• MARY ANN, CHRISTINA, JOJIE, AND CATHY AND THEIR BACOLOD

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    With Bacolod as its center of trade and commerce, the long years of affluence and abundance brought about by the sugar industry has made the Bacoleno a lover of the good life. However, when world sugar prices plummeted in the 1980s, the economy of Negros took a turn in a major life-changing way.

    It was during this time that fifteen Negrense women summoned prayers and their natural entrepreneurial flair to organize the House of Negros Foundation. This paved the way for the founding of the Association of Negros Producers, which has contributed extensively to alleviating the plight of more than 150,000 displaced workers, with whom the women shared their skills.

    As Board Members of the Association of Negros Producers, Mary Ann Colmenares, Christina Gaston, Cathy Sicangco-Hagad, and Jojie Locsin have helped transform what could have been a tragedy to a story of hope and resilience. As creative entrepreneurs, they have not only showcased the best of Negros products to the world, but have provided livelihood to thousands of Negrenses.

    Mary Ann Colmenares, who is currently the ANP President, was one of the pioneers in the manufacturing of ceramics. Her company, Anaware Ventures, Inc. was awarded the Golden Shell Awards in 1998 and has since diversified its product lines to produce items made of mixed media materials combined with indigenous materials.

    Christina Gaston, ANP Chairwoman of the Board, is the Managing Director and Senior Designer of Hacienda Crafts, a haven of ingeniously crafted home accents mostly made of reusable natural materials like coconut tree twigs, as well a coconut wood, buri, abaca, and capiz shells.

    Cathy Sicangco-Hagad and her husband Felix manufacture contemporary wood and metal furniture and furnishings through their company, Art Energy. With function, design, aesthetics, and ergonomics as their design parameters, they export their products to the USA, Japan, the Middle East, Italy, and China.

    Jojie Locsin is the CEO and owner of Tumandok Craft Industries, a dynamic handicraft company that specializes in the making of resin-laminated, indigenous materials-based home products for the local and export market.

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    At the My City, My SM launch at SM City Bacolod: The Ruins owner Mr. Raymund Javellana and Board Members of the Association of Negros Producers Cathy Sicangco-Hagad, Christina Gaston, Jojie Locsin and Mary Ann Colmenares with  Vice Mayor Jude Thaddeus Sayson, Cong. Anthony Golez Jr., SM’s Ms. Millie Dizon, Ms. Marissa Fernan, and Mr. Danny Chavez.

    With their collective creative energy, zest for life, and love for their hometown, Mary Ann, Christina, Cathy, and Jojie make excellent guides to take us on a visual tour around their Bacolod, their SM.

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    The Mansions of Silay, a place known as the little Paris of Negros Occidental: the Victor Fernandez Gaston ancestral house, also known as Balay Negrense, the Teodoro Morada Ancestral House and the Manuel Severino Hofilena ancestral house

    Philippine Daily Inquirer: What do you like best about Bacolod?

    Mary Ann: “I like Bacolod because it has retained its old world charm while keeping abreast in the latest in the global context.”

    Christina: “I like Bacolod’s wide open spaces, wide roads, as well as its people who work together for a common cause. I like the fact that personal relationships still count in Bacolod.”

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    Mary Ann Colmenares, Christina Gaston, Cathy Sicangco Hagad, and Jojie Locsin at the ANP showroom. The Silver Tiangge coffee table book in celebration of ANP’s 25th anniversary.

    Cathy: “Bacolod is my hometown, and it’s a very good place to raise a family – its relatively safe and traffic isn’t congested. Although it does not have all the amenities of a big city, it has just enough – like the SM Mall – to enjoy the city life.”

    Jojie: “Bacolod has a very good road network that allows faster mobility when traversing the city. Our city is the most competitive and livable mid-sized city and is a national hall of fame awardee for the cleanest and greenest highly urbanized city in the Philippines.”

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    The Ruins is the burnt mansion of Don Mariano Ledesma Lacson, a structure, which he built in memory of his wife, Maria Braga, a Portuguese from Macau.  Abandoned and left isolated through the ravages of time, it was burnt during the eve of World War II, and today is the perfect venue for garden weddings and receptions, debuts, company outings, field trips, and concerts

    PDI: If you would bring tourists around Bacolod, where would you take them, aside from the Negros showroom, of course?

    Mary Ann: “I would take them on a cultural trip to the Negros Museum, the Ruins, as well as a tour around Silay City to see the century old houses which are still being lived in. Then, I would also let them see our natural attractions like the Mambucal Hot Springs, the beaches of Sipalay, Lacaon Island, Danjugan Sanctuary, and Canonoy Beach Resort. Of course, I would take them to the Negros Showroom and The Handmade Gallery for unique gifts to take home.

