When in Rome, do what the Romans do

BY: Mel Santos

An old saying where no man should work on a Sunday may perhaps be true – to most. Here at Plantacion de Sikwate, we can’t help but answer even the smallest kinds of questions.

The other day, as the time stamp reflects, we were asked how to become a member. It is our calling to help. To listen and to inspire those who come our way.

We treat each and every person’s queries with confidentiality. Thank you for entrusting to us with your hopes and aspirations.

Thank you to our page admins who do not fail to help.

Well, we are FILIPINOS. We help each other. Anytime, any day. The only Roman in us is that we love chocolates.

“Carob was very famous in ancient Rome. This is comparable to the cocoa and is also used for chocolate-like flavors. The Carob was introduced to the Romans by the ancient Greeks. In fact, the evolution of the Roman diet was highly influenced by the Greeks whose culinary skills were more advanced than the ancient Romans.” (source)

Should you want to become a member of PDS, CLICK THE LINK /

Because Helping Never Stops

Good Day! Thank you for watching our TV guesting at Everyday Goodwill with our newest PDS member and Friend of PDS Maria Teresa Cancio last Tuesday. It is with pride and joy that the livestream video at Inquirer 990AM reached an impressive 659 views! Just last Tuesday evening, Ms. Cacao told me that an initial 358 viewers tuned in. Thank you to those who watched.

I rested the entire Wednesday even if I really wanted to pay a visit to a cacao farm in Nueva Ecija. The intense thunderstorms prevented me from pushing through but I got to talk with the farm owner Mr. Oscar Paragas and listened about his intent to plant 36,000 seedlings of the Heirloom cacao variety.

Today, as I woke up Ms. Cacao to greet her a Happy Birthday, I prepared another farm visit schedule closer to home in Marilao. Met with Bong Gonzales’ Farm Manager Raffy Herrera. Bong is our PDS Affiliated Farm owner in Brgy. Caysio, Sta. Maria, Bulacan. With me is Ka Isme of the Pangkat Kaunlaran of DZMM’s Usaping Agrikultura sa Kabukiran.

The days away from the Queen of the South — Cebu was indeed productive for PDS. Proved distance can still bridge us closer to the people we care about. As new friendships were made, old friendships strengthened, I head home to Cebu with Happiness in my heart.

All because I helped. I listened. I inspired.


One of our PDS members called me some time ago regarding their harvested heirloom cacao pods in the mountain province. As members who are really keen on growing and propagating the Heirloom cacao, I told them not to forget the proper way of fermenting the beans. I bought some of their FDCBs to help; then evaluated the beans to send off to our fellow members. They will, in turn, give their renditions using the FILIPINO AROMATICO™ single origin cacao beans.At PDS, we help our members and fellow farmers to perfect the craft within the cacao value chain. We may not be doctors or specialists in the industry but we surely know how the trees sleep, how their branches yawn, and how their leaves dance after the rain.

We are PDS. We help. We listen. We inspire.

Food and Filipino Hospitality

When a Cacao Producer’s CEO meets the Cacao Authority’s CEO, #CacaoTalks do not stop at R.O.I.s — it goes beyond.

Destination: Philippines

After setting the date for the arrival, Don Alec went on his way.  He is our guest from the Dominican Republic in the Carribeans. Since the place was several miles from the Philippines, I had to Google to locate it.

According to them, “The Dominican Republic is a Caribbean nation that shares the island of Hispaniola with Haiti to the west. It’s known for its beaches, resorts and golfing. Its terrain comprises rainforest, savannah and highlands, including Pico Duarte, the Caribbean’s tallest mountain. Capital city Santo Domingo has Spanish landmarks like the Gothic Catedral Primada de America dating back 5 centuries in its Zona Colonial district.”

First time meetings prompt you to research a bit in order to have a conversation piece. Once I found out that the Dominican Republic is with Spanish heritage, then we are not that far away.

Our forever gourmand Ms. Cacao has endless takes when food is concerned. In Instagram, she is known as recipechick.

