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Negros Occidental Governor Eugenio Jose V. Lacson (center)receives the first copy of “Sugar & Smiles: The Negrense Legacy Beyond 2020” from the coffee table book project team: co- publisher Gen Tomas, marketing director Tere Manalili, executive editor Albert Gamboa, and project director Benjie Torre (l-r) at the Capitol in Bacolod City today.* Ronnie Baldonado photo

Bacolod City, Dec. 1 – A pioneering coffee table book titled Sugar & Smiles: The Negrense Legacy Beyond 2020 was unveiled yesterday at the main activity center of Ayala Malls Capitol Central. The book launch coincided with the 158th birth anniversary of national hero Andres Bonifacio, known as the Father of the 1896 Philippine Revolution.

This 320-page heirloom collectible was published by a group of Negrenses consisting of copublishers Gen Tomas and Joey Montalvo, project director Benjie Torre, marketing director Tere Manalili, and executive editor Albert Gamboa. They produced the first-ever coffee table book about Negros Occidental together with 30 writers and creative staff.

A portion of the proceeds from the project was given to the Kalipay Negrense Foundation, which was founded in 2007 by Anna Claparols Balcells primarily to rescue abused and abandoned children of Negros.

Responding on behalf of the beneficiary, Balcells expressed her “hope that through this book, we will be reminded that the key to our future is in the children who, as future Negrense citizens, will carve out their own paths ensuring that our legacy lives on.”

Manalili recounted how the priviately-initiated book project started. She also acknowledged the local government units and private companies that supported the editorial board whose “primary motivation in making this noble project possible is our passion for our craft..”

Artist Edbon Sevilleno being presented an award by the Sugar and Smiles Project Team for his excellent paintings for the book.

Torre likened the book to “a symphony of stories that echo the names of people who made a mark in our history.” He believes that Negrenses are full of hope and will always overcome obstacles ranging from past tragedies to the present pandemic.

Gamboa traced the origins of the book project, which took more than two years to complete due to the quarantine lockdowns. He said “the book celebrates the lives of heroes from the Republic of Negros up to the current fight of our frontliners against COVID-19.”

Tomas shared that “coming up with this book at a time of pandemic is an outstanding statement about Negrenses’ resilience and cooperation.” He commented that the people of Negros Occidental finally have a book they can call their own and be proud of.

The book’s main chapters were written by historians Modesto Sa-onoy and Roque Hofileña; lawyers Rayboy Pandan and Eli Gatanela; culturati Cecilia Locsin-Nava and Lloyd Tronco; chefs Richard Ynayan and Mia Lizares-Gonzaga; regional tourism director Christine Mansinares; and advertising executive Nikki Golez.

One of Edbon Sevilleno's paintings for the book showing the Negros Occidental Provincial Capitol.

Simultaneous with the book launch was the opening of the Sugar & Smiles art exhibit,featuring the watercolor paintings of illustrator Edbon Sevilleno that served as the book’s chapter dividers. For more details, go to www.sugarandsmiles.ph.

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