A PIONEERING coffee table book entitled Sugar & Smiles: The Negrense Legacy Beyond 2020 was unveiled at the main activity center of Ayala Malls Capitol Central in Bacolod City, which co-occurred with the 158th birth anniversary of national hero Andres Bonifacio, the Father of the 1896 Philippine Revolution on November 30.

This 320-page heirloom collectible was published by a group of Negrenses consisting of co-publishers Gen Tomas and Joey Montalvo, project director Benjie Torre, marketing director Tere Manalili, and executive editor Albert Gamboa.

They produced the first-ever coffee table book about Negros Occidental together with 30 writers and creative staff members.

Portion of the proceeds from the project was given to the Kalipay Negrense Foundation, which was founded in 2007 by Anna Claparols Balcells primarily to rescue abused and abandoned children of Negros.

Responding on behalf of the beneficiary, Balcells expressed her “hope that through this book, we will be reminded that the key to our future is in the children who, as future Negrense citizens, will carve out their paths ensuring that our legacy lives on.”

Manalili recounted how the privately-initiated book project started as she acknowledged the local government units and private companies that supported the editorial board, whose primary motivation in making this noble project possible is passion for their crafts.

Torre likened the book to “a symphony of stories that echo the names of people who made a mark in our history.”

He believes that Negrenses are full of hope and will always overcome obstacles ranging from past tragedies to the present pandemic.

Gamboa traced the origins of the book project, which took more than two years to complete due to the quarantine lockdowns.

He said, “the book celebrates the lives of heroes from the Republic of Negros up to the current fight of our frontliners against coronavirus disease (Covid-19).”

Tomas shared that “coming up with this book at a time of pandemic is an outstanding statement about Negrenses’ resilience and cooperation.”

He commented that the people of Negros Occidental finally have a book they can call their own and be proud of.

The book’s main chapters were written by historians Modesto Sa-onoy and Roque Hofileña, lawyers Rayboy Pandan and Eli Gatanela, culturati Cecilia Locsin-Nava and Lloyd Tronco, chefs Richard Ynayan and Mia Lizares-Gonzaga, Western Visayas tourism director Christine Mansinares, and advertising executive Nikki Golez.

Simultaneous with the book launch was the opening of the Sugar & Smiles art exhibit, featuring the watercolor paintings of illustrator Edbon Sevillano that served as the book’s chapter dividers.

Details about the book are available at www. sugar and smiles. ph./Tere Manalili tqm@sugarandsmiles.ph