The 36th Annual Negros Trade Fair is returning to its Manila home after a two year-long pause due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Entitled “Hidlaw,” this year’s theme aims to satisfy the yearning and longing we all have to return to something better than it was before. After the challenges, losses, business pivots, and resilience realized, many of the brands associated with the longest provincial trade fair running are ready to come back to showcase Negrense craftsmanship. Fully supported by the Association for Negros Producers (ANP), the Negros Trade Fair offers homegrown Negrense brands the opportunity to share their creativity and cuisine in a way that serves up their generous culture in bite-sized delectable pieces.
To amplify their mission of entrepreneurship and service to the community, President Arlene Infante shared how ANP stumbled upon another opportunity to expand their advocacy in far-flung areas even during these challenging times. In partnership with the Philippine army, ANP has dedicated efforts to building up small businesses and families. Livelihood programs and seminars offered through ANP’s involvement in the Peace and Development council provide unique opportunities for Negrense producers to grow in entrepreneurship.
Together with Michael Claparols, Negrense native and Chairman of the 36th Annual Negros Trade Fair, the ANP welcomed several members of the media to Bacolod for a cultural and culinary tour showcasing the best that Negros has to offer. This tour, strongly rooted in Negrense hospitality, was filled with a rich history of the people, places, and faces that make this southern island a culinary and tourist destination.
Here are some of the highlights of each day:
Visit to the ANP Hub
Steps from the Provincial Capitol, the ANP Hub serves as the commerce center for Negrense producers. Furniture, clothing, natural products, handicrafts, and pantry items adorn the walls and the shelves in the modest showroom built to showcase the creativity and ingenuity of a community that has been built on lifting one another up in times of need.
Collaborative dinner by Chef Don Colmenares and Chef Nico Millanes at Elgon’s Secret Garden
Both Enderun graduates and friends, Chef Don and Chef Nico came together to serve Governor Bong Lacson, Mayor Albee Benitez, the Bacolod city councilors, Provincial Administrator Rayfrando Diaz, invited media, and distinguished guests, an inspired take on Bacolod cuisine in a relaxed garden setting.
Excitement and energy filled the air as everyone came together for the sake of progress. Memories of how ANP began, and the very first Trade Fair that took place in a parking lot in Makati, were just a few of the stories that were shared. The enthusiasm and hope for a successful NTF left guests feeling optimistic of things to come and excited for the rest of the Best of Negros Tour.
Lanai by FreshStart Organic
Established slow food advocate Ramon “Chinchin” Uy Jr. opened the doors of Lanai by FreshStart to chat about the beauty and wonder of food products when grown naturally. Chinchin then educated the media on the herbs, plants, and food that grow indigenous to the region, and how best to harvest them. The media enjoyed deliciously rich cups of coffee, fresh-pressed juices, and homemade kombucha with their grass-fed beef and fresh salad wraps.
An exciting element of the first meal on the second day of the media tour was the freshly rolled out piaya flavored with muscovado and Ereñeta Manoloto chorizo. Negros Trade Fair visitors can expect to enjoy both of these treats in the Glorietta Activity Center from September 20th to 25th.
Sunset dinner at Bantayan Park in Bago City
A VIP welcome greeted the media when they arrived at Bantayan Park in Bago City after a full day of touring. Mayor Nico Yulo and his wife Jarie Yulo prepared a feast for the senses that highlighted rum, chocolate, and the best kinilaw from the area.
Serenaded by the San Carlos City Orchestra while enjoying Don Papa Cocktails, guests of the mayor and his wife enjoyed Negrense hospitality amidst the sunset over the accretion park of the Bago River.
Muscovado mill tour by Hawaiian Philippine Company
Not yet open to the public, this certainly was the highlight of the third and final day of the #ANPBestofNegros Tour. Stories of how the steam train locomotives of old were saved during the war kicked off this nostalgic part of the tour. Established in 1918, the Hawaiian Philippine Company is the oldest sugar company in Silay City, Negros Occidental. It is also one of the very few sugar companies still making Azúcar Mascabado in the traditional way.
After the educational trip in history, powered by steam locomotive and bailed bagasse, the diverse group of media and Negrense locals enjoyed lunch hosted by Jeannine and Paul Curran of Hawaiian Philippine Company.
Co-founder Monica Llamas-Garcia and Ambassador Aaron Goodall walked the group through a tasting of the Don Papa portfolio. Highlighting flavors, tasting notes, and aging processes in a simple and relaxed setting offered an introduction to Rum 101 for all those in attendance.
While visiting the province of Negros Occidental is obviously the best way to learn about the people, culture, and cuisine of this southern region, one need not travel that far this September 20th-25th. The Negros Trade Fair brings together all the small and large vendors and producers to Makati every year, and has added an e-commerce site for those who cannot make it in person to the Glorietta Activity Center. From the kick-off celebration rich in natural beauty and Negrense grace that begins at the Arima on the first night, to the last day of the Trade Fair where we will bid the almost 60 participants goodbye, it is definitely an immersive experience that one can look forward to.
NTF Chairman Michael Claparols said it succinctly during the media launch at the ANP Hub: “This trade fair is a story of resilience, of families coming together to take care of one another. It is a story of change and opportunity from a land that is rich with culture and the Negrense way of living, and the Negrense way of life.”
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