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From "Brick and Mortar" to Digital : A Negrense Remembers The First Negros Trade Fair in 1985

MAKATI, Philippines - In the beginning there was no Negros Trade Fair.  It would be a few years on into the tradition started by a few a ladies from Negros Occidental plus a gentleman who had the vision of creating a sustainable program to alleviate the plight of more than 150,000 displaced sugar workers from Negros Island in an awful time that saw 84 percent of Negrenses living below the poverty line and 60 percent of their children languishing in malnutrition.  Back then in 1985, the popular trade fair we know today was called as the House of Negros.

What was it like in 1985?  This year is one that means a lot to me.  The numbers 8 and 5 are two digits which permeate my life.  Too many significant events took place in my life back then.  First, I graduated from the Philippine Science High School in March of 1985.  This was the last significant milestone attended by both my parents.

March 1985 - Six months before the first "House of Negros" which would eventually become  The Negros Trade Fair.

The situation in the country back then was awful.  Ferdinand Marcos lifted martial law a few years back but really, it did not make much of a difference.  The nation was still virtually under martial rule.  The fateful fall of the sugar industry, Negros' main crop, had begun a few years prior.  World sugar prices plummeted and government took control of sugar trading crippling the economy of Negros in a major life-changing, lifestyle-denting and peace-shattering way.

On that same trip to see me graduate, my dad underwent some tests at Manila Doctors' Hospital over a few things he had been complaining about.  Later on as the summer of 1985 rolled in, it was known that he had amyloidosis, a rare disease in which abnormal protein, known as amyloid fibrils, builds up in tissue, affecting only 1 in 1,000 people.  No known cure for amyloidosis back then - no
known cure for amyloidosis today.

My late dad, Larry Tronco, an artist and advertising executive, passed away on the 30th of September, 1985 at the age of 56.  Skipping my first sem finals at the University of the Philippines, I flew home to Bacolod to attend to my father's funeral.  Thereafter, I came back to Manila to pack my stuff as I was poised to move to Bacolod for the rest of my college years.

Enter the
House of Negros. 
Fourteen Negrense women and one gentleman, with their natural entrepreneurial savvy, organized the House of Negros Foundation and the first House of Negros.  The House of Negros was organized at the Makati Carpark at the behest of Bea Zobel from Ayala Land, Inc. with goods coming from Negros Island.  Daniel "Bitay" Lacson, Jr., then Negros Navigation President and CEO, shipped the goods from Bacolod to Manila for free. 

Looking back, I recall two pioneer products which were exhibited back then but are no longer around today.  These were the intricately painted jars with sugarcane field scenes of Penthouse Gallery and the handcrafted leather shoes of Brownman in Bacolod. 

At the House of Negros, the ladies from the nearby villages of Dasma, Forbes, Urdaneta, and Bel-Air, came to see, buy, and be fascinated with the wares created out of the makeshift workshops in Bacolod.   Day 1 of the House of Negros at the carpark behind the Intercon Hotel went well.  Unfortunately, Day 2 of the House of Negros was greeted with the strong winds coming in from Typhoon Saling, which was the strongest storm of the 1985 season. 

Some of the wares got wet with the wind and rain coming in through the side of the carpark.  Suffice it to say that it was a literal baptism of what is known today as the longest running provincial trade fair in the Philippines.  Symbolically, it was a baptism within a literal, meteorological, economic, and political typhoon.

I remember getting drenched as I was walking to the carpark from across Rustan's in Ayala Avenue, where the MMTC blue bus would stop.

1985.  A year I will never forget.  High School graduation, the passing on of my father, the beginning of the Negros Trade Fair as we know it today.

Thirty-six years on, The Negros Trade Fair, as the longest running provincial trade fair has made its mark, not just in the island from where it sprung but globally as well.


Members of the Association of Negros Producers, now export their wares, fashion items, art pieces and food on a global scale.   Many celebrities and politicians make it a habit to drop by the Negros Trade Fair, one of whom was the late Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago.

Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala with Negros Occidental Governor Maranon at the Negros Trade Fair.

This year, the Negros Trade Fair has come a long, long way from those days of 1985.  We are now in the digital age and The Negros Trade Fair has also evolved accordingly.  The 35th Negros Trade Fair is now online.  The pandemic which broke out last year has also helped hasten the move to use digital channels for fulfilling the year on year presentation of Negros products.

Whereas in the past, the Negros Trade Fair would be limited to physical space and "brick and mortar" selling, the Negros Trade Fair is now reaching a global market through digital media and its e-commerce platform called www.shopnegrostradefair.com .

Check them out today.  You'll be awed at the presentation of TEAM ANP on its user-friendly platform.

Negros Trade Fair Online (photo from Millie Kilayko)


The writer, Lloyd Tronco, is an Artist, Writer, Entrepreneur and Designer.  He is a Negrense based in Metro Manila, thus the name Talonggo (for Tagalog-Ilonggo).

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