The Municipality of Maramag is situated in the very heart of the province of Bukidnon and in this municipality of warm, friendly people, lush farm lands and natural springs is a quiet little barrio hidden between mountains high above the plains. This tiny barrio is called La Roxas.
If it weren’t for the annual Evaluation of Child Friendly Municipality, I never would have had the chance to visit La Roxas and discover some of its priceless treasures.
Chocolates are often associated with zits, acne breakouts and diabetes. What I’m talking about here, however, is pure, 100% dark chocolate from the cacao tree — cocoa solids or what locals call tablea.
But then even tablea seems completely misunderstood. Growing up, I was told hot chocolate or our local version called sikwate raises blood pressure and increases our risk of heart disease, not to mention it’s highly fattening.
I’ll let you in on a little secret. I think the reason why the adults think sikwate or hot chocolate from tablea is dangerous and unhealthy is because they used to add lots of condensed milk and tuba, or coconut wine to it. They even have a name for this old favorite drink — kinuter (kin-NOOT-ter).
After having tasted the chocolate from La Roxas, using the recipe suggested by the nice couple who made them, I fell head over heels in love with tablea and it just drove me nuts I had to question my preconceived beliefs and do some research about chocolates.
What I found totally shocked me and completely changed my idea about tablea. It turns out that tablea, or cocoa solids made from milled cocoa nibs, actually promotes longevity and good health. Research show that cacao, from which tablea is made, has a natural ability to lower blood pressure and blood sugar levels. It aids in weight loss and helps lower bad cholesterol. It also is a rich source of flavonoids, a group of phytochemicals that have antioxidant properties.
A Perfect Addition to Your Power Breakfast
If you are a fan of red wine because of its high concentration of antioxidants, wait until you get to know tablea; it’s got almost twice as much antioxidants as red wine. This is great news for people like me who ditched alcohol for good — even red wine. Instead of a glass of red wine before going to bed, I see to it I drink a cup of hot chocolate in the morning before breakfast, while I read the daily gospel and write down the five things I’m grateful for on my journal. Highly successful individuals call this ‘breakfast for champions’ or ‘power breakfast’ because it feeds not just your body but your mind and soul as well.
These are only a few of the many great health benefits of drinking hot chocolate and oh, by the way, by ‘hot chocolate’ I really mean hot — without the milk and sugar. It tastes fabulous with some cinnamon and a dash of cayenne pepper!
FRIENDLY, HAPPY PEOPLE
Our team happened to arrive in La Roxas at lunch time but instead of opening our packed lunch, we were served steaming fish tinola and fresh native delicacies by the warm and accommodating women of the La Roxas Barangay Council. It was my first time to be in that place but it immediately felt like home.
After the evaluation, one of the council members, Mrs. Divina Foronda, invited us over to her humble home where the chocolates are made! I was told that she and her husband personally tend their farm. They grow organic coffee and cacao and even have a small bakery behind their house that supply freshly-baked goodies around the neighborhood.
Mrs. Foronda heads the committee on finance of their tiny barrio and it looks to me she is doing a great job of maintaining that balance between her career as a public servant and a homemaker. Her house is tiny with a vast, well-kept lawn; a perfect picture of minimalist living. She and her husband are among the happiest couples I know and although they never stop working hard for their family, they look pretty much contented with their simple lifestyle.
On our way home, I heard from my companions how La Roxas has improved these past few years. The road, though unpaved, is no longer as rough and difficult as it used to be; thanks to the sincere efforts of its leaders and cooperation of its citizens. I then realized that the progress (or the lack thereof) of a community depends not only on its leaders but on the cooperation of all its members as well.
Most importantly, in addition to all the treasures I found in La Roxas, I learned that in every ordinary interactions we have with ordinary people we meet everyday, there is always an extraordinary lesson or two to learn.