Celebrating Davao’s chocolates

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/13 September) — Exactly seven days ago, I was bugging a Filipino friend who lives in Vietnam to meet another Filipino friend who was visiting there to buy me Marou chocolate bars to hand-carry back to Davao.

Planning logistics and communicating in Facebook felt so complicated that I almost felt like I was involved in a military operation. It was all in the name of Vietnam-made chocolates.

I didn’t have to go through all the hassle, really. I didn’t have to bother my friends to meet each other, really.

Because the kind of chocolates that I’m having a craving for (dark, rich, and creamy) are actually grown, processed, and sold in my own backyard. Not literally.13choco

I learned about this during the first Davao Chocolate Festival held in the Annex of SM City Davao; the event, which celebrated all things chocolate about the city and the region, opened last Friday and will run until September 14.

Demos, competitions, and lectures on chocolate making, and lectures on cacao processing and history are slated throughout the weekend. Cacao farmers and chocolate makers have also set up booths in the event area so that mall goers can indulge in chocolate bars (and information).

The sweet Davao potential

In her speech, Ma. Belenda Ambi, Department of Trade and Industry Davao Region officer-in-charge expressed her delight in the event and where it may lead to.

“The festival is only befitting because the Davao Region happens to be the biggest cacao producer in the country,” Ambi said. She detailed that the Davao Region accounts for 70% of the cacao produced in the country. “We are trying to position Davao as the primary producer, not only of cacao beans, but also of value added products in cacao.”

Ambi furthered that cacao is one of the major products that being prioritized in the country right now. “To make cacao a Mindanao brand product is a priority under the Mindanao Development Plan,” she said, adding that 90% of cacao is in this side of the country. “In the Davao Region, the cacao industry is considered to be one of the 15 priority sectors for development.”

She saw the festival as a good start for the industry. “Let’s keep up this initiative and let’s see our cacao grow and make Davao to become the primary region for the cacao industry,” she said.

Cacao Industry Development Association of Mindanao Inc. (Cidami) executive director Val Turtur proudly acknowledged the potential of the industry based on where it stands right now. “Many people are not aware that Davao is directly exporting cacao beans and cocoa-based products to US chocolate maker Askinosie. They use raw materials from Davao!”

Lifestyle picks

During the festival, I overwhelmed myself with a ton of chocolates. These came in the form of bars, bonbons, drinks, and other sweet treats. There were also chocolate soaps and lip products.

Theo and Philo, the Manila chocolate brand that I highly worship was there in complete variants/flavors. Adobo-infused chocolate bars? That’s not a surprise to me. I’ve had their chocolates with calamansi, green mango and salt, and barako coffee. What came as a surprise to me was that they’re actually sold in Davao through a Human Nature reseller in Plaza Del Carmen, A. Loyola Street in Obrero.

Chocolates from Kablon Farms (all the way from Barangay Kablon, Tupi in South Cotabato) came in affordable and pocket-sized bars. Some were sweet. Others were spicy. And some also had cacao nibs.13choco2

The Chocolate Bean offered handmade chocolate creations from Davao cacao beans that were dainty, pretty, and fit for a princess like me. Visit TheChocolateBeanDavao.com.

My ultimate discovery for that day was the chocolate bars by Coco Dolce. Their staff was generously giving out samples in their booth and it didn’t take long before I bought a bar myself. Coco Dolce is manufactured by The Freefood Coconut Manufacturing Company in (surprise surprise) Barangay Binugao Toril, Davao City! Each bar was rich and creamy and at par with American chocolate brands.

I’ll postpone my meeting with Marou from Vietnam because I’m having a love affair with Davao chocolates now. (Jesse Pizarro Boga/MindaNews)