slowly incorporating bitcoin into their lives for long-term wealth building strategies. Other obstacles to bitcoin adoption are proper education about what sets bitcoin apart from the other 20,000+ altcoins, and also just general recognition of the bitcoin brand as a whole. These are the main points that Cloud 21 Siargao has proposed to work on.
For people who often don’t keep a lot of savings, doing it all could make them rekt, pushing them to never benefit from 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 they are more likely to see the potential as we slowly transition from the bear market of 2022 to a bull market. Locally in the Philippines they have a digital cash app called G-cash that they are familiar with and the Pouch app (a Lightning app) has similar features but gives them the added bonus of converting some of their pesos into satoshis . Basically, by leveraging their prior knowledge of digital money applications, locals can now safely begin to improve their bitcoin education.
To address these issues of brand recognition, proper education on the unique qualities of bitcoin and how to properly use and secure bitcoin, Cloud 21 Siargao has launched a multi-pronged campaign. Through social media, I reach out to all local small businesses to let them know that they can use Cloud 21 Siargao as a referral for any bitcoin related education. Many business owners have asked big questions and are actively looking to embrace it soon. I have also embarked on community art projects that involve beautifying various concrete walls around the city with Bitcoin themed murals. In any small community, reputation is also quite important, so talking to many of the owners and patrons in person often produces the biggest discussions and potential adoption. Currently, there are a handful of Bitcoiners living in Siargao and they have also provided great feedback on the localized issues for Bitcoin adoption. Volunteering with local NGOs has also yielded fruitful results in helping organizations revolving around fundraising understand how bitcoin can help them in this drive. Finally, talk to local government officials and open discussions about how their social programs that often provide a small income to locals in need of financial assistance can also benefit from bitcoin payments.
Building a small bitcoin community from the ground up will only continue to grow if adequate resources are provided for further training. As Siargao continues its journey towards being the next Bali and a digital nomad hub, locals and expats will continue to come and go. The key to maintaining sustainable development while building a bitcoin community is to keep resources on the island for everyone to access and use as needed in the future. It is necessary to pass the torch of knowledge to the locals, so that they themselves can rise up and be community leaders, continuing to teach their neighbors and friends about bitcoin is what will ultimately drive the bitcoin community beyond the locals and expats who they come and go like the season. tides
In response to this need, I’ve written several books on how to use bitcoin in your family unit, community level, and why small businesses should start offering bitcoin payments sooner rather than later. The latest book to be published is a guide from community leaders that new bitcoin educators can use as a resource for educating others in the future. These books can be found on the Cloud21Siargao.com website.
Siargao has a lot of potential to be the perfect blend of Bali and El Zonte, and I personally hope to welcome a lot more bitcoin tourism here as bitcoin adoption grows! If you’re a bitcoin tourist, put Siargao, Philippines on your must-see list. You won’t be disappointed!
This is a guest post by Dustin Watchman. The opinions expressed are entirely my own and do not necessarily reflect those of BTC Inc or Bitcoin Magazine.