After a year of hiatus due to the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic, the country’s longest running provincial trade fair that showcases the best of Negros has made a comeback this year.
Now on its 35th edition, the Negros Trade Fair (NTF) is seen to continue celebrating the culture and tradition of Negros Occidental through onsite and e-commerce platform.
Tourism Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat, in a video message during the opening of this year’s NTF simultaneous with the inauguration of the Association of Negros Producers (ANP) Hub along South Capitol Road in Bacolod City on Saturday, said she is happy to welcome the fair back as it is launched on an online platform.
Romulo-Puyat said the NTF is one of her favorite yearly events and she always looks forward to checking out the local craftsmanship, home accessories, organic products and the delicious Negrense cuisines.
“The country’s longest running provincial trade fair which was always held in Metro Manila will now be able to reach more people in the country through an e-commerce platform,” she said, adding that micro, small and medium enterprises (SMEs) from the island of Negros will have access to wider costumer base and even the opportunity to connect with the international market.
The NTF is an annual event organized by the ANP in collaboration with the Provincial Government of Negros Occidental and various government agencies.
Its hosting was canceled last year due to restrictions and threat brought about by Covid-19.
In 2019, on its 34th year, the NTF held at Glorietta Activity Center in Makati City underscored the province’s timeless traditions.
For this year, the theme is “Embracing the QR Code.”
Romulo-Puyat said the online market base could be a continuing feature of the NTF, but “I look forward to attending the physical fair once again and meet various artisans, chefs and entrepreneurs behind the wonderful products that celebrate the culture and tradition of the province.”
She also congratulated the ANP on the much anticipated launch of the hub.
In 2020, the provincial government and ANP along with the Talarak Foundation entered into a usufruct agreement for the association to use the Capitol-owned property at the Negros Forest Park for 25 years.
The provincial government also provided P5 million to fund the construction of the hub that also houses the business and training center, showroom, office and the Bugana Market.
It will form part of the Negros Occidental Culture Hub Circuit Tour along with the Provincial Capitol and Park, Provincial Tourism Office, Mambukal Resort Bacolod Office, “Cafetolyo” or the cafe within the lagoon and park, Talarak Foundation - Negros Forest Park, The Negros Museum, Ayala Fiesta Market and Pala-Pala Food Terminal Market.
Romulo-Puyat said the ANP Hub as the onsite selling event will serve as a showroom for the island’s quality products as well as a center for entrepreneurship in the province.
“The Department of Tourism is proud to partner with ANP as we work together to promote tourism, support MSMEs and farmers, highlight local craftsmanship, and restore jobs and livelihoods affected by the pandemic,” she said, adding that “I invite everyone to visit shopnegrostradefair.com from May 29 to June 30, 2021 and have the best of Negros delivered to your home.”
Governor Eugenio Jose Lacson, who led the “Arima” or the symbolic ringing of the bell that signals the start of the trade fair, called on the public to remember the Negrense women who faced seemingly insurmountable odds to start the NTF years ago to provide an alternative source of income to the Negrense farmers who were badly hit by the global sugar crisis.
“Now, as our province, together with the entire word is in thick of another global crisis, we again, as a people, face this adversity with the same Negrense spirit of resilience, ingenuity and hope we courageously displayed in the past when we had our first trade fair,” the governor said.
As he lauded the initiative of ANP, Lacson said its ingenuity has opened opportunities to MSMEs both in the local and international platforms.
“Even in the midst of a pandemic, let us show the world that Negros is more than just sugar, that Negros is the place where you can succeed if you try, where a healthy economy can advance by what we make and innovate,” he noted.
Lacson also called on local producers to “please continue innovating and creating, and always aim for excellence” as he assured support from the provincial government.
ANP president Arlene Infante said that, lately, the association faced a crisis so unprecedented that it threatened its very existence.
Infante said the pandemic happened and the Negros Showroom at Robinsons Place Bacolod had to close and the NTF had to be postponed indefinitely.
“But then, also for the same reason, this pandemic gave us the desires of our hearts. Something that we have been dreaming about and though that it will only remain a dream,” she said, adding that “that is, to have our very own building and showroom where we don’t bother with rent and all our resources are spent on advancing our core entrepreneurial advocacies.”
While the e-commerce platform cater to the clients in Metro Manila and other areas in the country, the onsite trade fair at the hub which is open six days a week will provide access to buyers in the province.
Infante said they know the road ahead will be bumpy but 35 years has taught them that giving up is not an option.
“Besides, history has shown us, for as long ANP remain true to its calling, all our partners, the provincial government especially, will be there for us, because we live for the Negrense MSMEs,” she added.
Meanwhile, also present during the activity were provincial government officials, some Board Members, mayors Mark Andrew Arthur Golez of Silay City, Rhumyla Nicor-Mangilimutan of La Castellana, and Raymund Tongson of Himamaylan City, ANP past presidents, Board of Trustees and member-producers, among others.