Negros Occidental is sure to lure foreign and domestic tourists once more as it holds the annual “Bacolod FIESTA” or Food Industry Exhibition and Symposium for Trade Advancement from Sept. 29 to Oct. 1. Organized by the Hotel & Restaurant Association of Negros Occidental (HRANO), visitors can enjoy not only the province’s fabled good food but also its sybaritic lifestyle, and warm hospitality. In Negros, as elsewhere in the country, no occasion, whether major or minor, public or intimate, can be complete without food. Food is central to the celebration of victories, the consolation of defeats, the marking of milestones, the welcomes and the good-byes. The touristic event celebrates food in all its many facets: primarily as a source of livelihood in Negros and as an identification of the Filipino as a people.
At the first FIESTA, held on Jan. 20, coinciding with the feast day of Bacolod City’s patron saint, St. Sebastian, then Secretary of Agriculture, Edgardo Angara, remarked that it was high time a conference on food was organized in Negros and lauded the efforts and leadership of Ruth Minerva Cruz, then HRANO president and Hotel & Restaurant Association of the Philippines (HRAP) director for the Visayas, for convening the event. Officers of the HRAP, led by then president, Phil Kennedy, and executive director, Elizabeth de la Fuente, came to support the fledgling event of one of its oldest and most active chapters outside of Manila.
HRANO, auspiciously enough, began as a close-knit and friendly organization of hotels and restaurants in Bacolod City in the ‘70s whose luminaries included the late Conchita Cuenca, considered the doyenne of Negrense cuisine. Fondly called Tita Conchita by generations of adoring Negrenses who grew up on her famous pan de sal, this petite powerhouse operated one of the longest running restaurants in Negros, closing only briefly when the city was overran by invading Japanese soldiers during the Second World War.
Closely linked with HRANO in its early days was restaurateur Dodong Bascon, one time vice president of HRAP. During his term as HRANO president, Bacolod City hosted what may be the first and only HRAP annual convention held outside of Manila. Then came popular restaurateur Aboy Evaristo, who with the help of Myrna Segismundo, then chair of HRAP’s Chefs on Parade (COP), geared the 2nd FIESTA in September of 2003 toward making it a pre-COP event where local talents would be sent to compete with the best in Manila. Student participants from the 10 local colleges and universities in Negros Occidental that make up HRANO’s associate membership eagerly joined the competition.
This year, under incumbent HRANO president, Augusto "Toots" Sison, GM of Sugarland Hotel, the 3rd FIESTA will be held at Bacolod Convention Plaza Hotel on Sept. 29 to Oct. 1, with the theme: "One Step Ahead, Creating a Competitive Edge."
FIESTA 2005 features business sessions on topics ranging from financing and brand marketing to wellness and franchising, all designed to propel Negros’ food industry forward. The much-awaited culinary competition, named for Conchita Cuenca, is expanded to include new categories. And throughout the three-day conference there will be cooking demonstrations and product presentations as well as exhibit booths for the latest equipment and supplies in the cooking industry.
An exciting event is a gala dinner, a culinary concert by three well-known chefs, who will prepare and cook their new creations before the dinner patrons—certainly a unique interactive dinner that is sure to give food yet another facet.