EVERY mother has a story to tell, and Raquel Choa, mom of eight, tells her tale of empowerment through chocolate, particularly the homegrown kind.
Dubbed as Cebu’s Queen of Chocolate, Raquel discovered a treasure in cacao when she was seven years old and first learned how to prepare the tablea, or chocolate tablets made from roasted cacao beans. It was a legacy her grandmother Leonila Bogonia passed on to her.
At 16 years of age, Raquel got married and became a mother. Her husband of 24 years, Alfred Choa, was a family friend. A mechanical engineer, Alfred helped her accomplish her dreams by showing to the world her gift of turning tablea and chocolate into something special.
Through the years with the grace of God, Raquel managed to balance both motherhood and business, letting her childen be part of what she is doing. She lets them get messy with cacao so they can appreciate the artistry involved in the craft.
A woman on a mission, Raquel strives to make Filipinos be known to the world as chocolate makers. Before she was named as the Queen of Chocolate, she encountered many challenges that molded her into what she is right now.
In the process, Raquel elevated tablea into a “luxury.” She dispelled the notion of tablea as the dirty chocolate: because it is processed using bare hands, much motherly care is poured into every piece. This is a process she has likened to raising children. “Treat your children like cacao beans, knowing how fragile they are. Grow them magically,” Raquel says.
For all moms aspiring to start a business, she has these words of advice: know what you love, consider your family especially your children for they will be part of your business, and make the business an opportunity for bonding moments with the family. “Embrace every situation you encounter. Challenges will sharpen you,” the business mom adds.
For Raquel, life begins at 40. When word got out of her passion for chocolate, she began to supply tablea and chocolate to big hotels. The business has since grown along with her family. And through all this, Raquel finds delight in sharing her story, of how much love goes into every morsel of rich, pure and magical tablea. (Text by Carmel Matuguina & Photos by Ma. Delmar del Rosario/CNU interns)