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    Mary Ann, Christina, Cathy and Jojie enjoy the view, good food, and conversation at The Ruins.

    Christina: “I’ll take them to The Ruins, a burned mansion which Raymund Javellana has transformed into a major tourist attraction. I would also give them a glimpse of how life was during the time of the sugar boom by taking them to the sugar mills and the ancestral homes like Balay Negrense, the Jalandoni house, the Gaston House and Balay ni ‘Tana Dicang. I would also take them to our churches and then the mountains for a spectacular view.”

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    Cathy and Mary Ann at Bob’s Restaurant at SM City Bacolod. Bob’s has been operating in Bacolod City for the last 45 years, and was started by Cathy’s parents, Dr. Homero R. Sicangco and Mrs. Conchita V. Sicangco.  Bob’s is basically a family restaurant which offers good food in a pleasant, clean and safe environment.  Popular offerings would be the Sate Babe, Boneless Bangus, Baby Back Ribs, the Fruit Punch which is still Cathy’s Lola Goyang’s recipe, and many more

    Cathy: “My family owns Bob’s Restaurant, which was started by my parents 45 years ago, so I’ll most probably take visitors on a culinary tour. Of course, I’ll let them taste Bob’s Sate Babe, Boneless Bangus, Baby Back Ribs, and the Fruit Punch, which is my Lola Goyang’s recipe. I’ll also take them on a food trip around Bacolod’s famous restaurants like Chicken House, Aboy’s, 21 Bar and Restaurant, Pepe’s, Pendy’s, and Kaisei. For a more authentic Bacolod eating experience, I would suggest Manokan Country for chicken inasal and Palapala for seafood.”

    Jojie: “I suppose as a tourist, one would be interested in history, culture, and the arts. Bacolod is rich in that. There’s the Negros Museum right at the heart of Bacolod, the San Sebastian Cathedral, and the highly popular The Ruins. Our new government center is a must-see, especially in the evenings.

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    SM City Bacolod is known as the Bacolod’s Mall of Asia.  Just as the latter has scenic Manila Bay as its backdrop, SM City Bacolod is very close to the Guimaras Strait

    PDI: How do you think SM has changed lifestyles in Bacolod?

    Mary Ann: “SM has given Bacolenos more and better choices for beauty, fashion, food, and the home. It has become a gathering place, a center of fellowship among Bacolenos. I would say that SM has positively affected lifestyles in the city because it has become a melting pot for all.”

    Christina: “SM has elevated lifestyles in Bacolod by giving customers more choice and options, by making available goods that could not be found here before, and by responding to the shifting needs and wants of the times.”

    Cathy: “Yes, SM has definitely changed lifestyles in Bacolod. I see a lot of families and friends spending quality time in the mall. I remember when there were no malls in Bacolod, one had to go to Manila, hoard things, and ship it to Bacolod. Now that SM is here, we can go shopping anytime. Plus the products it offers are endless.”

    Jojie: “The presence of SM in my city has brought families closer together as they get together in the mall to celebrate special occasions like birthdays and anniversaries. Going to the mall – shopping, watching movies, and eating out – is not only fun, but a form of fellowship.”

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    Jojie and Christina enjoy shopping at the SM Department Store in SM City Bacolod

    PDI: What do you like best about SM?

    Mary Ann: “I like everything about SM. I always do my regular grocery shopping at the supermarket, because it is a one-stop shop where I can find everything I need. Owing to my busy schedule, SM provides stress free and pleasurable shopping, and also provides value for money, especially with the Advantage Card.”

    Christina: “You can always find what you need at SM – be it at the department store, grocery, or hardware. I like the sprawling layout of SM Bacolod with its attention to detail and design. I like the fact that SM provides convenience to the customer through its services like bills payment, and that the SM staff is always courteous and friendly. SM’s partnering with associations like ANP not only acknowledges our work, but helps us in our advocacy to assist micro businesses and SMEs.”

    Cathy: “What I like about SM is that the malls are very well maintained. The buildings are very up to date, the interiors are very well thought of, lighting is pleasant, air conditioning is more than adequate, and the malls are clean. The staff is very well trained and the products, especially in the home section, are of good quality and reasonably priced. I like the fact that SM is in major cities in the Philippines, and wherever I go, I can be assured of the same standard of products and services in the SM malls and stores in the area.”

    Jojie: “What I like best about SM is that it is a one-stop shop where you can find everything you need. It is strategically located with ample parking space. It’s also a form of retail therapy – bumping into friends along the way relieves me from stress. Thank you, SM!”