Making change work for women

By: Madrileña de la Cerna, Solita Collas-Monsod March 04,2017 - 09:35 PM


March as the National Women’s Month opened with a double treat at the Capitol Social Hall with the 17th Cebu Provincial Women’s Congress spearheaded by the Provincial Women’s Commission and the “We Make Change: Women Inspiring Women Forum” spearheaded by the Philippine Commission on Women. With this year’s theme “We Make Change Work for Women,” the Provincial Women’s Commission invited Raquel T. Choa, a very empowered Cebuana, as keynote speaker, while the Philippine Commission on Women invited four empowered women from the fields of education, politics, youth sector and government service.

Raquel T. Choa is the president and founder of the Ralfe Gourmet Artisanal Chocolate and the Chocolate Chambers, and is the founding member of Cacao Filipinas Fellowship. Equipped with a suitcase of her memorabilia which she displayed and used during her talk, Raquel shared her “Affair with Chocolate” and how she fought many conventions as a woman and as a Filipino. Growing up in the remote and rebel-infested mountain in Balamban, Cebu, she developed respect for nature imbibed in her and her siblings by their grandparents (their parents separated when they were children). The bedtime stories of her grandmother particularly the legend of Maria Cacao lingered in her mind even when she went to work in Manila and back to Cebu in Lorega.

The impact of Maria Cacao developed her love for cacao and the making of tableya (Phil. Chocolate). Then she developed tableya making into a lucrative business as she discovered more about chocolate and even dreamed of making Cebu the chocolate island after travelling abroad as chocolate representative of the Philippines. She established the Cacao Foundation and went beyond tableya as she developed cacao extract into a facial cream. She also established the Casa de Cacao, a cacao museum, and a boutique for she also designs and sews (she learned sewing from her mother and Tesda). She confessed she became empowered because of cacao and her strong faith in God provides the balance.

Raquel shares her blessings with the farmers back in her home village including rebels and rebel returnees. Working together with the farmers gives her joy for it is a form of showing the positive side of the government as it also gives jobs to many.

She added that from tableya making she turns to chocolate and in doing so she prefers to do things the old way. She hopes to continue the tradition of chocolate drinking in the Philippines and the love for tableya debunking the belief that chocolate drinking causes high blood pressure.

Raquel amazed everyone in the audience for she did not finish any degree in college and she looked like a stunning model, tall, slim (even after bearing eight children), very kayumanggi, simple makeup using the cacao facial cream she extracted from cacao.

The Forum on Women Inspiring Women showed various aspects of women advocates. Celia Flor, of the Women’s Sectoral Council and Representative of the National Anti-Poverty Commission, shared her experiences as “Why Women, What Politics” where she emphasized that women empowerment means women should be in the arena of power or politics. She joined politics for 12 years but did not join any party because she thinks that political parties in the Philippines do not have principles. For her voting is a vow and election is a community prayer, and she led everyone in the congress to “promise to vote according to integrity and character not on popularity, personality.” Her advice to everyone is to help public servants. One need not be in politics but must get involved.

Sarah Jane Elago of Kabataan Partylist spends full time as an activist and declares that no one is ever too young to change the world. For her there are three Ps of Politics – pag-asa, pagkilos, pagbabago (check para kang sino?).

For those in government service, Atty. Maria Antonette C. Velaso-Allones, Executive Director, Career Executive Service Board, shared how to take the challenge and deal with changes in government service with “I Soar ‘Coz I have W.I.N. G.S. (Women of Integrity in Government Service). She called everybody’s attention to the logo of National Women’s Month showing a Woman with arms raised and called it the power of the pose.

She gave five pieces of advice on how to sustain in government service: Help people find a dream in government by being a master way finder and know your worth; It should never be about money – Find what you love to do, and spend 10,000 hours doing it; Find your pack—why? Because work in government is a thankless job; Just keep swimming; Stay a virgin – a virgin is a woman who is complete unto herself (complete means whole, whole means integrity, and virginity is longevity). As she gave each advice, she illustrated personages in government in the past who best exemplified each advice and she referred to movies, books, songs and even visiting the beauty parlor as part of sustaining balance.

It was indeed a very inspiring day and a good start for the National Women’s Month.

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TAGS: Balamban, Cebu, Cebu Provincial Women’s Congress, Cebuana, children, chocolate, gourmet, making, Raquel, tableya, Working

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