DREAM BIG - START SMALL
They say beautiful stories are those written with extraordinary, spotless words by finest individuals who mastered the skill of intertwining letters into words, words into phrases and phrases into sentences. But for me what makes a story striking is not to as who wrote it or how well it is written but it is as to how the story was made and its impact to the reader.
I grow up as someone who is easily fascinated by words; hence, I considered writing as a passion. At first, the pen and the paper has been simply just my way of channelling sentiments and stressors, until I have had the opportunity to broaden my knowledge about it. Since writing and reading comes hand in hand, I tried to read countless pages of renowned books, stunning articles and well-written non-fiction stories, which I have the most interest. I am in awe of a lot of them. But little though I know that while I am looking for that grand story, I already had given one.
OUR LIFE STORY
“Pangayoa na sa Ginoo, og para nimo na para nimo gyud na. Ihatag na Nya nimo”, these are the exact words we do often receive from mom, most especially at times when we encounter the utmost hurdle. When on earth I feel like I am up to no good to the path I am taking, or whenever negativities and doubt blew me in thin air, it has been a constant relief. I will not let the odds beat me because when it was them who had experienced the lowest point in their lives for us, they have risen above it all. When there were moments when it is easy to just give up, let things be and do nothing, they chose not to.
Our family has a bean to bar chocolate making business, which my mom comes into after our “lola” (grandma) passed away. Our Lola Tomasa used to sell anchovy (bulinaw) and locally-made "tablea" (native chocolates) for a living. Her little business was patronized by the town-folks who seemingly couldn't complete breakfast without a cup-full of hot chocolate. When she passed away because of breast cancer, my mom was pleased to continue grandmother's morning errand for her loyal customers. Simultaneously my mother was also a metro-aid cleaner who pave the eerie streets of the city, hours before the dawn-light to meet ends with my father who was working as a "tricycle" driver to sustain the five of us in the family and to send us all to school. Even though how tough life was, they didn’t lose the courage to go on because they do not want us to experience fierce trials as they’ve been. No matter how buried we were in poverty, they spent hours of hard work for us to get the diplomas that they haven’t been able to experience. Because when they were once like we are, my grandparents could not afford to send them to higher grades in view of the fact that they do not have enough resources. But as for my parents, they didn’t let these events of their past bury them.
Selling locally crafted tablea was the only way my mom earns extra income, then. By dawn she works as a street cleaner and by the morning after her duty, she goes straight home to send us a little treats for breakfast and starts to roast cacao beans and handcraft tablea that she and my father usually delivers to numerous “sari-sari” stores , for us to survive the day. She often even recalled how uneasy it was. There was this instance when one of my older sisters, who were then studying high school, called her while she was trying to swipe trash and dust near her school street. “Ma... Ma...”, but my mother didn’t want that my sister might be teased by her friends thus she chose to turn a blind eye and walked ahead.
On the other hand, later on in life after numerous rejections and persistence, my mother was able to supply the product for a local supermarket. My other sister, Dalareich, the second among the five of us, who was little back then would help her sell some of it after class hours. And little did they know that it would be the start of a turning point.
With the right amount of determination, hard work, prayer and perseverance, everything gradually paid-off. The tablea -product flourished into a family enterprise and was supplied in more than few of local shopping malls, endorsed in deluxe hotels, airport shops, and through direct-website demands.
My sister Dalareich, who graduated computer engineer, pursued a wider venture about the business. In September 2013, she joined a pitching competition and narrated our business story and innovative business plan within a maximum of five minutes. She even added her hopes to venture tablea into chocolates. She hopes that Bohol would soon not only be known by the wondrous Chocolate Hills but as well as a home of one of the world’s finest chocolates. Yet she did not expect anything after the final pitch, she called my mom through phone and in response my mother said, “Ayaw kabalaka, kay ug para nimo na para nimo gyud na, og dli okay ra. Naa pay mas maayo nga moabot.” ("Don't worry because if it is really for you, it will be yours. God will give it to you. If not, for sure, there will be great things that are yet to come.")
We received another call from her and this time it made us all jump in glee. She was awarded as the Outstanding Young Woman Entrepreneur in the first Young Women Entrepreneur Bootcamp (YWEB) 2013. But the good things did not stop there; it seems like a fairy godmother heard her wishes. In 2014, she had given the opportunity to learn how to make a bean-to-bar chocolate from top chocolate-makers in the world as she was granted a scholarship in Belgium to study cacao and chocolate processing in Ghent University. And just recently on September 8, 2017, our family has been so blessed to have built our humblest chocolate factory house near our place. It welcomes guests and tourist who would want to know the roots of Bohol’s cacao history as well it serves as a showroom of our local tableya-based products and dark chocolates. As well as the business product triumph to have represented Bohol in Salon du Chocolat, one of the world’s largest chocolate shows in Paris, France.
Indeed our story as a family has been like a box of chocolates. It all started as quiet as a dream but now things are slowly falling into the right places, stitching a beautiful tapestry in our lives. As of writing, I do remember how my mom’s voice would drive people and students to tears as she narrates our story of hope as well as her own life experiences. With great joy, what my mom has been praying before is now slowly by slowly becoming genuine.
By: Lahlah (Angelah Polot)