Designs depict Filipino culture in every piece
By Jules Vivas
Images by Noel Pabalate
Among Kultura’s intricately woven products made from Philippine cotton and sacred textiles are boxes of chocolate with the word “Manila” screaming on packaging designed with illustrations that convey everything Filipino, from the Kalesa, the Sampaguita to Jose Rizal’s profile. The one-stop shop that brings together specialties from all over the country has recently welcomed Manila Chocolatier—a world-class confectionery that offers authentic Pinoy flavors—to its collection of SMEs that embrace and elevate national pride.
“Manila Chocolatier is the fruit of my passion and love for my Philippines,” says Raul Matias, chief executive officer of Latitude Twelve Chocolate Corporation. Born in Lubao, Pampanga, he hails from a family of businessmen. “My family has been in the seafood business since the ’50s,” he adds. “On the other hand, I have a degree in physical therapy and went to med school for a few years. I knew I wouldn’t be in the healthcare field forever, because we’re a family of businessmen.”
Raul Matias, chief executive officer of Latitude Twelve Chocolate Corporation
An OFW for 20 years, Raul lived most of his life abroad. “When I moved out and found myself in a foreign land, it was only then that I fully appreciated what it was to be a Filipino,” he intimates. “I remembered idyllic afternoons in the farm and the carabaos toiling in the rice fields. I thought of women in their graceful ternos and men looking dashing in their barong Tagalogs. I missed the sound of Philippine jeepneys, the enchanting lights of Metro Manila, the perfect sunsets, and the lazy days. I missed the way my countrymen smiled not just with their lips, but also with their eyes—smiles that genuinely came from the heart.”
With those memories serving as inspiration, he focused on translating Filipino culture into chocolates, naming the product line after Manila as a tribute to “what was, what is, and what will always be one of the world’s most beautiful cities, the melting pot of the country’s diverse culture, languages, and flavors.”
Why did Raul venture into chocolates? “It was a coincidence, an accident. At the time, I was searching online about personalized businesses, and found someone doing personalized chocolates. What he did was just repackage existing brands with new wrappers. If I was going to do something, I’d go all out. Lahat gagawin ko, might as well make my own chocolates. So I searched for chocolate schools, and did three months of online schooling at first. I later took three years of practical schooling when I traveled to Vancouver, to France, to Connecticut, and to Florida. While I was studying chocolate making, I already had it in mind to create Pinoy or Asian flavors.”
In 2005, Raul established his own chocolate brand in New York, a Eurasian (European-Asian) fusion chocolate called Machiavelli Chocolatier, named after his favorite philosopher. Nine years later, his patriotism prompted him to go home and set up a local brand, Manila Chocolatier. “In 2014, I wrote a letter to Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez because I wanted to be part of the ‘It’s More Fun in the Philippines’ campaign back then,” he recalls. “It was sort of an impromptu launch for Manila Chocolatier.”
Then and now, Raul’s goal has always been to show the world (through his chocolates) that the Philippines has so many things to offer. “Filipino is such a complex culture that there is no better way of understanding it than by experiencing it yourself with your senses—the sights, the sounds, the scents, and the flavors of my Philippines,” he beams.
All the chocolates from the brand are single origin, made from cocoa beans sourced from select farms in Davao, to ensure consistency in quality. These beans are a 100 percent Filipino, and are grounded to silky perfection. Meanwhile, as a master chocolatier with a healthcare degree, Raul makes it so that the chocolates do not use artificial preservatives. The mouthwatering chocolate pralines have delicate flavors that best represent the Philippine islands: Leche Flan, Bukayo, Mango, Banana Cue, Salabat, Muscavado Nougat, Pili Nut, Lambanog, Buko Pandan, Jasmine Tea, Palawan Honey, Kalamansi, Panotsa Caramel, Barako Coffee, and Ube. Each of these has design elements that reflect our culture. The brand offers milk chocolate, white chocolate, and dark chocolate bars.
The brand is now available in select Kultura branches. @KulturaPH | kulturafilipino.com |manilachocolatier.com