A glimpse of the Negrense spirit: Reasons to go to the Negros Trade Fair

K. Montinola (The Philippine Star) - September 26, 2014 - 2:01pm

If a trip to Negros is not in your future, you still have a chance to taste the experience this week at the Negros Trade Fair. The region may have taken a beating recently, with several areas hit particularly hard by calamities, but if the plans for this year’s fair should show Manileños anything, it’s this: there is such a thing as an unbroken spirit, and it’s worth celebrating.

The Negros Trade Fair, the longest-running provincial trade fair held annually in Metro Manila, plans to showcase Visayan resilience this week with the best of their homegrown products in food, fashion, furniture and crafts. There’s already ample information out there on the kind of things that will be at the fair that will make it worth going to, but what seems to me the most important aspect deserves some words: what makes the energy put into the trade fair remarkable is not just the quality of the crafts — whether food or furniture, there is something unequivocally passionate about everything the fair has to offer, in a way only Visayans can be — it’s the energy of inclusion.

The alliance of Negrense businesses ran “Smiles Beyond Borders” as their theme, leading to an inspiring effort for rehabilitation in neighbouring communities in places like Bicol, Cebu, Masbate, and Aklan, to name a few. Every business has a story, as it turns out, and every booth promises to deliver.  

Artisana Island Crafts, for instance, reached out to local artisans in Leyte for her Yolantern Collection. The hand-cut and hand-carved coconut shell ornaments are eco-friendly and made with the people making them in mind; even the basket candle holders are hand-woven from wild raffia sourced in Aklan, another typhoon-ravaged province.

Tumandok Crafts Industries zoned in on the northern Iloilo town of San Dionisio in Barangay Agdaliran, taking the leftover pieces of coco lumber from a post-Yolanda housing project as the main raw material of their Haiyan Collection of tables, lamps, and trays.  In addition, they plan to establish a processing factory in Agdaliran, with the hope that they can create some livelihood for the people there (which is actually why the reception of the Haiyan Collection at this year’s trade fair is doubly important).

The Negrense Volunteers for Change Foundation will exhibit a collection of mosaic pieces, entitled “The Story of Maria Luisa,” depicting the story of a two-year-old girl from Leyte who lost her mother to the disaster. NVC’s products are handmade by women of the rural and urban poor, and this year’s product line uses ‘Yolanda wood’ (wood felled by the super typhoon). The debris is fashioned by women from Bato, Leyte into rosary beads, which is, in NVC’s words, “as if lifting up Yolanda wreckage to the heavens in prayer.”

And of course, no thing that has to do with Negros (or Filipinos, for that matter) would ever be complete without paying special attention to food. The Bacolod-based NVC plans to sustain a feeding campaign with their profits, the Start Right, Live Bright Nutrition Program. The campaign works to feed NVC’s specially manufactured Mingo porridge (a blend of malunggay and monggo) to malnourished toddlers daily for six months.

These are just a few examples of what the participating businesses and organisations have turned out for the trade fair. It’s true that they offer up the “best of the best of Negros” in products, but I think it shows that what they offer goes far beyond simple commerce, and they are worth the visit sometime this week.

What makes the trade fair so very Negros is not the beauty of their products, nor is it even the determination to rebuild in solidarity. It’s the cheerful, celebratory quality that characterizes the fair, bringing forth an optimistic outlook that evidently cannot be beaten. The Negrense have a lot to be proud of, but if there is anything that keeps this fair true to their character, there’s that.

The 29th Negros Trade Fair runs from Sept 24 (Wednesday) to Sept 28 (Sunday) at the Glorietta Activity Center. Entrance is free.

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