The Negros Trade Fair-A A +A
Saturday, September 8, 2012
Note: This article contains brief passages from the 2010 book “Silver Tiangge,” which the publisher has allowed to be used by “reviewers…in critical articles and reviews.”
ON SEPTEMBER 26 to 30, merchants from all over Negros will be at Rockwell Tent, Makati to sell all kinds of handicrafts from our own fair island to rich and affluent Tagalogs.
This once-a-year affair started out a generation ago as a collection of folk handicrafts and luxury items being sold by the once-rich Negros sugar families to get themselves back on their feet after the great sugar crash of the Marcos era. Today, the trade fair has garnered national fame and international attention.
Famous people such as Loi Estrada, Carmina Constantino, Mar Roxas, Gloria Diaz, Tessa Prieto-Valdes, and even Cory Aquino herself have graced the halls of the show room to purchase goods produced from Negros’s rich bounty.
But it wasn’t always like this – the trade fair was created out of necessity. Negros, at one time, was obscenely rich – so rich that the sugar barons of the island were throwing soirees literally every week and one huge ball every year to celebrate the grandeur of life in Negros.
And then it happened. America began granting tax exemptions to sugar imports. Every country where sugar could grow began selling sugar, prices dropped, and Negros… well, Negros suffered a mini-great depression.
The once rich sugar barons were selling their plantations one by one – 200,000 displaced sugar workers soon became 200,000 angry Communists, and 30% of the children in the province were dying of malnutrition. The Negrense was pretty much done for – or so he thought.
The typical Negrense despises being poor. I mean, nobody wants to be poor, but some cultures simply accept the fact that they’ve been dealt a bad hand by the powers that be and move on with their lives.
This is not the case with the Negrense. He had tasted the sweet nectar of wealth and he wasn’t about to lose it – not like this. A small group of business people, equipped with new skills they had learned from attending a seminar organized by the DTI, set up the seeds of the Negros Trade Fair.
These people generally cared about the state of their province, and set up the trade fair in Manila for people to buy products that were made in Negros by Negrenses. The word spread that there was a small flea market selling Negrense-made goods in Manila, and soon, Negrenses living in Manila flocked to it, hoping to support Negros’s economy by buying their own products. Each product bought could help a starving Negrense child. The first trade fair was a booming success.
Slowly but surely, the clientele changed from concerned Negrenses to people who were genuinely interested in buying these products. The producers had to craft their wares to the expectations of the customers, and soon – the fair was producing luxury items of its own.
Negros hasn’t gotten back to its glory days yet – but this story isn’t finished either.
Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on September 09, 2012.