The island of Negros is known for its thriving sugar industry. The island, however, is not just about the sweetener because creative entrepreneurs from the island also produce various products, from organic piaya to handwoven textile to handcrafted wooden houseware.
Annually, these products are showcased at the Negros Trade Fair (NTF), organized by the Association of Negros Producers (ANP). Now on its 33rd year, this year’s NTF will showcase around 70 exhibitors, who will feature innovative and all-time favorite products from the “Sugar Capital of the Philippines” from September 26 to 30 at the Glorietta Activity Center in Makati City.
“NTF shows how Negrenses come together and help each other for a common goal, which is to promote Negros. We’re proud that our products create employment and give livelihood to Negrense artisans,” said NTF chairperson Kitkat Lobaton.
NTF started in 1985 during the sugar crisis. Fourteen housewives from Negros Occidental approached Nena Tantoco of Rustan’s to help promote Negrense products. Tantoco initially agreed to purchase Christmas ornaments from the women that were used in the store’s holiday decorations. Eventually, they organized the trade fair to help the troubled businessmen of Negros.
Today, NTF is the country’s longest-running provincial trade fair, which has greatly helped Negrense entrepreneurs. Last year, the fair generated an impressive P26 million in on-the-spot sales. This figured does not include after-event sales and orders.
“They (housewives) are all my friends and it started during a difficult period. Sugar was really down and we couldn’t really pay our workers, the people cutting the canes. And then the housewives decided to band together and then put up and do crafts,” Tantoco shared.
“NTF is a nice support for the province where I grew up and I have very happy memories, very, very happy childhood. What they’re doing now is in the grassroots, working with the hacenderos, sometimes using their farmlands to create what you see,” she added.
This year’s theme, “Sweet Talk: Sugar, Spice, & Everything Nice” pays tribute to the sugar industry. Exhibitors were encouraged to make use of sugar, its components and by-products.
Most of the exhibitors are members of ANP but the organization also opens it to non-members as long as they are from Negros or have products made in Negros or products that use materials from Negros. Of the 70 exhibitors, 40 will showcase food products.
“We have five new food exhibitors this year. We’re going to have batchoy and pancit molo, and also lamb and lechon baka from Enteng’s. Bob’s will serve sati babi, a Negresne favorite,” Lobaton said.
Other food products to watch out for include: the artisanal cheeses of Casa del Formaggio; organic and flavored piaya of Fresh Start; ultra soft and extremely popular ensaimada of Felicia’s; and chorizo of Ereñeta Manaloto Chorizo; just to name a few.
On the other hand, the other participants will be a mix of handicrafts, furniture, and fashion. Some of the non-food exhibitors to watch out for include: Creative Definitions, a company that makes handwoven textile; house ware maker Hacienda Crafts; fine native bag maker Kiculo; bags and other craft maker Artisana; shoemaker Negros Silk; and modern and quirky house ware maker Art Energy; among others.