Ms. Cacao never missed a beat when she makes a review or even captures a home cooked meal moment. Upon learning that I was to meet with Don, she said that the Dominican Republics share the same love for food — their empanada or pastelitos.In the Philippines, there are numerous versions of the smaller-sized Empanadas; we call it Empanaditas. It comes with different fillings such as mango, durian, beef, torta or pork with potatoes, corned beef or Reuben, chorizo, and even chocolate.

Being able to taste similar foods that a foreign guest have in their country could be one of the conversations to break the ice.

Knowing how similar their food is to ours, I told Chris Fadriga, PDS President that we have to bring Don to places where the Philippine cuisine is known for.

First Stop: BOHOL

Chocolate Hills, Carmen, Bohol

Don’s flight from the Ninoy Aquino International Airport came as a breeze. We immediately waited until our guest arrived in Cebu for us to reach the town of Sagbayan.

It was PDS Bohol Chapter Vice President Cecilia de Leon who did the honors of saying WELCOME TO BOHOL!

We visited the Heirloom Cacao Farm of Indai Felipa Cortes who happened to be one of the newest CERTIFIED MEMBERS of Plantacion de Sikwate. Indai was the one who also introduced Don to us when he came across our OFW Repatriate from Kuwait article on May 21, 2018.

Filipino Aromatico SN-00088 & 89

Hidden in Bohol are two of the several Criollo trees we have tagged in our Search for the Criollo cacao variety.

Don was thrilled to the hilt that he took photos as proof that his travel to our country was worth the miles.For lunch, we brought our guest to KEW Hotel. Duke Miñoza, PDS Certified Member and owner of Buenaventurada Farms,  joined us.

I told our guest to try our shrimps, squid, and the famous Kare Kare; that even the late Anthony Bourdain said our food will soon be known all over the world. Don instantly fell in love with the Kare-Kare, bagoong (shrimp paste) and green mangoes.

Second Stop: BACOLOD

The following day we woke up real early to catch the Fast Cat Ferry for Bacolod. During lunch, we took Don to the outskirts for him to taste the local food. Still, his new found affinity for Kare Kare continued together with shrimps and calamari.

The afternoon’s sun was fierce but that did not hamper Don Alec’s purpose — to see if there is indeed an Heirloom Cacao growing in the Philippines.

The Dominican Republic has rainforests so the cacao will thrive there as well. The only advantage we have over other countries is that the Philippines is right smack in center of the equator making it the favorite residence of the Mexican cacao remnants from the Manila Acapulco Galleon Trade.

After the exhausting day, Don said that he wanted a longer stay in the Philippines. A couple of days was not enough to see our country. And as General McArthur once said, I SHALL RETURN.The experience we had with our guest is one for the books indeed. Simple, close to home, yet inclusive. I am happy that Don appreciated the Pinoy Tour and the chance to come close & personal with our Philippine Heirloom Cacaos.


All these happened because we aim TO HELP. TO LISTEN. TO INSPIRE.

Cacao Authority Visits Cacao Icons

A day before our country commemorated the 120th anniversary of our independence, Plantacion de Sikwate had a visitor from the Carribeans. About a month ago, we got an email and a message in our website (plantaciondesikwate.com). He shared his passion to search for the remnants of the finest chocolates in the world — criollo and see if it really does exist in the Philippines.

As the host for our visitor, we met with him and discussed possible collaborations that would bring the Filipino AromaticoTM to the world. Negotiations to be featured in his website (cacaoauthority.com) was also included.

Such meeting is proof that the Heirloom cacao/Criollo, that our association took into our care, is being noticed and respected by people who share the same passion.

It is not through popularity, awards, or countries visited makes one the expert in a field. It is how willing you are to help, listen, and shed sunshine to others that matter.

As you read this post, our #TeamBohol is with Don Alec to different cacao farms affiliated with PDS. Rain or shine, our passion moves forward.

To help. To listen. To inspire.

