THE International Bazaar Foundation’s International Bazaar 2019 (now on its 53rd year) has a unique proposition: shop — and help bolster international relations at the same time.

BusinessWorld attended a preview of the bazaar’s offerings at the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) on Oct. 24. The Bazaar itself will be held on Nov. 24, from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. at PICC Forums 1, 2, and 3. Tickets are sold at P150 and donor cards for P250. The tickets are available at Tesoro’s in Makati, at the Special Projects Unit of the old DFA building, and at the PICC gate on the day of the bazaar.

There will be 216 booths at the bazaar, representing 37 embassies and seven consulates. The Philippines will be offering horn accessories from Silnag and textiles from Habi and Kalakal, among other treats like Malagos chocolate.

The Indian embassy showed off jewelry and textiles, and Indonesia’s booth showed off batik items. The booths from both Australia and Argentina showcased snacks and wine. Spain’s booth showed off preserves and wine (a popular choice), while Switzerland’s booth offered chocolate, a fast-selling item during the bazaar.

The International Bazaar Foundation is traditionally headed by the spouse of the Secretary of the DFA, a space now occupied by Maria Lourdes Locsin, wife of Secretary Teodoro “Teddyboy” Locsin, Jr.

“I think what is different is that I have made it my mission to convince more of the foreign embassies to participate, number one,” said Mrs. Locsin. “Number two, is to talk to them and encourage them to lower their prices because I don’t want to appeal only to the market that’s on the high end.”

Asked how her committee curated the items for sale, Mrs. Locsin said that aside from accepting applications, they have also invited bazaar mainstays which are singled out by her staff when they attend bazaars around the country.

As for the booths from the other nations, she said, “The embassies have gone out of their way, like the way Australia has. They’ve contacted traders.”

The bazaar’s primary purpose is charity: among its beneficiaries this year are 41 scholars in colleges and universities in Metro Manila; the Ayala Foundation; Habi; Pilak Silvercraft; Our Lady of Peace Hospital; the Bogo, Cebu Provincial Hospital; the Missionaries of Charity; the Little Sisters of the Poor; Pasay city feeding programs; Steps Mission Foundation; and Sayaw Foundation.

However, is it also possible that the bazaar is a way to improve international relations? Mrs. Locsin agrees. “It does, because the wives are active.”

“When we come to meetings and we do activities, whatever conflicts there are, or disagreements, are forgotten; left outside the door, and we enjoy ourselves,” she said. “It helps our husbands also, because when we get to exchange ideas, you get to know the opinions of whatever country you’re talking to.”

Mrs. Locsin should have said it with a wink: She told BusinessWorld, “As they always say, the wives do have a different network, sometimes more effective.” — Joseph L. Garcia