Category Archives: Culture

Hope Shines Brighter in Negros for the 27th Negros Trade Fair

Inset: Official poster of the 27th Negros Trade Fair – Beyond Limits at Rockwell Tent.

Image of men in fashionable clothes, dancing to the latest beats, drinking the most expensive imported wines, these are the Manila based Negrenses taking part in the almost bacchanalian parties of the Kahirup Society. The onset of the sugar crisis in the 1980’s has stopped these parties altogether the Negros Trade Fair has replaced it as the Negrenses’ opportunity for socio-civic interaction now with a purpose, and that is to help their poor kasimanwas back home, reeling from the effects of what was once a mighty industry. Now on its 27th year, the Association of Negros Producers has reflected the desire to go beyond limits for this 5-day event.

Inset: Interior of the Negros Showroom branch in Buendia Avenue, Makati City.

Inset: One of the trendy house lamps available at the Negros Showroom Makati.

Inset: Durable and stylish dinner table at the Negros Showroom Makati available for sale.

Inviting some bloggers for a preview of the upcoming 27th Negros Trade Fair, Negros Showroom Makati Manager Mike Claparols, descendant of the first and only Negros Republic President Aniceto Lacson, entertained guests in the old Negrense way of serving an afternoon coffee treat of Negrense delicacies. This homey showroom reminds guests of the lifestyle back home in Negros where people come in the afternoon to have a small chat over coffee and treats. The Negros Showroom Makati’s space was given by the Department of Trade and Industry for use of the Association of Negros Producers as a showroom until December 31, 2012 this year.

Inset: Piaya and barquillos from Virgie’s served in Nong Mike’s ceramic products.

Inset: Caramel Tarts, also from Virgie’s, one of the Negros Showroom Makati bestsellers.

Inset: Quan’s napoleones served fresh from their commissary in Dian St., Makati City.

The treats served were best seller ones like the signature Piaya and Napoleones from Bacolod. Sweetness from the treats reminds us very well of not just the sugar industry but also the innate sweetness and gentleness of the Negrenses. Nong Mike remembered the days where people would simply go to a relative’s house and how the host would let out a feast of sweet treats for the visitors. Much of the delicacies we see now are innovations by the home cooks who got their ideas from abroad or simply by the needs of the times as people adapt. Abundance of sugar with availability of ingredients and flour has led to innate culinary creativity of the Negrenses.

Inset: Combination of capers, basil and olive oil makes up this delicious vegetarian pate.

Inset: Addicting natural squid rings available at the Negros Showroom Makati.

Inset: Negrense twist to the original Italian puttanesca sauce from Jarvis.

There are quite a lot of people who carelessly classify Negrense cuisine as “Ilonggo cuisine” due to undeniable similiarities in some dishes up to the name but, educated tongues would know that the food culture has gone beyond its original Ilonggo offshoot just a century ago, to a unique body of cuisine. Negrenses are well-traveled people and has so adopted cooking styles from various regions of the Philippines and even foreign influences, mainly Spanish, with some Italian, Mexican and Chinese. Fusion is best seen in the various recipe from other places, but blended well with local ingredients that the taste has now become characteristically Negrense.

Inset: Trendy but durable hand bags made of local materials in Negros by Kiculo

Inset: Export-quality local and organically-made personal care items from Fresh Start Organic.

Inset: Girls’ Accessories available at the Negros Showroom Makati.

Quality and advocacy mixes well for the Association of Negros Producers where products have wonderful stories behind them. The years of experience with Negros Trade Fair and the Negrenses’ creativity has ingrained a sense of quality for each of the products sold by the association, showroom and trade fair. Each has been carefully scrutinized to pass a standard test that most items sold are vailable for export. One of the success stories is Fresh Start Organic that started almost a decade ago and has been leading in the Island push for organic products. Aside from organic produce, they have also personal care items entirely from organic sources.

Inset: PUREZA The Story of Negros Sugar will be showing for the Negros Trade Fair.

Negrense products are merely a reflection of the actual welcoming warmth of Negrenses. Negros Trade Fair and Negros Showroom  Makati are unique chances for Manileños to have a feel of little bit of Negros in the middle of the busy Rockwell Center and Buendia Avenue. PUREZA The Story of Negros Sugar will screen tomorrow, September 25, 9pm at Power Plant Cinema 6 to give us a preview of a crisis that started this all. I recommend the Negros Trade Fair for your early shopping needs or just for your fancy of export quality products for your daily needs. Do set one day between September 26 to 30 to visit the little bit of Negros at the Rockwell Tent.


ANP’s Silver Tiangge Coffee Table Book: A Negrense Must Have

Inset: Foreword page of ANP’s coffee table book “Silver Tiangge”

The foreword Carmen Guerrero Nakpil in the coffee table book Silver Tiangge must have been by itself an ample introduction to the Negros Trade Fair and the Association of Negros Producers. Last year, I was given a privilege through ANP Vice-President for Media Jojo Vito to be part of the 26th Negros Trade Fair held in the semi-permanent location at Rockwell Tent. The event resulted to eight blog entries (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8), new friends and new experiences. Too bad I was not able to join the 25th Negros Trade Fair which was the best one so far but the essence of the celebration is captured in Silver Tiangge.

Inset: Featured is the kitchen exhibit at the Balay Negrense Museum

What is Silver Tiangge? That is the coffee table book produced by the Association of Negros Producers for the occassion of the 25th Year of Negros Trade Fair in Manila. You see, Negros Trade Fair is the longest provincial trade fair that has been running consistently that has breached a decade and an amazing feat it would that it would soon breach third decade. “Tiangge” in Silver Tiangge does not come from the Tagalog term but rather from the Hiligaynon term which means a “sari-sari” or variety store. Indeed, from a small series of booths in SM Megamall, it expanded to include over fifty enterprises now.

