By: Embassy of the Republic of the Philippines, Seoul

Seoul, 26 October 2020. The Philippine Embassy in Seoul, the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) and the Philippine Agriculture Office-Seoul, in collaboration with the Philippine Investment Trade Center (PITC), the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO) and the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) organized the webinar "The Philippine Tsokolate, Scaling New Heights: Honoring Heritage and Stories of Hope and Purpose" on 25 October 2020 at 2:30 p.m. (KST). The webinar is an activity of Sentro Rizal Seoul under the NCCA's project Padayon: Paglikha sa Panahon ng Pandemya.

A screenshot of some of the speakers and participants during the webinar which was also aired on FaceBook Live.
The webinar featured Mrs. Mary Grace and Mr. Emmanuel Belviz of Rosario's Delicacies and Belviz Farms. In September, Rosario's Delicacies was awarded One Star at the Great Taste Awards in London for its unsweetened dark chocolate besting 12,777 products from 106 countries.

During his Welcome Message, Charge d'affaires, a.i. Christian de Jesus shared how the webinar depicts the story of the Philippine tsokolate, now ranked among the best in the world, and the aspirations and determination of our farmers, who have been recognized as food security front liners in the time of Covid-19. Moreover, he emphasized that the journey to the world stage of the Philippine tsokolate or cacao is a bayanihan endeavor between the private and government sectors. CDA De Jesus expressed hope that the success story of the Philippine tsokolate and the determination of Filipino farmers, artisans and chocolatiers will inspire the Filipino Community in South Korea to be optimistic and resilient while far away from home and family. Moreover, with the global recognition of excellent Philippine products, he invited the Filipino Community to take pride in our Filipino identity, heritage and our country.

NCCA Executive Director Al Ryan Alejandre, in his message, cited the role of the Sentro Rizal in Foreign Service Posts in the global promotion of Philippine art, culture and language. He further explained the aims of NCCA's project Padayon: Paglikha sa Panahon ng Pandemya. He also acknowledged the efforts of the Philippine Embassy in Seoul for initiating cultural activities in spite of the pandemic.

Resource speaker Mr. Emmanuel Belviz discussed the rise and fall of the Philippine tsokolate/cacao, the revitalization of the cacao industry, the key challenges facing the cacao industry, the uniqueness of the Philippine tsokolate and the reasons why the Philippine tsokolate/cacao is now considered world class.

Mrs. Mary Grace Belviz then narrated the Rosario's Chocolate Journey (From Dream to Bar) and the challenges they have encountered as farmers, entrepreneur and chocolate maker. She also cited the difficulties experienced by farmers and chocolatiers brought about by Covid-19 and highlighted their responses to overcome the crisis. The message of Mr. and Mrs. Belviz to the webinar attendees was "Padayon lang tayo sa ating mga pangarap" (Let us move forward with our dreams).

The webinar, manifesting the bayanihan effort to revitalize and elevate the Philippine cacao industry and encouraging Filipinos to be a part of the industry, had Agriculture Attache Aleli Maghirang, Commercial Counsellor Jose Maria Dinsay and Labor Attache Maya Valderrama as panelists.

Agriculture Attache Aleli Maghirang provided a comprehensive update on the Philippine cacao industry, agribusiness opportunities, Philippine Government support programs for the cacao industry, cacao industry development directions, investment opportunities and the Department of Agriculture's support program for OFWs.

Thereafter, Commercial Counsellor Jose Maria Dinsay discussed the Philippine Government programs to promote Philippine cacao and market opportunities. He cited the relevance and roles of domestic fairs, supermarkets, on-line stores and international exhibitions as well as conferences organized for and by the cacao industry. Mr. Dinsay further explained the market trends, prospects for the Philippine cacao, and the issues on the positioning, value and branding of the Philippine chocolate.

For her part, Labor Attache Maya Valderrama presented the topic "Reintegration Preparation Support for Filipinos in Korea," explaining DOLE and OWWA programs for OFWs and opportunities available towards self-employment or entrepreneurship. Labatt Valderrama also encouraged the OFWs and the Filipino community to participate in on-site trainings regularly organized by the Philippine Overseas Labor Office (POLO).

The program concluded with a demonstration by Mary Grace Belviz of how to prepare the tsokolate de batirol or sikwate to encourage the Filipino Community in Korea to learn, appreciate and share it with their Korean friends and families. This is also a way to introduce the Philippine hot chocolate to Koreans and invite them to try this heritage drink during their next visit to the Philippines.

The webinar "The Philippine Tsokolate, Scaling New Heights: Honoring Heritage and Stories of Hope and Purpose" highlighted an excellent Philippine product that the Filipino community in Korea could be proud of; showed the determination and spirit of Filipino farmers, artisans and entrepreneurs as it aimed to reassure the Filipino community in South Korea that there are available livelihood options for them in the Philippines; and, most of all, demonstrated the potential and benefits of Filipinos working together as one.

28 October 2020