My first stop in Bacolod on the way to supervise a full-length feature on Negros in 2018 was at the Negros Showroom. It’s where one can get a sampling of what the province offers—food products, houseware, furniture and fashion.
It is run by the Association of Negros Producers (ANP), which started with women banding together to get Negros back on its feet after the devastating fall of sugar prices in the 1980s. They teased that women talk less and act more.
One of the practical things some ANP members did was use fallen leaves and twigs to turn into decorative products and housewares.
There was also an effort to promote the excellent food products in the province.
The first Negros Trade Fair opened in 1985 in Metro Manila. Now on its 34th year, the event has drawn so many exhibitors that booths have to make do in a smaller place because the venue, Glorietta 2, is undergoing renovation.
The lunch crowd knew what Negros fare is all about. There were long lines but, luckily, the queue to Aida’s Inasal nga Manok, moved quickly. The chicken was good, as always, though stingy on the achuete oil.
On my first time at the fair, I wrote about the heavenly aroma of the piaya that led me to the place. It still is a major attraction and we were told to give our orders in advance and come back, though the exact date was uncertain.
Consoling oneself was easy. There were favorites from Virgie’s (caramel tarts, mango tarts, camias pinwheels); biscuits and sweets from El Ideal and Sugarlandia.
The creativity of houseware, decor and fashion products was apparent, but what’s admirable is how the makers can transform ordinary, or even waste materials, into artful things to be admired and to use.
Ina Gaston of Hacienda Crafts has taken twigs again and made round trays.
The bamboo trays I bought years ago are still being done by M’Con Pieces and Crafts.
Vallehermoso has combined colorful, woven fibers and beads to be useful as a bowl or playful as a hat.
Charitable groups like NVC have made crafts part of their livelihood project. A beautiful pair of earrings, fashioned from Nespresso capsules, the pamphlet said, provides two complementary meals for deprived communities throughout the country.
Every year, the bags are hard to resist because everywhere you take them, they become conversation pieces.
The creativity is still at the Negros Trade Fair but this year, the emphasis is on the land and its many features and the people today.
The image of Negrenses has indeed changed—from the wealthy sugar barons (and their ladies) to hardworking, artistic people. But the gentle, lilting Ilonggo language is always a delight to hear.
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