Top picks from 2023 Negros Trade Fair

Text and photos by Jeeves de Veyra

Posted at Sep 25 2023 07:05 PM

BACOLOD -- The Association of Negros Producers (ANP) once again welcomes visitors to the annual Negros Trade Fair, which opens Tuesday at the Glorietta Activity Center in Makati.

This year, the trade fair’s theme is “Amùma,” which in Hiligaynon means "to take care."

The fair itself was borne out of Negrense resilience and is a testament to the “pag-amùma” of the women of Negros. When the sugar crisis devastated the island in the 1970s, the women of the sugar haciendas sold off their jewelry for capital to fund new enterprises to provide livelihood for the displaced workers in the sugar fields. The products from these new businesses were showcased in the first Negros Trade Fair that was held in the parking lot at the corner of Edsa and Ayala Avenue.

Negros Occidental Governor Eugenio Jose Lacson shared his insights on the significance of the theme. "'Amuma' seeks to encapsulate the essence of Negrense culture by accentuating its generosity, welcoming spirit, and open-heartedness. It also stands as a tribute to the Negrense culture of charity, hospitality, and warmth," he said, underscoring the unity and care that defines the Negrense community.

The ANP Showroom in Bacolod. Jeeves de Veyra
The ANP Showroom in Bacolod. Jeeves de Veyra

During this year’s media familiarization trip, the ANP showed off the support the province gives its entrepreneurs. For new enterprises, the Negros Trade Fair shows off the result of an enviable ecosystem made up of the private sector through the ANP, and the Negros provincial government through the LGUs and the provincial Technology and Livelihood Development Center (TLDC). 

The LGUs look for up-and coming MSMEs in their towns and cities and refer them to the TLDC for support. The government unit, which just became fully operational early this year, lets these new enterprises try out their food processing equipment for dehydrating, and making powdered food products. This has resulted in some interesting products like these chips made with aratiles leaves.

Aratiles Chips. Jeeves de Veyra
Aratiles Chips. Jeeves de Veyra

After R&D, when the products are ready to be introduced to the market, the TLDC also gives marketing and branding support. This is done with the help of the office’s in-house branding experts and graphic designers, making sure that these products are not out-of-place on a supermarket shelf, here or abroad.

At this point, these new entrepreneurs are given the opportunity to join the ANP to open its doors to sell in the Philippine market and beyond through initiatives like the Negros Trade Fair.

Today, the fair has come a long way from its very humble beginnings having After making a grand return last year to Manila, the fair has grown to include 10 cities, five municipalities, and two districts showcasing products across natural and organic food, garments, fashion accessories, furniture, décor, houseware, agriculture, and tourism sectors. 

Here are some advance picks to look out for at this year’s fair:

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During the familiarization trip, a fashion show and reception was held at the Negros Provincial Social Hall with a focus on using natural fabrics and sustainable materials. Keep an eye out for these dresses, shirts, shoes, and fashion accessories during the fair.

Envirosocial design company Hacienda Crafts is one of the original exhibitors from the first Negros Trade Fair. Not only have they been innovating with new products, they have also been reaching out to Negros communities. These mats and food warmers are made with cogon, something that is normally cut and thrown away.

It’s hard to believe that Madeira’s workshop is inside a garage in the suburbs of Bacolod but these home accessories and furniture made with lacquered wood and Capiz shells are exported to as far as Eastern Europe.

It won’t be a Negrense event without food! A visit to Negros won’t be complete without stopping by their pasalubong centers for rosquillos, bañadas, galletas, barquillos, biscocho and other goodies from El Ideal, Margie’s, Virgie’s, Sugarlandia and the other local bakeshops. Bring big eco-bags as these just fly off the shelves during the fair!

Just spread this Chicken Inasal Pate from Casa Carmela on toast and or on hot rice for a quick snack.

Quan’s Puto Paos are a favorite with dinuguan. This bakeshop has already set up commissaries and branches in Manila because NTF visitors just couldn’t get enough of their products.

Past participants like Felicia’s have already learned their lessons from past trade fairs to keep their signature ensaymadas and cakes flying in every morning to make sure visitors have enough.

Debuting in the trade fair is this Tomato Calamansi cocktail mix from Hapi Jess. It packs a bright fruity punch as is but could be made better as a cocktail with a shot or two of vodka.

It was a surprise to find out that there were local growers of cranberries in Cadiz. They will have cranberry juice and cranberry jam at the fair.

Who knew batwan and dark chocolates went well together? The batwan notes add a pleasant brightness to this bite of chocolate. Worth a try.

Elsie's Avocado Mousse was a standout dessert during the familiarization trip. It was light and didn't hold back on the avocado.

The fair will have a seating area for visitors to eat and try out food from the restaurants at the fair. Think of an embutido wrapped in chicken skin and you get Sir & Ma'am’s morcon. This may look humble but these are so in demand in Silay that the restaurant closes at 2 p.m. when this runs out.

Fresh Start’s Piaya station is always a big hit with the aroma of muscovado sugar on the griddle beckoning visitors to its booth. Do not miss the garlicky sweet Chorizo Piaya made with a dollop of muscovado with a generous portion of Ereneta-Manaloto rekado chorizo.

La Paz Batchoy was invented in Iloilo but Bacolod has an upscaled version of its own with bone marrow, chicharon, and their own chewy noodles. Bar 21, one of Bacolod’s go-to versions of batchoy, has a take-home kit that’s like the ramen boxes that popped up during the pandemic. They recommend thawing the noodles overnight to make sure they don’t overcook and remain springy after adding to the hot soup.

Aside from their seafood and grilled scallops, Imay’s will have small tubs of Black Sambo. This is a dessert that is part flan, part chocolate gelatin and part of Negrense nostalgia. Best served fresh from the chiller.

The week-long Negros Trade Fair will kick off with Negros Occidental Governor Bong Lacson ringing the Arima Bell, which is used to signal the beginning of a working day in the hacienda sugar fields, on Tuesday September 26, at the Glorietta Activity Center.

It will end with Bacolod Mayor’s Night on October 1 that serves as an invitation to the public to come to Negros for the Masskara Festival.