Inset: Silver Tiangge’s Table of Contents

While the 25th Negros Trade Fair has long passed, the  Silver Tiangge is still in publication. Ms. Teena Gacho Rodriguez from the Association of Negros Producers reached me last week that there are more stocks available. This coffee table book is actually a must have for Negrense homes since it details not only details the products from ANP Showroom and the Negros Trade Fair but the evolution of Negrense industry that was forced to diversify due to the fall of the sugar industry in the Marcos regime. What was then as a means of extra income for sacadas has become a multi-million dollar export industry.

Inset: Various kakanin, sweets and coffee from Negros Island

Even with sugar‘s dominance since the late Spanish Era leading to the short-lived Republic of Negros, these industries found their roots in the countryside with Negrenses utilizing whatever resources they have to produce new products for consumption. A few of them like furniture-making dates back to the time when hacienderos would commission copies of furniture designs they have come across palaces of Europe, while foods like Bas-oy and Cansi were Negrense food innovations at a time when the poor was limited to scrap meats and innards. Soon enough, even the hacienderos caught on the taste and ate them too.

Inset: More food articles inside the coffee table book Silver Tiangge

Interesting, isn’t it? Association of Negros Producers has slashed down prices of the coffee table book to P1,500 which is very much affordable for a piece of Negrense history that every Negrense home in Negros Island and Beyond must have. The book is available in the ANP Negros Showroom Main at Lourdes Center in 9th cor. Lacson Streets, Bacolod City or at their branch at Central Citywalk in Robinson’s Bacolod, just look for Teena Gacho-Rodriguez or staff to purchase one.

PUREZA, The Story of Negros Sugar: The Manila Premiere

I can finally say I did it! Fresh from my Dagupan trip witnessing the swimming competition at Palarong Pambansa, I made my way though heavy rain to reach Fullybooked in Bonifacio High Street. Nope, I was not there to buy a newly-release novel or even buy a comic book but rather to watch one of the most controversial documentaries of the present – PUREZA, The Story of Negros Sugar. With barely a second since the documentary started, I was “forced” to sit a couple of seats away from DepEd Sec. Br. Armin Luistro FSC with notables in film and media. The number of people, especially from the blogosphere, was testament to the fact that people outside Negros have long been curious of this opulent Negrenses that even surprised Imelda Marcos.

Sugarcane loading at a field in Isabela, Negros Occidental

Months before, I interviewed the film director Jay Abella over at Kuppa Fort Bonifacio for a detailed teaser of a premiere done in SM City Bacolod. Even as I already know the issues and scope in the story, it was a fresh experience being a witness and at the same time, judge for such a great work. Just as I had discussed with Direk Jay, it touch very much on sensitive issues of Negros Sugar Industry. More than being a documentary about the industry, it was also a social commentary on the lifestyle and the prevailing attitudes of the Negrenses. As I believe, the solution to the woes of the sugar industry in Negros will not only save the province of its heritage industry but also other problems like governance, economics, tourism and even the field of sports.

An old photo with Negros Hacienderos of Basque-Spanish Origin

Negros Hacienderos are mostly of mixed origins, with mostly of Spanish decent. Among Spaniards, there are the Castillans, Basques and Catalans. Apart from the Spaniards, French with some of Jewish decent and merchant Chinese also settled in the islands and had a good life from trade of sugar. Who would not have one with a commodity that is constantly in demand around the world? With the expiration of the Laurel-Langley Agreement, things started to go awful when the sugar prices dropped from three digits to two and worse, eventually one-digit prices. NASUTRA monopoly led by Marcos crony, Roberto S. Benedicto did not help and in fact worsened the problem with corruption and inconsistencies in the sugar loaning system.

Farmers planting patdan or sugarcane points in a Hacienda

The change of regime from Ferdinand Marcos to Corazon Aquino did not help either in solving the problem especially when Land Reform was instituted that gave land to farmers. This was a huge blow to the sugar industry for this greatly reduced since unlike rice, sugar was meant to planted on large fields and not small plots. While this was an answer to the supposed labor abuse of the Marcos Era, it did not help in empowering farmers since none of the them had an income sufficient to till the land. Just as the industry was coping, another challenge came in with the incoming free entry of cheap Thai Sugar through the ASEAN Free Trade Agreement or AFTA. Rice and Sugar are seen to be the ones that will be greatly affected with this open competition.

The Ruins or mansion of Mariano Lacson, one of so-called “Sugar Mansions”

The Sugar Crisis was not without warning though since a number of economists and Negrense businessmen has already predicted the outcome but no one listened. Negrense Hacienderos are themselves fragmented without common cause with many interest groups that branch off as more disagreements ensued. Was it really just the Laurel-Langley Agreement, NASUTRA and Roberto S. Benedicto who are at fault or is it pride? In a nutshell, Negros Island could have been where Cebu is right now if people only cared to listen and actually unite to act for these problems to have not occurred in the first place. I hope this made you think again of what we have done and what should be done in the future or else the sword of Damocles will continue to hang.

The official poster of PUREZA The Story of Negros Sugar

As much as I want to discuss further, it would be good if you see the film first hand for you to have an idea. PUREZA The Story of Negros Sugar will Premiere in Manila this coming May 31 at Powerplant Mall Cinema at Rockwell Center Makati. Just to make you more interested, Negros Island produces 70 to 80% of the country’s sugar yield which means the sugar you might be using at home may have come from the sugar mills of the Island. Now curious of why your most ordinary of commodity brought both riches and problems to an island it enriched? The ticket prices are at P400 which can finance film showings around the country especially in universities. For schedules on the ticket prices and available seats, you may visit the official blog of PUREZA.