Back to Our Roots: Produkto Lokal Artisanal Fair

It still feels like yesterday. I was just done sending my article for Tech Times. Happy to let my laptop rest, I rolled in to bed with my phone on Spotify. I was deep into my Latin jam when the music stopped as my phone rang, I just got a dinner invite from my colleagues in my previous NGO.

It has been a while since I took part in nation-building. I did miss being with like-minded people. The air feels different when your with people who share your’re love for the country. Friendships built on shared ideals are the most life-giving.

There was no way I’d say no.

Just when I was expecting food, I arrived in a table filled with laptops and notebooks. I was welcomed to Produkto Lokal.

In the next days and months, I found myself lost along with a bunch of energetic and passionate people who wanted to do something good but who don’t really know what to do.

We travelled, attended events, reflected, drank beer, and ate pizza. It felt like soul-searching—as a group. The images are still vivid in my mind. It was a breezy afternoon in Boracay when we came across a vacant lot enclosed by wire – saved for its small entrance.

Wooden tables and chairs were topped with bottles of home-made dips, pastas, desserts, and other savoury delights.

People were flocking to try novel food. On the other side of the space, guys were chilling with beer in hand.

Standing at the booths were the people who prepared the food themselves. They were more than happy to talk about their recipe.

Weeks before we went to Boracay was Dinagyang 2016. Escaping the crowd, we went to a shack in San

The small hut is bursting with colorful artisanal items.

Scattered on the floor outside the hat were Belle Gaitan’s pouches made special by prints of photos taken by her beau.

Hanged on the door were paintings by Pearl Diano. The window was occupied by Anna J.’s fashion pieces. Dreamcatchers, hand-made jewelry, and home decors where everywhere.

The place was a breath of fresh-air from the commonly marketed “Made in Iloilo” products. Consumed by wanderlust, our little group was led to Lambunao and Miagao. We met farmers who were earning little for their produce. We saw good products in messy packaging that were only being bought by the seller’s neighbors. There was so much untapped potential in the grassroots.

Our little explorations bore fruit when we finally pieced together the idea of bringing together artists and crafters to celebrate Ilonggo ingenuity. On March 2016, we had the first-ever Produkto Lokal.

The response of the Ilonggos was overwhelming. The pavilion was filled. Exhibitors were getting sold out halfway through the fair. Produkto Lokal was something Iloilo City needed.

When the first Produkto Lokal was over, we received love calls left in right to have the fair in certain venues. Local business were eager to join the fair.

Going with the momentum, we took advantage of opportunities to sustain and develop the fair into a venture.

Fair after fair came. We learned to professionalize the event. We strived to become more organized. We studied ways improve everyone’s experience of the fair.

Behind the scenes we argued on the direction of PL. We became anxious whether each upcoming fair will be as good as the previous ones. We received good and bad reviews and we became critical of ourselves.

But at the end of every fair. We were thankful for the gift of friendship and community.

Sometime in 2017, we started preparing for the Ten Accomplished Youth Organizations, a national competition for youth-led organizations.

In our TAYO journey, we were asked several questions. How does our organization harness the spirit of volunteerism? What is our impact in the community? How do we encourage creativity?

During the final week of TAYO, we met other organizations who are just as passionate and as energetic as we are. We’ve witnessed the inspiring story of Tanay Mountaineers who work to protect the endangered Cloud Rat the can only be found in the country. We came across Bangsamoro Youth Leaders who are developing and empowering young people amidst the chaos in Mindanao.

These experience led us to step back and look at the big picture. Are we here to just make each fair better than the previous one? Do we measure our impact on the size of the crowd, the quality of venue, or the number of exhibitors?

This year, we talked about becoming more than a fair. Produkto Lokal was conceptualized to contribute to nation-building and to uplift the grassroots.

Right now, we are still on our journey of rediscovering our purpose.

This March, we are going back to our roots through a more intimate fair that sheds the light on our original exhibitors: the artists and crafters.

On March 17 and 18, 2018 – we are also coming up with a special line-up of events to compliment this more sentimental weekend.

Once again, we hope that the Ilonggos can join us at the Mango Tree Restaurant from 10 am to 8 pm.