Blog | Making Filipinos embrace Bitcoin

By Joe Maristela

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The average Filipino person probably does not know what Bitcoin is. It’s my job to make sure that more of them do.

I have different approaches to accomplishing this goal – as an investor, as a community organizer, as a publisher – but these serve the same purpose all the same: Promoting Bitcoin in the Philippines.

The reason I have taken on this task is because I view Bitcoin as an avenue toward social mobility. The vast majority of Filipinos are unbanked; that is, they do not have a bank account. Bitcoin can extend these millions of Filipinos financial inclusion, and in so doing, elevate their lives.

Because I take this mission seriously, I am doing all that I can to see to the greater adoption of Bitcoin in the country. This is no easy task, of course.

Bitcoin sounds exotic and much of the news surrounding it – at least what gets filtered through to the Philippines – is negative. I must not only get Filipinos to buy into the idea of Bitcoin, but I must dispel the negative associations that some have of it in the first place.

This is not just talk. Earlier this year, I led the seed round of Satoshi Citadel Industries (SCI) with a $100,000 investment. SCI is an umbrella company for a variety of different Bitcoin-related products and services.

While the company is doing well from a financial perspective, I primarily chose to invest in them because they share my mission. Rather than just wanting to capitalize off existing Bitcoin users, they want to popularize the use of the cryptocurrency to more and more Filipinos. Their products, then, tend to appeal to the mass market and not just a select group of Bitcoin enthusiasts.

For example, one of their products, Bills Ninja, allows consumers to pay for their utility bills in Bitcoin. Another, Rebit, enables individual Filipinos to be able to send remittances both domestically and internationally with Bitcoin.

In addition to supporting the enterprise side of the Bitcoin world, I am also working directly with the community. I am a founding member of Bitcoin Organization of the Philippines. While our goal is to of course promote the use of the cryptocurrency in the country, we want to lead civic action related to Bitcoin.

For example, I want to eventually collaborate with the Philippine government to create a safe, legal framework for Bitcoin users. Some naysayers might immediately call this goal farfetched, arguing that the national government is averse to new technology, particularly fin-tech or financial technology.

To these doubters, I would point to the recent legalization of Uber and GrabTaxi’s GrabCar in the country. These ride-hailing apps weren’t just legalized – they recognized an entirely new category of transport just to make way for them, which made the Philippines, in the process, a shining example of good governance around the world.

It is my belief that we can achieve a similar victory in the world of Bitcoin. It may take some time to get there, but I am committed to doing whatever it takes to ensure we do.

I cannot do this alone, so integral to this advocacy is finding people who already share in this belief, or turning general tech enthusiasts into Bitcoin believers.

While I try to be an advocate for the coin to everyone I meet, I am only one person. There are only so many people I can meet and talk to in a day before my voice gives out. That’s why I – together with Pinky Natividad, the CEO of Katalyst.ph – recently decided to franchise international Bitcoin publication CoinTelegraph for the Philippines.

CoinTelegraph is one of the leading publications in the new breed that is focused on Bitcoin and cryptocurrency. Bringing it to the Philippines means that the Bitcoin ecosystem in the country can have much smarter coverage. Consumers can keep abreast of the latest product offerings, and enterprises can learn of better ways to leverage the coin.

These efforts will hopefully generate noise for Bitcoin, but its success in the Philippines will ultimately depend on Filipinos like you, who also see its potential positive impact for individuals and businesses in the country.

The author is a Filipino Internet entrepreneur and investor

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