Negros Trade Fair returns to Manila!
The capital of sugar – that’s what many Negros Occidental know, a modest province in the western part of the Visayas region. What others may not know is that it also initiated one of the country’s oldest trade fairs, the Negros Trade Fair (NTF).
In 1985, Manila-based Negrense entrepreneurs established the fair in a Makati parking lot due to news of poverty among sugar farm workers. Since then, the NTF, organized by the Association of Negros Producers (ANP), has become one of the most coveted annual fairs in the capital, showcasing the province’s fine food and handcrafted crafts while helping experienced and aspiring entrepreneurs reach a wider audience.
This tradition continues to this day. While it was put on hold in 2020 during the pandemic and experienced a digital exodus in 2021, the fair returns to Manila this year and celebrates its 36th anniversary with the theme “Hidlaw.”
A Hiligaynon term meaning “longing” or “yearning.” Hidlaw summarizes what Filipinos are feeling in our almost post-pandemic world. According to NTF chairman Michael Claparols, the reason behind the issue is that Manila misses the fair, not only for the Negrenses in the capital, but also for its city dwellers. We may have seen a lot Hidlaw since the show’s absence, but manufacturers and exhibitors from Claparols and ANP promise that the NTF’s comeback will be worth the wait.
“After two years at home, our customers have said they missed the fun, celebration and taste of Negros. Nothing beats the experience of savoring Negrense flavors and admiring the craftsmanship firsthand,” says Claparols. “Exhibitors are excited to bring back their creations, designs, products and launch new items – a testament to the resilience of the Negrense spirit. That’s why we chose this year’s theme Hidlaw.”
Ahead of his return to the capital, Manila Bulletin Lifestyle gets a preview of what’s to come at this year’s NTF in Bacolod City. What we discovered is not only warm hospitality, delicious dishes and unique crafts, but also stories of passion that make Negrense artisans and entrepreneurs truly inspiring.
According to Claparols, four things come to mind when he thinks of the NTF. Resilience comes first. It takes a lot to keep a business running and many ANP Group entrepreneurs were overcoming major challenges even before COVID-19 hit the Philippines. Bacolod-based businesswoman Precy Perez had a strong ceramics business in the late ’90s, not until China became the dominant player in the industry. But with her tenacious spirit, she launched a new brand, Yssa’s Handicrafts Manufacturing, in 2013, turning used medicine and wine bottles into serveware, and her bestselling Angel Chime.
Another thing Claparols points out is that NTF is about caring. During the labor unrest, there were some families who took care of these workers. The NTF also offers an opportunity for social enterprises. A great example of this is the municipal accountant Ofelia Tupas, who helps people from Sitio Madaja and Sitio Maatop earn a living by weaving baskets and crocheted bags. Another reason is Alter Trade Philippines’ partnership with over 400 sugar cane farmers in the production of a variety of Muscovado sugar products.
The NTF is also teeming with stories of change and opportunity. One of his success stories is Shiena Mae Ana Pobleto from Shiena’s Homemade Products. Once a sidewalk peanut vendor, Shiena is now the proud owner of an FDA-approved brand that sells cashews, native pili nuts, and seriously delicious peanut butter.
Old and new
A veritable mecca for Negros Occidental’s best, NTF will be showcasing many of the province’s established and emerging brands at this year’s showcase. For a taste of provincial favorites, visit El Ideal Bakery in Silay City Piyayabuko cake, lumpiang ubod, and its signature guapple tart. Sir and Maam Restaurant serves Negrense comfort food such as Morcon, Kadios and Lechon Paksiw. The NVC Foundation brings handmade decor and wearable art made from used Nespresso capsules and eggshells. Introducing Negros Silk Industry involves Negros Silk Producers.
New things to look out for at the show are Lakat Sustainables sneakers made from pineapple cotton fibers, Plantsville Health food and lifestyle products made with local cinnamon, and Ereneta – Manaloto Chorizo de chorizo Bacolod Piyayaamong other.
Negros Occidental in Manila
The 36th NTF will be held September 20-25 at a larger venue, the Glorietta 4 Activity Center in Makati City. Over 60 vendors from different sectors such as natural and organic food, clothing, fashion accessories, furniture, decoration, housewares, agriculture and tourism represent the industries that feed and sustain the people of Negros. Guests also have the opportunity to visit negros through the participation of several local government units.
To find out more about its events and exhibitors visit @negrostradefair_36th on Instagram and www.shopnegrostradefair.com.
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