A TOWN in Iloilo blooms with promising heritage tourism because of its century-old church, shrine, and vibrant festival. But not everyone knows that the municipality of Cabatuan is proud of its flourishing tablea industry.
Tablea is a local chocolate blend perfected from the distinct quality and smoothness of cacao beans.
It is harvested from the luscious highlands of Iloilo where native brewers, dubbed as cacao masters, handed-down their expertise from one generation to the next.
Tablea is intricately formed from the profound dedication and synergy of skills of these farmers.
Recognizing its vast contribution to the local economy, the Sangguniang Bayan of Cabatuan passed Ordinance No. 030-2012 officially declaring tablea as its alternative One Town One Product (OTOP) commodity.
The municipal government also picked the brand name “Tan Tono” for the tablea, a tribute to its first gobernadorcillo.
Nowadays, Sunbursts Balay Tablea is the authorized manufacturer and distributor of Tan Tono Tablea. Sunbursts owner Catherine Taleon swells with pride as she narrates the growth of their business since its humble beginnings.
“Actually, this business is just an accidental one kay nagpangita ang LGU (local government unit) sang ma-venture sang tablea wherein gin-declare nila nga alternative OTOP. They asked me if I am willing to market tablea sa city for a start. Gin-accept ko ang ila request sa akon to sell tablea in the city. ”
The business is never a walk in the park. Sunbursts placed its trust in the traditional process of tablea production. It’s a tedious, snail-paced process, hence the difficulties in keeping up with the demands of the market.
A determined entrepreneur, Ms. Tanaleon asked the help of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) for technology upgrading.
DOST heeded the call through “Product and Process Improvement of a Cocoa Bean Based Processing Facility for Sunbursts Balay Tablea”. Innovations in the treasured blend followed.
“When I had a chance to visit DOST, they offered to me Small Enterprise Technology Upgrading Program (SETUP). I found out that it would help me in improving my product not only in quality but also in terms of the quantity. I then accepted the proposal of upgrading. It really helped me in improving the product, the quality of the product as well as the manufacturing and the quantity aspect of production.”
Apart from the technology upgrade, the firm likewise stepped up its product packaging with better materials.
Production facilities such as emulsifier and heavy-duty cocoa roaster were also provided.
Other pieces of equipment are planetary mixer, foot sealer, weighing scale, stainless steel cabinet, and stockpot.
The DOST and the Department of Agriculture also shared the same passion with Sunbursts Balay Tablea in terms of developing its human resource through rigid training on roasting, grinding, and packaging.
While some people find running a business as a “major pressure cooker,” Ms. Taleon, who is also a teacher by profession, considers it as her sanctuary. Her commitment to promote and boost the consumption of Cabatuan Local Blend Chocolate while providing livelihood to the community is what drives her.
Talk about brewing prosperity and community wellness, Sunbursts Balay Tablea is living its dream of becoming a progressive business in Western Visayas.
Sunbursts Balay Tablea is just one of the business success stories fueled by technology. (DOST-6/KMU)