The Association of Negros Producers (ANP) and the Slow Food Negros Island Convivium launched the 31st NegrosTrade Fair (NTF) on Sept. 13 at the Glorietta Activity Center in Makati City with a kick-off event dubbed
NTF is the country’s longest-running trade fair. This time around, it featured some of the most famous chefs in the Philippine culinary world. It was first held by ANP in 1985 at the defunct Quad Carpark in the former Makati Commercial Center, now the site of Park Square at Ayala Center Makati.
Arima is an Ilonggo word used by farm supervisors to gather sugarcane workers at the crack of dawn for their day’s tasks, when the traditional practice of clanging the bell is done. It is derived from the Basque region of Spain where it means “soul” which evolved into “alma” in Castilian Spanish.
During the NTF’s ARIMA! opening cocktails, celebrity chefs Gaita Fores, Fern Aracama, JP Anglo, Josh Boutwood, Miko Aspiras, and Mikel Zaguirre regaled the guests’ palates with a variety of flavors Negros is known for, but enlivened with their own twists that created an explosion in the taste buds.
These culinary artists utilized ingredients produced by Negrense small-scale farmers, artisans, and indigenous communities who understand the fragile equilibriums of nature and work in harmony with the ecosystems. They also made use of local delicacies and those that are listed under the “Ark of Taste”—a collection of small-scale quality productions that belong to the cultures, history, and traditions of the entire planet.
An extraordinary heritage of fruits, vegetables, animal breeds, cheeses, breads, sweets, and cured meats of each locality from around the world are listed in the Ark of Taste, including the Philippines which has now listed 50 items into the ark.
This year’s NTF theme was “Biodiversity in Tourism” referring to the diversity of life that ensures our future because it allows plants and animals to adapt to climate change, unexpected events, and attacks from disease and parasites.
Biodiversity can be domesticated as well as wild. Alongside the flora and fauna living in nature, the knowledge of farmers has produced thousands of plant varieties and animal breeds whose shape, color, fragrance, and flavor reflect their local history.
Thanks to selective breeding, local varieties and breeds have adapted to their surrounding area, naturally becoming stronger and more resistant, requiring less water, and needing fewer pesticides, fertilizers and veterinary treatments. Biodiversity is also an invaluable reservoir of medicinal remedies.
Traditional knowledge is part of biodiversity, and has allowed generations of farmers to cultivate the most unproductive and infertile of lands, and to transform milk, meat, grains, fruit, and vegetables into an unlimited variety of food such as bread, cheese, salami, preserves, and sweets.
Protecting biodiversity means respecting all diversities of places, bodies of knowledge, and cultures. It means the following: growing many different things, but on a small scale; producing less, but giving more value to what is produced and minimizing waste; eating mostly local food; promoting a system that is balanced, durable and sustainable; protecting the small-scale farmers and indigenous communities who understand the fragile equilibriums of nature and work in harmony with the ecosystems.
This is why the Slow Food movement believes it is possible to feed the planet and guarantee good, clean, and fair food for everyone, by starting with biodiversity.
Slow Food is a grassroots movement founded in Italy 27 years ago. Since then it has spread all over the world, including Negros Island, which hosts an official convivium, one of only five in the Philippines. Convivium is a Latin word that means banquet or feast.
Being promoted as an alternative to fast food, Slow Food strives to preserve traditional and regional cuisine as well as encourages farming of plants, seeds, and livestock characteristic of the local ecosystem. Its goals of sustainable foods and promotion of local small businesses are paralleled by a political agenda directed against globalization of agricultural products.
Proponents of Slow Food believe everyone has the right to good, clean, and fair food. This translates to a high quality product with a flavorful taste; a natural way the product was produced and transported free from chemicals, pesticides, and other toxic inputs; plus adequate pricing and treatment for both the consumers and producers.
At the heart of the Slow Food movement is the aim to promote local foods, traditional gastronomy, and artisanal food production. Conversely this means an opposition to fast food, industrial food production, and globalization. The movement envisions a world in which all people can access and enjoy food that is good for them— good for those growing it, and good for the planet.
J. Albert Gamboa is the chairman of the FINEX Golden Jubilee Book Sub-Committee and serves as consultant for private and public sector organizations.
J. ALBERT GAMBOA