Have you ever heard of halal chocolates? In a town in Davao, a company is at the forefront of making waves in the chocolate industry. Their secret weapon? Halal chocolate and a host of cacao products, all made with love by former and current OFWs.
From the deserts of Middle East to making desserts in Davao, twenty-five OFWs are now reaping the sweet, chocolate-y rewards of hard work, all carving their names in the chocolate-making industry in Davao.
It comes as no surprise that these workers, most of them Maranao, Tausug and Maguindanaon, would find their place in the world of chocolate makers. All of them are hard workers, keen on offering to the Philippines and other nations nothing but world-class products.
Their story is anything but typical. They started to dream of putting up their own company, one that would eventually produce sweet chocolates made from cacao. In need of fresh capital for business, each one of them crowdsourced to raise P5-million to put up a chocolate-making factory, which they named MS3 Agri-ventures in Sitio San Isidro, Bunawan, Davao City.
Now, at P135,000 minimum share, these OFWs are trailblazers to watch out for. They are the driving forces that fuel the halal dark chocolate industry, even going on to produce cacao tablets, cacao powdered tea, banana chocolate and can you believe –cacao vinegar!
The mighty 25 now has a lot of achievements on their plate. In fact, MS3 Agri-ventures was hailed the country’s Best Cacao Tablet producer in 2017.
Neil Santillan, more known by his Muslim name Abdul Karim, is the catalyst force behind MS3 Agri-ventures. A former TV producer and part-time graphic artist in Qatar, Santillan went home to the Philippines, keen to make a giant leap that would change his life forever. He made his dream come true: becoming a chocolate maker in a small farm in Bunawan, Davao.
It was Santillan who asked around for 25 OFWs who would be interested to set up a chocolate-making business in Davao.
“The future is huge. It is a long-term engagement but at a small price,” Santillan said.
But like all things, Santillan admitted that putting up the business pushed him head to head with a lot of challenges.
He started to tend a five-hectare farm in Bunawan, learning everything he could with the help of some farmers.
Santilan said it was difficult to manufacture halal chocolate especially from other manufacturers. That’s why he came up with an idea to open his own halal chocolate factory.
Santillan added that because they are still a small company, they are only able to process 6,000 kilos of fermented beans to be used to make 108,000 bars of chocolate of 50 grams each. He added that they are able to sell the bars for P65 each,
Marketing these products also require hard work. To make their products know to more chocolate lovers, Santillan said MS3 Agri-ventures join international exhibits, one of them held in Qatar.
Today, MS3 is brewing something interesting. They are now being assisted by the Department of Agriculture in marketing their products –maybe one of the sweetest rewards a chocolate-maker has yet to receive.