WHEN we were young and even grown-ups, we keep on patronizing "imported chocolates" believing it has better quality than the ones produced locally.
But gone are those days, thanks to the local chocolate industry prime movers for proving that Philippine chocolates can be at par or even can go beyond the quality of international chocolates.
Talking about Philippine chocolates, on top is the Davao's very own Malagos Chocolate, single origin, 100 percent pure all natural fine flavour chocolate that is truly "tree-to-bar."
The Malagos Chocolate journey and its efforts in helping the Philippines to land a spot in the world chocolate map and agriculture scene have been bearing its fruits.
Probably, 2015 is the year for Malagos Chocolate as it received back to back recognition from two international award-winning bodies.
"Philippine-made chocolates can be elevated to world-class standards, and we want our victory to be shared to our countrymen especially to Davaoenos," said Charita P. Puentespina, cacao farmer, chocolate maker and owner of the Malagos Agri-Ventures Corp., the company that churned out the award-winning chocolates.
Malagos chocolates' recent success was the Silver Prize of the Malagos 65% Dark Chocolate given by this year's International Chocolate Awards' World Drinking Chocolate Competition in Germany last month. The International Chocolate Awards is the world's only fully independent international fine chocolate competition.
In April of this year, the Academy of Chocolate in London gave Malagos Premium 100% Unsweetened Chocolate the Bronze Award for the Best Unflavored Drinking Chocolate.
These recent recognitions add up to the first international award, the "best product" given by the Asean Best Food Products Recognition Awards to Malagos Chocolate during the Asean Food Conference 2013 in Singapore.
The chocolate, which was commercially launched in June 2013 were made from the ethically grown and processed cacao beans that have been carefully graded, fermented and solar-dried in the Puentespina Cacao Farm in Malagos, Baguio District, Davao City.
The farm covers 24 hectares of land with a diversified setup, growing a Grade A Trinitario cacao beans, a crossbreed between Criollo and Forastero and a variety of flowers and fruits, raise goats and make artisan cheese.
"Davao is blessed with vast area suitable for agriculture and farming, with the very fertile land, well-distributed rainfall and typhoon-free, probably Davao or Mindanao as a whole is the best area for agriculture," Puentespina said in her speech Friday in the recently-concluded 3rd Davao Investment Conference 2015 at the SMX Convention Center. She was invited as a speaker to share their chocolates' story.
"At Malagos, we believe good chocolates come from quality cacao beans. We make our chocolates from Tree to Bar through the efforts of many people. The entire process of planting, growing, fermentation, drying, sorting, roasting & production of the chocolate is done right on our farm, giving our products a more distinctive and pronounced taste," she said.
Puentespina cacao beans are produced in the foothills of Mount Talomo, where the land is teeming with fruit crops.
The land is rich with fertile soil and characterized with favorable climate, just right to give the cacao trees an ideal condition to produce beans.
The Puentespina's Grade A cacao beans are from Trinitario - a hybrid of Forastero & Criollo.
"In addition to our own harvest of cacao beans, we closely work with and source from around 40 to a hundred small farmers in the area. They supply us with wet beans that come from their small landholdings," she said.
The company also partnered with the Mars Cocoa Sustainability Team and established Mars Cocoa Development Center which served as a place for their partner farmers to learn good agricultural practices in cacao farming. The partnership had paved way for the cacao player to learn how to process export quality.
Malagos chocolates products are Malagos 100% Pure Unsweetened Chocolate, 65% Dark Chocolate, and Roasted Cacao Nibs.
Malagos Chocolate was also the recipient of the first Davao Business Awards during the 3rd Davao Investment Conference. The award was given on the last day of the three-day event (November 6, 2015) organized by the Davao City Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Inc. (DCCCII).
Meanwhile, Davao City is positioned to be the country's cacao capital. Cacao is one of the priority commodities identified by the Department of Agriculture.
At present, the country has 23,000 hectares of cacao producing area, 21,000 hectares of which are in Mindanao.
A total of 10,000 to 12,000 metric tons (MT) is recorded as the country's annual production, 3,000 MT of which is allocated for exportation.
Davao City has a total of 16,000 farmers devoted to cacao covering a total of 6,000 has.