Cacao production in Cordillera is not new. It started in Abra way back during the Spanish time, old folks here claim.
In the municipality of Sallapadan, a far-flung village has kept the practice of cacao production from generation to generation. Sitio Kaliaban in barangay Basar is home to the Sallapadan Cacao Producers Asso in the ciation, one of the groups of cacao producers in the province.
Association President Amelia Amante and around 17 members have mastered the procedures of cacao production and are into processing cacao products particularly tablea. However, relying on the available equipment that the association has before, they were doing it tedious traditional way.
Now with cacao as one of the emerging cash crops in the Philippines, and Abra province is touted as the top cacao producer in the Cordillera region, interventions are coming in.
Government agencies such as the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) and Department of Trade and Industry are stepping up to advance production capabilities with the help of modern facilities.
Under the 2020 Local Grant in Aide (LGIA) project of DOST-Abra, the association was listed as the main beneficiary of a project entitled "Establishment of Cacao Plantation and Processing Center in Sallapadan, Abra".
The LGIA aims to spur economic and livelihood development in local communities through technological capabilities.
DOST-Abra Provincial Director Ralf Safi-il said that on December 9, 2020, PSTC-Abra conducted Training on Tablea and Chocolate Making & Cacao Propagation. The association members were trained in propagating cacao seedlings and in putting up a cacao nursery. Residents were also oriented and trained in tablea making.
Last May, DOST-Abra also delivered various cacao processing equipment that include melanger, roasting machine, silicon molds, stainless steel table, multi-purpose crop solar tunnel dryer and digital weighing scaleother tools used for packaging and product labeling for their cacao production. They trained the members on the maintenance and operation of the new equipment. These will scale down the production cost and improve the quality of locally manufactured chocolate products.
Recently, the DOST also inspected the installed multi-crop solar tunnel dryer for Cacao Plantation and Processing Center of the Sallapadan Cacao Producers Association in Kaliaban.
This LGIA project of DOST amounting to P629,928.80 will sustain the livelihood of the association members.
The tablea is perhaps the most popular local cacao product among the older Filipinos. It is made out of roasted, ground and molded nibs of fermented pure cacao beans without additives, molded into blocks or tablets. It is traditionally used for hot cocoa drink and “champorado”.
The making of chocolate out of the cacao pods is interesting with the process that starts from the removal of cacao beans from the cacao pod into a smooth, delicious chocolate bar.
Cacao beans have white slimy flesh that needs to ferment. The fermentation allows the cacao beans to develop their flavors for less than a week.
After the fermentation, the next part of the process is roasting where the cacao beans dry out and turn brittle. After that, the outer shell of the beans is peeled revealing the bean inside that if crumbled, they turn into cacao nibs. The cacao nibs are blended and melted with sugar then it is poured out into a chocolate mold.
With the assistance of DOST and DTI which earlier initiated efforts to expand cacao production areas in the, Abra is on it way of becoming the “Tablea Capital of the Cordillera Region”.(JDP/CAGT-PIA CAR, Abra)