Hannah Choa is living proof that age is no hindrance when it comes to bringing one's voice in inspiring and lifting others. At the young age of 21, Hannah is now wearing multiple hats which require not only much of her time but also her dedication to serve others.  

     Known to many as one of the talented children of the Philippine Chocolate Queen Raquel T. Choa, her reputation does not end there. With her burning passion to share the goodness of the Philippine cacao and all of its glory, Hannah is hailed as the "Chocolate Princess" and "Spiller of the B.E.A.N.S.'' Recently, she took a proactive role as the Youth Ambassador of FCCT or the First Consolidated Cooperative along Tañon Seabords.

    Her role as a youth ambassador puts her in a position where she has to speak in front of young people educating them on maximizing their individual potential along with the value of sustainable farming. As someone who has started early building knowledge and mindset on the essence of work, Hannah doesn't hold back as her own chocolate journey continues to unfold in front of her. It is her emphatic goal for the youth to have a platform where they can be more involved in the community by expanding their knowledge and skills in ways more than in arts but also in business and agriculture. 

I caught up with Hannah over the weekend and asked her questions, here’s what she had to say…

What's your main role as the FCCT Youth Ambassador?

Hannah:  Along with being the Chocolate Princess and the Spiller of the B.E.A.N.S., part of my main role as the FCCT Youth Ambassador is to educate people on how to make sikwate and to preserve the tradition of drinking sikwate as well as bringing back the love of farming. 

You recently visited FCCT Tuburan office, how was the experience? 

Hannah: It was a very fruitful event. Even though it was a small gathering, (due to health and safety concerns) we were still able to discuss what we would like to see in the future. I envision seeing a platform that the FCCT Youth can be used not only to build their knowledge and skills but also to help in crop development. With the cooperatives' various agricultural products, the youth can use the platform to collaborate and have a sustainable value chain. That includes passing the knowledge of the elderly to the youth as a way of also preserving culture. 

What's the amazing thing about being the FCCT Youth Ambassadress? 

Hannah: I can show the youth that they don't have to invest in very expensive machines. Doing what they love would be enough like how the Chocolate Queen was able to bring her cacao creations locally and even abroad like in New York City. With my role, I can also teach them that any agricultural product just like cacao can be made into different products. 

What's next for you as the FCCT Ambassadress?

Hannah: Right now, we focus on FCCT Tuburan first. The next one will be Tabuelan and then Toledo. Eventually, we will gather them all, and then we would set programs for the younger generation. We would like to motivate them to still stay in touch with nature despite the advancements that they have like mobile games. That even with modernization, they won't lose touch with the basics. 

What kind of program do you have in mind with the youth?

Hannah: The collaboration that we have with The Chocolate Chamber particularly with Batirol. Batirol is going to be a kiosk or a stopping point. Whatever the youth are able to produce, they can sell it to the Batirol. It's going to have cacao products but I am also developing other recipes. In Batirol, they can also practice how to be more hands-on on the business side. 

The partnership of TCC (The ChocolateChamber) and FCCT came to fruition during the pandemic. What are new learning insights did you gain in these trying times?

Hannah: There are bad but there are also good things that came out of this pandemic. One of the good things that came out of it is that people got more aware of what they are doing as well as their next plans are. With everything going on before the pandemic, almost everything is so fast-paced, but when the pandemic hit, everyone's routine changed yet we are able to reflect. 

How are you able to balance study and work?

Hannah: It'salways in my head that it's more than just motivation. Although I know it's not only motivation but also dedication - knowing my responsibilities and owning up to my responsibilities. I know my decisions will affect me and the people around me more. It's definitely a responsibility but I don't see it as a burden. I enjoy work and that I'm able to interact with others especially the youth. 

It's not easy. How did you learn and cultivate that mindset?

Hannah: I learned it early from my mom. It's what I often hear "patas-anay ug utong". Ever since I was 13, I've traveled with her locally and abroad where sometimes we would sleep at 3am and wake up at 6am. We have to prepare early because we value people who came to see us, our products, and especially to those who listen to our stories. It has its ups and downs but through it all, I enjoy everything. 

What are your plans after you graduate from college?

Hannah: After I graduate, I plan to take the board [exam]. I will still help the company and with it, I want to learn more and be more involved with the community. Particularly, I want to help those part of the community who are least nourished and supported like the farmers and fishermen. Now that I have the channel to do it, through FCCT, I want to help those farmers who are suffering where in fact they are the ones feeding the community. 

You are taking up Nutrition and Dietetics. Why did you decide to go for it?

Hannah: Food has always been a part of my passion, but going back, it's also my childhood dream to be a doctor. Came the time where I have to decide for college, I asked myself what I'd like to focus on. We have a business and I don't want to let it go but I also don't want to let go of my childhood dream of becoming a doctor. What I did is I placed it on a decision wheel and chose the program. I applied to CDU, got in, and really just enjoyed my choice. I went in with it not fully knowing what it is all about but eventually, I discover that it is a mix of everything that I love. When school gets challenging, I remind myself how much I love it so now it doesn't feel that I am working or studying because I love doing both. 

Going back to the youth, how did you prepare your meeting with them?

