Here’s an update that I have a distinct pleasure writing about.

It was only some six months ago that I wrote about Auro Chocolates, a business set up by the young entrepreneurial tandem of Kelly Go and Mark M. Ocampo. Their vision was to create a premium line of Philippine-made chocolates, championing the criollo porcelana, an heirloom cacao variety that’s grown in the Davao area, and recognized globally by chocolate connoisseurs. I even recommended the Auro Chocolates to some retail outlets and Kultura, for one, took me up on the suggestion, and are happy they now carry the brand. In a recent post on its Facebook page, I read the chocolates are now a staple on selected PAL flights.

A few weeks ago I got a message from Kelly, excited about their new project — Beyond Bean to Bar, a chocolate-infused dinner that was to happen at The Peninsula Manila’s Old Manila. In more ways than one, the dinner was their version of corporate social responsibility (CSR), calling attention to the plight of our cacao farmers and in particular, helping a cooperative of growers, who are their regular suppliers, in the Calinan district of Davao City.

“Recruited” to create this special dinner were Chele Gonzalez of Gallery Vask, Josh Boutwood of The Test Kitchen, Allan Briones of Old Manila and The Peninsula Manila executive pastry chef Xavier Castello. Special guests for the night were Rolando “Sarge” Bueno and his wife, Evelyn.




A retired military man, Sarge heads the cooperative of growers, which was also the beneficiary for the night. Announced that night was the initiative of “adopting” a cacao tree. For a price that roughly translates to P5,000, you can adopt a tree for a year, and receive two kilos of chocolate as part of the “payback.” In the meantime, you’ve helped these farmers raise money for growing, maintaining and harvesting their trees.

If you visit the farm in Davao, they’ll even show you the tree and the signage that bears your name. It’s all part and parcel of doing our bit in preserving this treasured but endangered heirloom variety.

As for the dinner, it was truly special. One of my highlights was the Mahi and Mole of Chele, which that was garnished with upo seeds, cacao nibs, coriander and citrus. It was a refreshing first course that set a high mark for what was to come. I also wanted to take home the cinnamon chocolate duck breast by Allan, where the duck sat on a thin plank of charred pineapple, topped with a cashew mousseline and toasted coconut.

And if we were to award prizes for creativity and presentation, pastry chef Xavier would have gotten my nod for his milk cocoa streusel with coconut cream and pineapple confit, which came shaped like a coconut, with the cream and pineapple confit stored within.

Guests Anton Barretto, Tessa Alindogan, Paloma Zobel and Tessa Prieto-Valdes were visibly in love with the food. Meanwhile, I had the fortune of sitting right across Sarge and Evelyn. For Sarge, it was a special treat seeing the cacao they grew, transformed not just into chocolate bars, but as ingredients for the dishes being set in front of him. As Kelly and Mark called on him to give a little speech, he was moved as he talked about the kind of reception he was receiving, and the kuwentohe would have for his fellow growers back in Calinan, Davao City.


Unjieng, Philippine Star (2017, December 31) 'Chocolate' Social Responsibility.