Photo - Balay Tablea Facebook Page

A Toast to Tablea A homage to the prosperity brought about by iron horses

Honey Mabelle A. Villarba,

Hannah Jhanylle C. Po

The aroma that creeps into one’s soul, that she’s sure would last in her memory for a long time. The ambience, the taste, the familiarity, all lead to one thing, quality. Sunburst’s Balay Tablea’s flavorsome reputation once again serves up a unique twist on classic chocolate that she knew would take a place in her heart for always!

Indeed, Ferrero Roche, Toblerone, and Cadbury, Sunburst’s Balay Tablea has thrown its salakot onto the pile, and it is a mouth-watering taste of home. Honestly, what is this oh-so-mysterious concoction that seems to delight not only local but foreign palates?

Crafted from locally-grown, roasted, and ground-up Theobroma cacao beans, tablea, also called tableya, is a ball or disc of pure cacao, typically brewed in hot water to prepare sikwate, a traditional Filipino chocolate beverage. With every sip emanates a distinctly rustic flavor, harkening back to the cacao fermentation process undergone by each plant.


In a quest to enjoy the blend of rich flavor and history, one may have come across the name Sunburst’s Balay Tablea.

From its conception in 2014, the firm established itself as a platform for the preservation of tsokolate de metate (traditional stone-ground chocolate) and the empowerment of women through employment, and entrepreneurship. It also served as a response to Sangguniang Bayan No. 030-2012, which proclaimed tablea (named Tan Tono, after the town’s first gobernadorcillo) as Cabatuan’s alternative One Town, One Product (OTOP) good.

“The business is an accidental one spun from the LGU (local government unit) looking for a business venture for tablea,” shared its owner, Catherine Taleon, in an interview with Iloilo Today. “They asked me if I was willing to market tablea in the city, and I accepted.”

Sunburst’s Balay Tablea has since evolved into the authorized manufacturer and distributor of Tan Tono Tablea and continues to serve up smiles to its customers all over the country.

“I have tasted different cacao drinks before, but for me, the tablea here [at Sunburst’s Balay Tablea] takes the top spot with its rich, bold taste. They offer pure, sweet, and more experimental flavors such as chocolate with malunggay,” remarked Peter Paul Conception, a customer and former University of San Agustin Bachelor of Music student.

Paired with the chocolate drink is a cozy, welcoming atmosphere backdropped by simple vintage décor inspired by Spanish colonial interior decoration.


Tablea is more than its taste and shape, despite how its name is literally a Spanish term for “tablet” (or derived from tablear, alluding to how the balls are molded).

Historically, it was not even a tablet but a drink and tool for imperialism, given its regal status among many natives, particularly those from Central America and northern South America, its places of origin.

Soledad Lacson Locsin’s translations of Chapter 11 of The Sovereigns: Divide and Rule reflected this practice, stating, “If he offers you chocolate, which I doubt he will, but if he finally offers, be on guard. If he calls the servant and tells him ‘Fulanito, make a jicara [drinking bowl] of chocolate eh,’ then you can stay and not worry. But if he says ‘Fulanito, make a cup of chocolate ah,’ then pick up your hat and exit running.”


The colonizer’s drink has since been claimed by the people as a breakfast and merienda staple, either as a rich, coffee-like drink or a mixture of tablea, milk, and muscovado sugar. Some would even use condensed milk for an extra dose of sweetness.

In the modern era, it is all about personal preference and ordering aguado tsokolate does not devalue you as an individual. In fact, a number of Filipino pubs, restaurants, and chocolatiers have adopted Tsokolate Eh and Tsokolate Ah but no longer connote to social class and simply serve as naming conventions for the amount of chocolate concentration a customer wants.

Beyond this, a steaming cup or two would be enough to warm the heart after a stressful school or workday, but why stop there? Tablea, especially the bitter and lightly sweetened variations, is often partnered with traditional mild-flavored and sweet merienda favorites like fried ibos, a mixture of glutinous rice and coconut milk funneled into buri or palm leaves. The food and beverage combination leaves customers in amazement while wanting more of the taste of home.


With its ever-growing list of orders, Taleon, in partnership with the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), developed the “Product and Process Improvement of a Cocoa Bean Based Processing Facility for Sunbursts Balay Tablea” project, which has spurred innovations in the beloved blend.

“When I had a chance to visit DOST, they offered me the Small Enterprise Technology Upgrading Program (SETUP). It helped me in improving the quality, quantity, and manufacturing aspects of production,” said

Taleon, in an interview with Iloilo Today.

Through these programs and projects, the business acquired facilities like an emulsifier, heavy-duty cocoa roaster, planetary mixer, foot sealer, weighing scale, stainless steel cabinet, and stockpot. It also improved in packaging and conducted roasting, grinding, and packaging training with the employees.

Despite these technology boosts, the heart of Sunbursts’ Balay Tablea remains rooted in the pursuit of sharing authentic local chocolate in the gastronomist circle.

Are you curious enough to add the flavor to your palette? Take a sip and

make a toast to tablea.

Published: November 17, 2022