Category Archives: Arts

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.

Bacolod Masskara Hailed As Showtime Grand Champion

The day was Saturday, just like any ordinary day preparing for my fencing training and my visiting cousin’s prep up for Palarong Pambansa when we were suddenly glued to the television at ABS-CBN2. It was the Grand Final Showdown for Showtime’s Inter-Town Edition. Honestly, I was never a fan of Showtime though would catch snippets of it on television but what got me going was the fact that my hometown’s Bacolod Masskara is a participant to the contest, together with another Negros Occidental Festival, La Castellana Bailes de Luces and Dumaguete’s Pride from Negros Oriental. A friend of mine commented on Facebook that it looks like when God rained talents on Earth, it seems that Negros Island got most of the share.

First one to perform from Negros Island was Dumaguete’s Pride with several on the studio and more in the Silliman University grounds. The group got off with a good performance, all drapped in red and superb dancing skills. Dumagueteños wowed the crowd with their amazing dance skills which garnered a 10 from Vice Ganda. The live feed was superb and the pristine surroundings of Dumaguete City amazed the judges as well. Representatives from the City of Gentle People definitely fought well.

TV Screenshot of Bacolod Masskara’s performance at Showtime

When it was the turn for Bacolod Masskara to perform, all eyes were glued on the television. The live feed from the new City Hall or what is known as the Government Center had technical difficulties due to temporary blackout but was restored after a few minutes. As if to remedy the little setback, the dancers from both in the Studio and in the Government Center started in full bloom of colors. Brgy. Alijis dancers were at the Studio while on the ground were dancers from Brgy. 17, 21 and even from the Bacolaodiat Festival.

Brgy. 17 and 21 Masskara Dancers performing with Bacolaodiat Festival Dancers

I was thrilled that they used the old Hiligaynon, Latin beats-tuned Masskara dance music at the performance at Showtime. Since I moved here in Manila, I have not been to Masskara Festival or has seen it live so this was the closest I have to seeing Masskara Festival. The dance moves in the studio were perfectly coordinated with those in the Government Center grounds. Everyone, those in Bacolod, those in the studio and even those watching the television were just holding their breaths everytime.

A chopper appeared mid-performance reportedly loaned by Cong. Albee Benitez

While the symphony of colors and dance moves wowed both the judges and studio audience, everyone was surprised when all of the sudden, a chopper appeared in the middle of the performance! This chopper, said to have been loaned by Third District Rep. Albee Benitez, dropped confetti and balloons to the dancing crowd below. As the performance was capped, everyone stood for a loud cheer and applause with the crowd suggesting a perfect 10. Vice Ganda was speechless, agreed with the crowd and gave a perfect 10.

Just as we were about to turn off the television and leave for some errands, the other dance contingent from Negros Occidental, La Castellana Bailes de Luces also performed after Bacolod Masskara. It was a feat that they made it in the finals for they failed in their first attempt of joining but came back as a wild card and proving that they deserve to be there in the first place. Learning from the mistakes of the initial failed performance, their live feed dancers performed this time in the town’s darkened covered court.

La Castellana Bailes de Luces performance screenshot at Showtime

Not to be outdone, the pulled up a really colorful performance both on the studio and on the live feed. The dancers in the studio and in the live feed were in perfect coordination, as if they were just dancing on the same location, just like how it is done every January 5 annually at La Castellana. The group tapped all the participants to recreate one of Negros Occidental’s most colorful festivals. In showing their artistry, they also garnered standing applauses, audience demands for a perfect 10 which Vice Ganda also agreed.

Judges unanimously giving scores of perfect 10 to Bacolod Masskara

In the end, it was a close match between the three Negrense participants, besting the rest from around the country. Dumaguete’s Pride got a statistical third place with an average score of 9.6 while La Castellana Bailes de Luces got an almost perfect score except for a single 9 which got a 9.9 average score. The air got tensed when the score for Bacolod was announced, from the perfect 10 given initially, other judges followed suit and gave their perfect 10 after another to an average score of a perfect 10! The studio and the live feed erupted into cheers when Bacolod Masskara was announced the winner. Their performance was only a fraction of what to expect this Masskara Festival 2012, especially on something grand prepared on October 19, 20 and 21 for the highlights.