In the photos are:
Don Alec – cacao authority publisher
Mel Santos – PDS Chief Executive Officer
Nestor Saludo – PDS Cebu Chapter PRO and Recipient of the BrownSeeds Ltd. Singapore Cacao Program
Duke Miñoza – PDS Bohol Chapter Member and Recipient of the BrownSeeds Ltd. Singapore Cacao Program
Cecilia De Leon – PDS Bohol Chapter Vice President and Recipient of the BrownSeeds Ltd. Singapore Cacao Program
Indai Felipa Cortes – PDS Bohol Member and JV partner

The People’s Choice

by Mel Santos

The month of June brings inspiring news for the country and the world at large. According to the newspaper I have read, eight-division world champion Senator Manny Pacquiao is holding his boxing match with Lucas Mathysse or Danny Garcia in Malaysia by the end of this month. Such news have prompted me to post this photo with Pacman. Like any other boxing fan, I wish that the upcoming WBA Welterweight World Title fight brings victory to our country.

And speaking of the land of flowers, chicken satay, and elephants, Malaysia grows a favorite crop that I hold dear to my heart – the Cacao M01 Trinitario variety. Here in the Philippines, this variety is known as the W10. Now, Plantacion de Sikwate Cacao Producers Association, Inc. where I belong to as Chief Executive Officer, plants this cacao variety with the Mexican descendant Heirloom cacao/Criollo.

The boxing world considers Senator Manny “Pacman” Pacquiao as the People’s Choice after winning endless bouts with Mexican contenders such as Juan Manuel Marquez, Erik Morales, and Marco Antonio Barrera to name a few. At the same time, the Chocolate world shares the same win when cacao trees growing in countless backyards and lands came from Mexican cacao seeds that were used as a form of currency during the Manila-Acapulco Galleon Trade in the 17th century.

In the photo I am sharing, you will also see the bananas I had for breakfast. The Latundan (Apple Banana) is another variety from the countless list like cardava banana or “Saba Banana”, Lakatan, Katunggal (Plantain), and Señorita. These bananas, together with coconuts, calamansi, mangoes, and madre de cacao, may grow as an intercrop with cacao which then brings sustainable income to farmers, as well as attract investors, and tourists to our country.

All the best to Pacman and our Cacao — the best choice for the Filipino People!


Recently posted in our FB Official Page (PDSCACAO) is a Crowd Sourcing poll. Help us decide if Cacao farmers, or Cacao aficionados are ready to start planting and will join a Forum and Symposium this month. A lot of questions coming from the FB page include “Are there forums in Luzon, NCR, or Manila?

Vote your choice of Yes or No in the poll we created.



Hybrid Cacao from Davao

I visited a cacao farm this afternoon to check on the hybrid’s progress.

Some months back, brother Mel Santos had some cacao seedlings from the Brothers of the Sacred Heart farm at Catalunan Grande. Transporting them from Davao would add more stress if not properly arranged. Saving the seedlings had me toss and turn all night.

Well, prayers were answered. Thank you Bayside Terminal and Transportation Services, Inc. for the logistics of the seedlings from Davao to the site in the mountains!

In parting, allow me to paraphrase words of wisdom from Confucius

Give a bowl of rice to a man and you will feed him for a day. Teach him how to grow his own rice and you will save his life.

with this thought: Give a chocolate bar to a man and you will give happiness for a day. Teach him to plant his own cacao and you will give him not just chocolate bars but a better life to teach the generations to come. —-

Chris Fadriga 


Plans for a World Class Premium Chocolate Processing Production Area

Our Cacao Icons, together with BOD Secretary Ms. Emma Ramas and PDS Bicol Chapter Focal Person Ms. Romela Fabula, had a long and productive meeting a few days ago.

Plans to make Cebu as a tourist destination for the world class premium chocolate processing production area was discussed.

The meeting went on until nighttime but was cut short due to the fact that the restaurant called for its last orders. It is really true that time flies when you’re having fun!

Cacao Icon meets Cacao Guru

imageimageimageimageTraveling to Mindanao gives us good memories with dear friends. I was with Kennemer’s Peter Cruz. Over a mug of hot sikwate, we shared with him about the PDS Criollo Search (which is gaining a lot of attention since we launched it) and he was amazed at how white these beans were.

Together with me was our PDS Strategic Adviser for Mindanao, Etol Laurente. We brought home some tablea (chocolate tablets) from Peter.

I’ll update this post once I get back to Cebu for the BOD Meeting on Sunday. Thanks Peter for the gift and we hope the seeds of happiness and prosperity grow abundantly in Davao.


(EcoTourism) Planting with Friends.