Hannah: I've prepared my proposal for the youth and also how to show them the different applications of cacao. I've found out that the majority of them love to work in the kitchen so I want to show them the basics of handling tablea. I made sure also not to overwhelm them. One thing is how to make a perfect cup of sikwate. I let them do the 5 S of The Chocolate Chamber. Another is how to show the youth that agriculture is not a dead-end. A lot of them thought it's a dead-end; they won't make much money out of it. Or getting stuck there. 

I want to help them realize that it is not. If agriculture is done right, if the government supports them, they won't believe in such a way. I want to remind them of their value and then keep going and eventually, they can learn how to market their products in a way that they can earn more and expand their businesss. 

Earlier, your mom shared that it is you who spearheaded the training of the staff in Seda Bloc who will be preparing sikwate. How was it training people?

Hannah: It was a new experience. It was my first time doing it alone. Before, I was always with my mom, but with this experience, I am now the one who's assisted by my two younger siblings. It made me learn about myself that I am actually capable of training people. In my head before coming to Seda, I thought I couldn't do it alone, but in the end, I was able to do it. I realized that I am capable and that I can always do more if I just push myself. It's one of the good things if you do something out of your comfort zone. You'll learn more of yourself and see your capabilities. 

I've talked to the staff who are very happy to share what they have learned from you. Can you talk about the training process? 

Hannah: I gave them a background of what they are doing. Not only because guests especially foreign ones might ask them, but basically it's how to show people the chocolate drinking tradition of the Filipinos and that Filipinos are knowledgeable about what they are doing. Before showing them how to make a cup of sikwate, I shared with them how the tablea was prepared from cacao beans, the fermentation process of the beans, and the different notes of sikwate flavors. 

Hannah Mae T. Choa (in the middle) along with the staff from Seda Bloc Jinefer and Jose
Jose and Jinefer serving the Philippine Chocolate Queen Raquel T. Choa a perfect cup of sikwate
'The Chocolate Princess' Hannah (in white) training the staff of Seda Bloc on how to make a cup of sikwate in consonance with The Chocolate Chamber's standards
Jinefer preparing sikwate using the traditional batirol and tsokolatera

How would you describe yourself as 'Hannah Mae Choa' apart from your roles at TCC? 

Hannah: My roles at TCC are intertwined with who I am as a person since growing up it was a place for me to explore, experience, and develop my character.  When I was young I would be outgoing yet shy but through my experience, with the guidance of my mom, I was able to push myself to grow out of my shell. I can describe myself now as a person who is energetic, loves to move around and work, and I’m not afraid to try out new things.  I am also one to believe that each one of us has our own promised land and for me, it is my birthplace, Cebu, Philippines. 

Through my roles in TCC, I am reminded of the richness of the Filipino culture and tradition. These made me appreciate the practices and places that we have and made me admire dearly the uniqueness of my home, Cebu- its beauty, its history, and its people.

With your different roles taking much of your time, how do you relax and have fun? 

Hannah: In terms of the load I have, it took some time to figure out how to balance it all. I took it step by step and learned that in order to manage my time I need to know my priorities and responsibilities. At a young age I knew that in life even if you want something or to do something, I should also be able to factor in my responsibilities. In my spare time if I am not in TCC, school, or with friends; I spend my time in the kitchen baking, trying out new recipes, going for a walk/run, or cleaning. As I mentioned I love to move around and work so how I relax is by doing activities that are productive and keeps me busy. I also read every now and then especially on different books on the relationship between food and health. 

How do you arm yourself with more knowledge on agriculture now that you are FCCT's youth ambassador? 

Hannah: Learning is a continuous process. Just like how I became The Chocolate Princess, the Spiller of the B.E.A.N.S, it took time and dedication to have a deeper understanding of cacao and other crops during my visits.

As I joined seminars and training, I appreciated the value of land through integrated farming and the marvel of doing our little share in addressing climate change through composting. With this one of our products is the TCC Natural Fertilizer which is made from discarded cacao shells and other substrates.

What advice would you give to other young people - to students like you who would like to be entrepreneurs someday?

Hannah: To the youth I would say there are three things to live by; Believe in yourself, when you believe in yourself you will be focused on your goals and will keep you positive when challenges come your way. Do work you love and learn to love the work you do. Loving what you do will allow you to enjoy the process. Lastly, one of my mom’s saying is “Patasanay ra gud og utong ang kinabuhu” what I got from this line is that when times are tough sometimes we just need to hold our breath and keep on going, don’t turn your back on your vision, have a goal in and do it with love.

'The Chocolate Princess': In Her Own Voice

I am Hannah Mae Toquero Choa, people call me ‘The Chocolate Princess’ and my role is to be the ‘Spiller of the B.E.A.N.S.’. Our goals are to preserve the tradition of drinking sikwate, promote wellness, and to bring back the love of cacao farming through integrated farming. 

We at The Chocolate Chamber convey our motto, Chocolates from the land to the brand…to Life. For us to have chocolates, we need to focus on where it all begins and that is ‘the land’, ‘the soil’ toiled by our business partners, our agri-preneurs, the farmers. 

In line with this, I am also the Youth Ambassador of FCCT or the First Consolidated Cooperative along Tañon Seabords. I envision cultivating a space in which the youth is able to be productive through agriculture-related products and services, specifically on maximizing produce through inclusive product development. Through these, we are able to create a sustainable value chain not only in cacao but as well as other crops. 

As Dr. Jose Rizal said, The youth is the hope of our future. What a bright future it would be in the agriculture sector as WE go, glow, grow together.