Lifestyle

Chocolate Island

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Chocolates are a small but integral part of people’s lives. They can be unassuming yet also a symbol of a grand gesture. They come as a new experience or evoke memories of a time long past filled with flavors of nostalgia.

This segment of RMA News showcases the wonderful world of chocolates as it finds a renaissance in the Cebuano culture. New-world artisans craft the Visayan variant of the cacao, Criollo. Let’s explore and create sweet memories as the sun rises and sets here on this Chocolate Island.

Chocolate Queen Raises Awareness on Cacao Farming

Bringing back the love of cacao farming in the Philippines is the advocacy of the Chocolate Queen Raquel Choa. Her heart’s desire is to grow together as one with the community, so she collaborated with the various cooperatives to help bring back the life and dignity of cacao farmers.

“We encourage, we motivate them” these are the words of Raquel when I asked her on what support she gave to the cacao farmers. “I believe that support comes in different ways,” she added.

Back in 2011, Raquel collaborated and raised awareness on cacao farming with Lamac Multi-Purpose Cooperative (MPC) in Pinamungajan, Cebu which is now the biggest cacao nursery operator in the Visayas. She developed a cacao-inspired program of activities for Lamac MPC such as designing cacao tourism activities, exposure of Lamac MPC staff to TCC Academy on packaging and branding, development of products infused with Lamac MPC products and conducted a demo on baking to the youth facilitated by the Chocolate Princess Hannah.

Recently, Raquel is helping strengthen the cacao value chain and partnered with the First Consolidated Cooperative Along Tañon Seaboards (FCCT) in Tuburan, Cebu where she has an upcoming project on cacao farm tourism through CACAO Garden. Part of the collaboration with FCCT is the co-management of the cacao farm of Cacao de Filipinas Fellowship — the advocacy arm of The Chocolate Chamber (TCC) and Ralfe Gourmet. “One way of supporting the farmers is to allow them to use our farm”, Raquel said. The Chocolate Queen has a 3-hectare land where she allows the cacao farmers to use for their livelihood. The “Adopt a Farm” concept is a very noble deed from the Chocolate Queen to help the cacao farmers. Since TCC and FCCT shared a common goal, TCC grants a license to FCCT through a MOA on the use of Batirol (cacao-inspired kiosk). That made also TCC as the preferred buyer of FCCT cacao beans. “The Batirol kiosk can be found at the Cacao Garden in Balamban, Cebu and part of the activity is the “Chocolate in Canvas” where guests can experience chocolate painting while drinking their hot choco in the mountain,” Raquel said.

The Chocolate Queen also expands her collaboration to another cooperative in Asia together with her daughter Hannah, the “Chocolate Princess”. The two chocolate advocates visited the Keling Kumang Group (KKG) which is the second biggest cooperative in Sintang, Indonesia. There, Raquel was the resource speaker at the Youth International Summit two years ago which was attended by 134 delegates from different countries. She increased the awareness of cacao farming through a demonstration in Indonesia as an alternative to other commercial crops like palm and rubber. KKG plans to mobilize its 180,000 members to shift to cacao and engage in chocolate production in the artisanal way.

As a result of ASEAN collaboration, Raquel was able to conduct “Training of Trainers” with KKG Indonesia which was held in Cebu and Davao last year. Representatives from KKG Indonesia were able to visit the LMPC Cacao Nursery in Pinamungajan, Cebu and at Johnny Silva’s Farm in Baguio District in Davao.

“By sharing my knowledge and ideas in cacao farming through various speaking engagements and conducting demos, I am privileged enough to get the support of government agencies by patronizing our products, where they use it as tokens and likewise in the corporate world where they use our cacao essentials as corporate giveaways to their clientele,” Raquel said.

What’s in store in the future for TCC? The Chocolate Chamber will open its doors soon in Panglao, Bohol at Moadto Strip Mall and TCC’s tablea creations will be available at the National Museum in Manila. Raquel is also looking forward for the brand expansion in Guam and in Asia specifically in Singapore, Indonesia and Malaysia.

Try The Chocolate Chamber’s various cacao essentials and support the local production of chocolates. In this way, we will be able to help our local cacao farmers and give them a source of livelihood to support their families.

In the next series of “Chocolate Island,” RMA News will feature the “Chocolate Princess” who plays various roles aside from being the abled assistant of the Chocolate Queen. Let’s dig into her love of baking through her bread creations with a purpose.

 

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Robby Alugar

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