Friday, September 26, 2014

Alma R. H. Reyes


Sept - Oct 2015

"Guzen" is the Japanese word for coincidence. The character 偶 "gu" connotes accident or by chance, and the character 然 signifies approval, just or correct, which implies that more often than not, coincidences are positive closely woven concurring incidents that have taken place on the same plane, at the same time, or in a similar manner between two people, and for no apparent explanation. How often do we encounter intriguing coincidences in our lives that we often equate with fate? 

While running from one wake and funeral mass to another in Manila, like two rays of light crossing the same horizon, I came across a man or I should say, he came across me right before descending to the crypt of the church (where I was to visit a wake of a relative) to visit my departed aunt. He happened to overhear me mention my mother's name to a sacristan, and realized after catching my attention, that he and my mother worked in the same company that my mother served for 31 years. 

We gladly exchanged nostalgic notes, after which he bid goodbye with a thoughtful pack of 70% dark chocolates he himself has been producing a remarkable second coincidence as my mother specifically eats only 70%+ dark chocolates. 

Two days later, I discover that my niece knew this “mystery man.” The man’s wife was a classmate of her husband's mother who passed away that same week (the other wake I had been crisscrossing to). Alright, alright...all Filipinos are related to each other that's what everybody says. On top of it, marking the fourth coincidence, this man and I were attending the same wake without knowing it, and that he was at the wake the same afternoon I was but missed each other by half an hour.

As if the series of “guzen” were not enough, this sparkling encounter not only revived my aging mother's golden years of her Alma Mater company, further honing her memory, but also fed her the perfect source of 70% dark, organic chocolates that she has always been looking for, which, by the way, could be bought just in our village (!) another coincidence and, more importantly, provided her the spiritual channel to fight her loneliness and depression through the published books of the chocolate owner's wife who wrote books on healing for the sick. How many coincidences could there possibly be in a week! 

The mystery man is no other than the engineer Gerry Baron, brainchild of Magdalena’s CACAO BEAN and BEAN-to-BAR Chocolates, new artisanal chocolates made directly from natural cocoa beans, produced from a small cacao farm in Magdalena, Laguna. Magdalena takes pride in originally planting and fermenting its own beans, and designing and developing its own machines to produce chocolates from scratch in the Filipino way. The cacao bean chocolates comprise of 70% cacao bean content. Dark chocolates are proven to be rich in flavonoids that aid in lowering blood pressure and improving blood flow. There are only 33 countries in the world that can grow cacao a fact that should encourage further cacao planting in the Philippines to cultivate the local production industry without depending on imports. Not many chocolate enthusiasts realize, perhaps, that most chocolates are made with processed cocoa powder that contain reduced amounts of cocoa butter a good fat. However, Magdalena’s CACAO BEAN and BEAN-to-BAR Chocolates contain no milk and preservatives, ensuring a healthier diet. The popularity of dark chocolates is due to the larger quantity of (processed) cocoa mass and (added) cocoa butter.  Locally produced chocolates would then join the flank of dried mangoes, banana chips, ube, pili and other indigenous products brought out of the country for foreigners to enjoy. Magdalena’s CACAO BEAN and BEAN-to-BAR dark chocolates come in various delicious flavors: roasted cashew nuts, mango, guyabano, and assorted.

Enjoying Gerry’s company over a home cooked meal one Saturday, I arrived at the sixth coincidence that day when he revealed that he had lived in Canada before returning to the Philippines to start his chocolate business, in the very same town where my brother had migrated to, in Calgary, Alberta. Wow…it was probably an overloaded dark chocolate week! 

Enjoy the last bite of summer!

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