Argaoâs Guilang Tableya: Sweet success in tableya business
Argao’s Guilang Tableya is now available in key supermarkets in Cebu, Bohol, Leyte, Negros Occidental, Iloilo, Metro Manila, Bicol, Samar, and Northern Mindanao.
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Argao’s Guilang Tableya: Sweet success in tableya business
Joefel Ortega Banzon (The Freeman) - July 15, 2019 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines — Chocolate makes us happy. It triggers the happy hormones and stimulates our senses. But for Miguela Lanutan, who took the indulgence a step further, she found sweet success in the chocolate making business.

Miguela and husband Pedro, better known as Guilang and Ingko Pedong, founded Argao’s Guilang Tableya in 1948 driven by one simple wish – to be able to send their children to school.

The couple had three children when they started the business in 1948 and had six more after their tableya business started gaining ground in the industry.

Located in the ancestral home of the Lanutans in Canbanua, Argao in the province of Cebu, Guilang’s tableya business started off with one ganta of Argao native cacao beans sourced from a farmer in Mt. Lantoy.

Guilang’s youngest son Edgar Lanutan, who now oversees the family’s tableya making business, shared that her mother learned about tableya making from her aunt who worked as a tableya maker in T. Padilla Street in Cebu City.

To produce the tableya, the cacao beans are roasted until the skin loosens, after which the skin is separated through winnowing. The seeds are then placed in a mechanical grinder to achieve that soft and smooth texture and paste-like consistency. The grounded cacao is then molded by hand into chocolate tablets.

Edgar said her mother’s first customers where the people from her neighbourhood, until word of mouth spread the goodness of their tableya.

“From one ganta per week, production grew to 80 kilos per day in the 70s, 120 kilos per day in 2008, and today, 12 tons per month,” Edgar shared.

Desire to stand out

After two years in the business, Guilang and Ingko Pedong noticed that all tableyas in Cebu and Argao were all the same, particularly the taste and aroma, and they just didn’t want to blend in among the many other tableya manufacturers, they wanted to stand out.

To move ahead of the pack, Ingko Pedong experimented on the roasting process in terms of speed, time and flame intensity until they achieved the taste and aroma that they wanted.

Edgar said that they are the only tableya manufacturer in the country who engaged in high roasting, which is a complicated procedure that needs utmost focus to produce the desired quality.

Apart from the high roasting process, he said the chocolate tablets undergo refining for two to three hours to purify it from undesirable particles.

When they introduced their new tableya product to the market, it was widely accepted by the consumers and soon after, they found themselves accepting delivery orders to other parts of the province.

Edgar said that according to Davao cacao traders and business organization, Guilang is currently the biggest cacao consumer running at 12 metric tons per month. The next biggest cacao consumer is below four metric tons per month.

Argao’s Guilang Tableya is now available in key supermarkets in Cebu, Bohol, Leyte, Negros Occidental, Iloilo, Metro Manila, Bicol, Samar, and Northern Mindanao.

Edgar said that their products are also available in gift shops and Pasalubong shops.

He added that although their tableya products can be found in online shopping platforms such as Shopee, he clarified that they have not directly tapped these platforms but rather it is their resellers who are selling the products online, which is a good thing as it further expands their market reach.

The extra mile

Despite the remarkable growth of their tableya business through the years, the Lanutans refused to sit on their laurels but chose to go the extra mile to further improve their product.

“We have acquired the country's biggest tableya refiner with installed capacity of 90 tons per month,” Edgar shared.

He said it has greatly improved the quality of their tableya based on the feedback they got from wholesalers and customers.

“Production rate improved a little but we still have big reserved capacity just in case. Big impact is on improved tableya quality,” he said.

He added that they have also built a world class Clean Room facility that can accommodate a workforce that is about double their existing manpower.

Edgar said their business has grown tremendously in the last five decades and from two employees, they now have over 20 employees.

Edgar’s older brother Efren is also hands-on in the business after he retired from government service. Efren takes care of human resource and manages production.

Cacao source

Edgar shared that for now 95% of their cacao needs are sourced from Davao, mostly from the Calinan District. He also said that his cousin occasionally ships to him the produce of her friends and business customers in Malta.

He said they are hoping to cut their cacao dependence by at least 50% in the next five years, but for now Argao farmers are yet to be convinced that there is livelihood in cacao.

“We are maintaining a cacao nursery in Talaytay, Argao and there are ready to plant seedlings we give for free to our local farmers,” he said adding that they are now assisting Argao farmers to produce more local cacao through the Farmer Scientists program.

The farmers’ training program is spearheaded by 2012 Ramon Magsaysay Awardee Dr. Romulo Davide, which taught local farmers how to do experiments, discover effective techniques, increase production, and manage the market for their produce.

Moreover, Edgar shared that R&D is now underway in their factory for their first artisan bar chocolate line.

“Outside, now completed the R&D for my son’s project, the first tableya energy drink in the Philippines, if not in the world,” he enthused.

Green advocacy

Aside from basking on its entrepreneurial success, the people behind Guilang Tableya also want to do their share to curb the environmental stress plaguing the country these days by doing away with plastic packaging and use paper instead.

Last year, the company shifted to paper packaging through the suggestion of Cebu Provincial Tourism officer Boboi Costas.

Edgar said before the shift, their plastic usage was around 1,000 to 1,100 kilos per year for packaging and manufacturing consumables.

“We decided to try to stay away from plastic and use only bio-degradable materials with the help of the Department of Trade and Industry and the digital fabrication laboratory in UP Cebu,” Edgar said.

Edgar said they found a special kind of paper packaging in Guangdong province that is way cheaper and of better quality than what was available locally.

Still on protecting the environment, Guilang Tableya is also initiating a massive cacao replanting activity in the communities around Mt. Lantoy, targeting to grow around two million cacao trees by 2025. The first replanting activity is set on September 21 and twice a year thereafter.

To date, the initiative is still on its planning stages with The Travel Depot tapping the replanters while Guilang Tableya is in talks with seedling supply partners.

The target partners for cacao seedlings are: Guilang Cacao Nusery, Cebu Provincial Government, Argao LGU, Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Department of Agriculture (DA), Philippine Coconut Authority, and the Lamac Cacao Nursery.

For the replanters, they are planning to tap DENR, CTU Argao Campus, Argao LGU, youth organizations, fraternities and brotherhood organizations, as well as other groups who may be interested to help. (FREEMAN)

ARGAO’S GUILANG TABLEYA
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