by the SERDEF Media Bureau
(first published in the Philippine Online Chronicles, Oct. 18, 2012)
For those who begin to hear Christmas bells in September, walking into the MarketWeek Philippines, Inc. exhibit at Megatrade Halls, SM Megamall, Mandaluyong City can be like entering a Christmas wonderland.
Mounted by the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) on September 19-23, Market Week has been dubbed as the biggest showcase of micro, small and medium enterprises, featuring home, food and fashion products of over 400 entrepreneurs from the 17 regions of the country. The range of products on sale was astonishing: fresh and processed foods including regional delicacies; footwear, bags, apparel; costume jewelry and accessories; home and holiday decor; gifts and house ware; furniture and furnishings; bayongs, baskets and trays; health and wellness products and services; and more.
For foodies: Name whatever a province, town or region is famous for, MarketWeek was almost sure to have it. Puto Binan, Albay pili candies, Bicol pinangat, Ilocos bagnet, Ilocos empanada, bagoong Pangasinan, Bonuan bangus, Burauen (Leyte) bukayo, Lukban longganisa and other variants, Laguna kesong puti, to mention a few. For the more health-conscious, the exhibit had an array of guiltless indulgences: malunggay tea, tomato jam, veggie noodles, ginger candy, pickled seaweeds, malunggay pesto, cassava and camote chips.
Those looking for exquisite Pinoy craft or fine artisanal items had an abundance to choose from. Hand-woven and loom-woven fabrics and products, handmade paper products, pottery, bags made from abaca, jute, raffia and buri, throwpillow cases made of Yakan cloth, wallets made of Romblon leaves, and culture dolls and figurines.
But most enticing for shoppers bent to beat the holiday rush by early shopping were the Christmas decors and gift items galore. Representatives from banks, and other companies also flocked to the event to begin their institutional gift-buying.
This was confirmed by exhibitor Esmer Gabutina, proprietor of Tinabuan Crafts, Misamis Oriental. Her Christmas trees, angels, tree trimmings, and other ornaments – all made from sinamay — had all but been snatched up before the exhibit ended. One bank approached her early in the week to order Christmas ornaments by the bulk. “In terms of sales, this year is better than the previous ones,” she reckoned. To top it all, her sinamay Christmas tree and sinamay tote bag were both nominated as “most innovative products.” Although neither item won in the finals, being nominated alone made the efforts to create new designs worthwhile for her.
Among the holiday-themed booths, the most striking must be that of Alriver Export Corporation. The space was inhabited by papier mache and resin angels of all sizes from six inches to six feet tall, garbed in shimmering silk fabrics of gold and silver, encrusted with faux jewels. In company of the angels were belens (nativity scenes) and Madonna and the child, Holy Family, and Santa Claus figures, also resplendently attired. The ethereal setting was, doubtless, helped by the ingenious lighting installed.
Alriver products are exquisitely crafted and on the pricey side. The tandem manning the mesmerizing booth nevertheless said sales was good, with American and Korean buyers expressing interest in the angels and being directed to the main sales office at Barrio Capitolyo, Pasig. In addition, there were a number of OFWs who purchased the figurines by the dozens which they planned to make a business of when they return to Saudi or wherever it is they work abroad.
Northway Arts and Crafts of La Union was another exhibitor that drew the holiday-buying crowds. Displayed in their booth were Christmas wreaths, bouquets, garlands, and other arrangements made from indigenous materials like cogon grass, pine cones, and dried fruits like the fruits of the exotica and bittaog trees. Owners Perlita and Felipe Garduque and their son RJ were personally tending their booth, eager to tell their entrepreneurial story to any visitor who cared to listen. Felipe, once a high school art teacher, admitted he was responsible for the constant design innovation the company is known for. Perlita was on top of marketing. RJ still managed to lend a hand to the business handling social media strategizing, even with a full-time job in Manila. Like Alriver and Tinabuan, Northway seemed to be enjoying a good exhibit year.
Gabby Duyor of Valley Floral Accents, Cagayan Valley, had a different story to tell about sales revenue this year. “Mahina,” was how he described it, blaming the slump on the recession that was sending quivers to the foreign markets they export to. “We cope with the crisis by adjusting our prices,” explained his wife, Annette. Nonetheless, they had no lack of visitors admiring their floral creations of cogon grass, coconut midrib, mahogany and other native materials.
There were many more exhibitors that contributed to the Christmas spectacular that was MarketWeek. The Christmas Decor Producers and Exporters Association had a big booth selling a big array of members’ products. Medoth Philippines Craft, an antique manufacturer, displayed resin Santa Claus figures in various sizes and poses.
And, not to forget, Pampanga lanterns. These classic favorites lighted up the exhibit, as well they should.