OK Bikol Trade Fair: Providing a Niche for Bikol Products

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By: Imelda T. Cabañes

The Orgullo Kan Bikol Regional Trade Fair indeed has gone a long, long way. And every step of the way it has made its over-reaching goal to promote the distinct products of the region in the national and international market. Every year, Bicol’s unique and diverse products find center stage through the OK Bikol Trade Fair at the SM Megamall in Mandaluyong City. Product focus includes home furnishings, giftware and holiday décor, wearables, fresh and processed food products, organic and natural products, cutlery and furniture.

“Orgullo Kan Bikol” has since evolved into “OK Bikol” a fitting name to a project which has transformed Bicolano MSMEs into direct and indirect exporters, contributing significantly to the region’s socio-economic growth.

Counting the gains

We are now, therefore, counting our gains.

In terms of sales, some P92.60 million pesos were generated since its inception which in many ways perked up the business transactions in the region. This figure does not include the sales generated after the staging of the fair. It has also contributed much to job generation in the countryside.

Relative to this, DTI Region V tapped the services of local designers to assist the OK Bikol participants in developing new designs, aside from the resident designer from the Product Development and Design Center of the Philippines (PDDCP). Recognizing the important role of designers, DTI organized the Bicol Designers Association, Inc. (BIDEAS) last year. All the members are currently under contract with DTI in its product development program.

“BIDEAS was organized by DTI Region V to assist Bicolano entrepreneurs who are joining the OK Bikol Trade Fair to come up with new and trendy products to be exhibited for order taking by institutional buyers”, DTI-Bicol Regional Director Jocelyn L.B. Blanco bared.

This year’s OK Bikol was considered very significant since for the first time it showcased the untapped raw materials abundantly found in the region which can be transformed into beautiful and artistic novelty products. These raw materials include tikiw, salago, pagokpok and sorghum.

CARP Beneficiaries are OK Bikol’s clients

This year, 43 Agrarian Reform Communities (ARCs) with a total of 428 beneficiaries joined the OK Bikol Fair. These CARP beneficiaries are also given full-cycle business assistance until they graduate to become regular clients of DTI (meaning without CARP assistance). From this level, they are groomed to be qualified to the prestigious annual National Trade Fair and eventually to international trade expositions.

Fact is, a number of CARP beneficiaries have already graduated to become DTI regular clients and about three became participants to the National Trade Fair, one of whom went all the way to the International Food Exposition (IFEX).

Youth Entrepreneurship Program for Students (YEPS)

Another sector benefiting from the OK Bikol Trade Fair is the student sector. Since the year 2000, students from the Bicol University were allowed to participate, through the Youth Entrepreneurship Program for Students (YEPS) of DTI–Albay Provincial Office, in coordination with the Bicol University College of Entrepreneurship. Believed to be the next generation businessmen of the region, graduating students are given the rare chance of experiencing how it is to be in real business. A special program package was initially conceptualized by DTI-Albay for these students to make sure they will truly appreciate how it is to be in business someday.

Ateneo De Naga University and Camarines Sur State Agricultural College (CSSAC) are of late the new clients of DTI under this program. As no mean feat, the “Tatak Atenista” of Ateneo De Naga qualified to participate in the International Food Exposition (IFEX) in 2006 in the Retailers Zone. Students this early are exposed to actual marketing which is truly a stepping stone for future business ventures. And two groups of Ateneo graduates who put up their own business were proud participants to the OKB 2008 – Sweetven Enterprises and Choco Naga Enterprises.

The OK Bikol Association, Inc.

To keep pace with the changing times, DTI Region V organized the OK Bikol Association to be its private sector partner. Registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) last September 15, 2006, this association will eventually become the frontrunners of OK Bikol Regional Trade Fair in the next years, although DTI will still be very much around to support this activity.

Determined to make this association succeed, the newly elected officers, have already drawn their projects for next year as they work on strengthening their membership. Initially, the members are the participants to the OK Bikol Regional Trade Fair but the association is open to other MSMEs who are willing to be members and avail of the benefits derived from an association.

OK BIKOL partners with GAYON BIKOL

Since last year, the Department of Tourism (DOT) has become a partner of the DTI. With this tandem, “OK Bikol back to back with Gayon Bikol” has drawn a lot of people to the fair. Tour destinations and the rich cultural heritage of Bicolandia were highlighted which indeed brought to the fore the beauty and bounty of the region.

Much remains to be done

As we have counted our gains, much still has to be done for Bicol to move steadily forward on the road to progress. ‘A continuing partnership of all concerned sectors is much needed. It is heartening to note that our partners in development have taken worthy steps to strengthen the collaboration. As the partnership moves toward more substantial outcomes, we remain optimistic that the gains of our Orgullo will remain to be our pride.’

Mabuhay an Bicol!

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