Our ultimate guide on Filipino-made chocolates for Valentine’s Day

Published February 10, 2021, 1:27 PM

by John Legaspi

This time of pandemic, make your February a love affair with local chocolates

Apart from being the season of love, February is also a month that celebrates everyone’s favorite treat—the chocolate. The dark, sweet, or bitter dessert that comes in a heart-shaped box has long been associated with Valentine’s Day, which started as a marketing strategy by British scion Richard Cadbury in the 1840s, according to History. Soon enough, it became among the popular icons for the holiday that even science steps in to prove its purpose, from being a food that is good for the heart to being an aphrodisiac.

Chocolate has been a significant part of the Philippines’ culture and history. A story by the Department of Foreign Affairs tells that our association with it dates back to 1670. According to the text in “Historia de Filipinas” by P. Fr. Gaspar de S. Augustin, cacao plants were first brought in that year to the country by a pilot named Pedro Brabo. He gave them to Bartolome Brabo, a priest in Camarines, and from that point on, chocolate has been part of the country’s culinary tradition.

But just like in other cultures, Filipinos see chocolate as a food that symbolizes endearment, and goes beyond its Valentine’s Day purpose. It is a gift brought back home by overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) for loved ones to cherish. Though we’ve been blessed with humble chocolate treats from every sari-sari store, enjoying the Ferreros and Toblerones is way for them to erase the long time they’ve been apart.

These days, with the rise of the Filipino cacao industry, chocolates now serve as a symbol of achievement for the nation. With Davao City being honored as the chocolate and cacao production capital of the country last year, it goes to prove that while “life is a box of chocolates” and that “you’ll never know what you’re going to get,” a life with chocolates always assures a happy feeling even during a hopeless situation like the pandemic.

This Hearts Month, The Manila Bulletin puts a spotlight on Philippine chocolate brands and asks them what products Filipinos should try this Valentine’s Day, and why it is important to support local chocolates.

People should patronize local products (not just chocolates) because it’s the best way to help each other especially in this time. Supporting local businesses means you also help keep people employed and also help provide income for local farmers.—Arvin Peralta, owner chocolatier of Hiraya Chocolates

What Hiraya Chocolates products to try?

We want the readers to try our limited edition chocolates featured in our collaboration with Jo Claravall. These flavors were made especially for this season: dark chocolate with “queso de bola” and Himalayan salt, dark chocolate with peanut cookies, and dark chocolate with mango, pineapple, and ginger.

Hiraya Chocolates’ collaboration products with Jo Claravall

It is very important for Filipinos themselves to patronize homegrown brands as they are a vital part of the economy. Local brands play an important role in supporting and providing livelihood to many communities.—Louise Par, marketing supervisor of Auro Chocolate

What Auro Chocolate products to try?

For milk chocolate lovers, we highly recommend 50 percent Regalo Single-Varietal Dark Milk Chocolate. If s/he prefers dark chocolate, our Reserve Collection Gift Box would be a great match! What makes our Reserve Collection special is that we treat it like wine and each bar is crafted from the finest beans of a single harvest to bring out the rare, distinctive characteristics of each community and their land.

Auro Chocolate’s products

When you choose local, especially during challenging times, you help sustain businesses and jobs, and more importantly, you give hope and encouragement. That you believe in the local industry and are showing your support. At the same time, we hope that when you buy local, you will be proud of the excellence in quality of the product you bought and that you are part of making that excellent product.—Pamela Lim Cinco, founder of Risa Chocolates

What Risa Chocolates products to try?

I suggest they try a combination of our chocolate bars to have a fun and delicious experience, especially during this Valentine’s Day. They can do a combination of any of the following: 70 percent South Cotabato Dark Chocolate, Brown Butter Milk Chocolate, and Pastillas de Pili. Or for those who want more adventure in their chocolate, go for our Bacon Chili Chocolate and our Coffee Chocolate!

Risa chocolate bars

I think local chocolates are great not just for the economy in general but also because local chocolates have more heart. Most local chocolates are handcrafted by passionate individuals who are in it for the love of chocolates. Compared to imported chocolates that are mostly churned out by big impersonal corporations, local handmade chocolates have more character and are more unique. You can sense the personality behind each local chocolate, and it’s a lot more interesting and fun to discover all those locally-crafted chocolates.—Philo Chua, owner of Theo + Philo

What Theo + Philo products to try?

“I suggest our readers try our chocolate nut butter spreads. I think they’re a lot of fun to eat,” says Philo. “They’re family friendly and can also be sexy (lick the spoon anyone?), if that’s what’s called for!”

Theo + Pili chocolate and nut spreads

Tigre Y Oliva is a brand that pushes boundaries, we are playful and innovative, creative yet attuned to our craft but most importantly we are a brand who highlights the best Philippine cacao. We are a bean-to-bar brand not only producing single origin chocolates but we have come full circle also incorporating our chocolate in our fresh goods line. We have realized like grapes and wine, cacao depending on the soil, terrain, and climate take on a unique flavor profile. We are currently supporting local farms, sourcing our beans from different farmers in Davao, Bohol, and Cotabato in which you will taste the different notes in each of the bars. It is important for our brand to continue to support and help these communities and farmers, and to bring forth the best of what the Philippines has to offer.—Pamela Picazo, Tigre Y Oliva

What Tigre Y Oliva products to try?

We highly suggest to try our dark single origin chocolate bars. We currently have three variants on hand which is Talandang, Sta. Maria, and Tupi. Our two lighter and milder variants, the Dark Milk and Coconut Milk, are for those who are looking something creamier and more attuned to classic chocolate profile. Our best-sellers are the Dulce Gatas Bombs, pralines filled with a delightful surprise in each bite with our homemade Dulce Gatas.

Tigre Y Oliva’s Talandang, Buenavista, Tupi, and Sta. Maria chocolate bars

The pandemic highlights two very important reasons to patronize Coco Dolce or other local chocolates with similar health and fair trade business models. (1) During and also after pandemic, consumers need more than ever to be more health conscious and consume more immunity boosting ingredients which are found in Coco Dolce. Our chocolates are made with “superfoods” or ingredients known to boost immunity levels. (2) Patronizing local brands like Coco Dolce is very good for the Philippines since this significantly uplifts the lockdown-devastated economy and lends crucial support to local companies that have community and fair trade centric business models. Supporting us and other fair trade-centric brands help lower poverty and unemployment levels with local farmers and workers and make a tremendous positive difference in the lives of their families.—Petteri Makitalo, owner of Coco Dolce

What Coco Dolce products to try:

We suggest the readers try our yummy Coco Dolce chocolate bars which come in five classic flavors; dark, dark chili, milk, milk pili nut, and milk rice crisp. All of our chocolates are made using healthy and natural ingredients sourced from farm communities in Mindanao.

Coco Dolce chocolate bars