MJ Mercado

MJ Mercado

MJ Mercado


Yes, that’s a noun, not a comparative adjective. He’s a chocolatier, not a chocolate maker. What’s the diff? In simple terms, a chocolatier is someone who makes chocolates, those dipped, nutty, or cream-filled confections that we all know and love. A chocolate maker on the other hand is someone that roasts cocoa beans and simply grinds them into chocolate. Who has the more fulfilling job? MJ will help you figure that out!

Who is MJ?

MJ is an IT professional that loves food. It led me to research more about chocolates, hence the reason why I’m doing this gourmet chocolate experience at home.

What made you become interested in food and chocolates?

I guess it was from my heritage on my father’s side. Our province is in Pampanga, and it is dubbed as the culinary capital of the Philippines. Since I was a child, we were raised up around food. It’s part of my love for food. For chocolates, I was challenged to find food related business that is related to science.

What do you like best about making food or making chocolates?

I love the technique behind it. I could apply my engineering background. It’s like working in a chemistry lab when formulating the recipes for chocolates and other gnash.

How many years did it take you to come up with your chocolate creations? What did you go through throughout the years?

I started researching about chocolates way back in 2011. Almost 6 years now since I’ve started using compound chocolates. For my creations, I did a lot of research online since my previous work was with IT so I have a lot of knowledge in researching the online trends. I also made it a point to attend food expos to follow whatever new trends or upcoming trends in food.

What made you become interested in food and chocolates?

I guess it was from my heritage on my father’s side. Our province is in Pampanga, and it is dubbed as the culinary capital of the Philippines. Since I was a child, we were raised up around food. It’s part of my love for food. For chocolates, I was challenged to find food related business that is related to science.

During your process of making chocolates, do you need to be in a certain mood to make the chocolates?

What I follow is that if my mind isn’t at peace, or not clear, or if I’m not in the mood to make chocolates, I stop and I meditate. When my mind is clear, I can start my work. When making mocha shots, it’s as if you’re in the zone; you’re doing your thing and as long as you’re in that zone, whatever happens around you is irrelevant. You could just continue working when you’re in the zone.

Do you consider chocolate making an art?

For me, it’s both an art and a science. Since I have a technical background, I used to study engineering in college, and when I went to the industry I worked as an IT professional. The techniques and the science behind the chocolate is what interests me most but also the arts of creating your own recipes. Most people are scared of making or using chocolates because it’s very temperamental; it doesn’t like moisture, it doesn’t like high heat. But for me, it’s a challenge. That’s what I love about chocolates.

Can you talk about experiences where people tried your chocolates or your food? What was their reaction and what did that make you feel?

Their usual reaction is, “Wow, that’s a new twist on a classic!” One of the bestsellers are the mocha shots. I call it mocha shots because it’s shaped like coffee beans and its first container was the shot glass, so my thought behind it was to create an edible souvenir that could be given on weddings and corporate events.

Could you share more about your advocacy of helping local farmers through your ingredients?

The chocolates that I’m using are either from the Philippines or from ASEAN countries. I’m using 56% couverture chocolate from Indonesia. The brand is Tulip. I love the texture and how it compliments the coffee beans that I am using from Sagada mountain province as well as Arabica coffee beans from Mount Matutum, South Cotabato. I make it a point that I use local chocolates as much as possible but if it’s not available, I try to look for countries that are ASEAN members so that I could support the ASEAN economy.


There’s no such thing as no solution.”

MJ Mercado


What’s the most memorable chocolate experience you have or will have?

Since I am in the business of creating chocolates for weddings, I will be making my own edible creations for my own wedding. I’ve created several souvenirs for that special event. Most of my bestsellers would be on our wedding, it will be laid out on a chocolate table. That’s the experience that I want to have for our guests. Even our wedding cake is a chocolate cake. It’s made with 65% dark chocolate so it’s a moist chocolate cake. Although it’s not a traditional cake, we love chocolate so we decided to use 65% Malagos chocolate for our wedding day.

What could traveller’s expect during your gourmet chocolate experience?

They could expect a lot of technical terms since I have a technical background. Also, a lot of history. I’ll be discussing some history about chocolates and how it was brought to the Philippines from Mexico. We’ll also be making some sikwate or the traditional way of creating hot chocolate but we will also be creating contemporary confections like truffles and crinkles.

How about the interactive side? What could the travelers do?

They could participate in the experience by participating in the temperament process, by mixing the gnash as well as piping the fillings for the dulce de leche. If they want to really experience it, we could also have the travelers use the mortar and pestle to create the sikwate.

Can you run us through the menu for the experience?

The menu that I have in mind is creating hot chocolate using Malagos unsweetened chocolates but before that, we will be creatingsikwate using cacao nibs, also from Malagos. The reason behind using Malagos is that they are one of the best Filipino chocolates that are available in the market right now. I believe in their advocacy, because they support local growers of cacao. We will also be creating pramines like mocha shots and dulce de leche, which is caramel with Philippine sea salt or rock salt. We could create truffles. That should take around 4-5 hours or at least half a day.



Meet Mukhasim (short for Mukhang Maasim, or Sour Face in English) as called by the locals of the Malcapuya Island in Palawan.

He sells Banana Cue in the island, collects entrance fees and earns from commissions. Whenever you buy a Banana Cue from him, he will do his signature “Mukhasim” face as a sign of gratitude.

At first glance, people find this photo of his face very amusing and funny, but like many of us – he’s also your day-to-day neighbour who smiles, who laughs and who earns a living.

So, do take a trip to the beautiful Malcapuya island, not just for the white beach, but to witness Mukhasim’s outstanding talent and story as a local of the island.

Always remember that travelling is not all about the photogenic places alone, but it’s ultimately about a discovery of the people and the stories of the people in the places that we go to.


Photos credits: Andrew Cua

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Master Arnold

Master Arnold

Arnold Buenviaje

Wushu Master

It’s easy to say that you’re a sports enthusiast or an athlete. But to stick to a certain sport for forty years is a whole different story! Get to know more about the humble man who became a key figure in the history of Wushu in the Philippines.

How did you get started with Wushu?

One of my classmates in school was interested in Chinese martial arts. He invited me to join a club that he has joined.

Can you tell us more about your Wushu experience?

I started Wushu in 1977. I entered a traditional club during that time. In 1990, I went to the Wushu Federation and trained for 3 years. After that, I became a national player. In 1993, I became a student of Master Zhong Lian Bao of Shandong, China. In 1995, I became a student of Lu Zhong Mo of the White Crane in Hong Kong. From then on, I started teaching traditional Wushu up to now.

Why did you choose to teach Wushu?

I love Wushu. In my younger days, I could really do Wushu. But as we grow older, we cannot be competitive anymore. I decided to train youngsters so that someday they could accomplish something or they could win a competition for themselves.

Tell us something about Wushu that most people don’t know.

There were several Wushu clubs before, although right now, some of them have already been closed. The old clubs mostly stopped operation due to financial reasoning. We are a new club that started in 2006.

What is the best thing about being a teacher?

The best part about being a teacher is seeing your students become an accomplished martial artist.

What is the worst thing about being a teacher?

The worst part is when your student uses the moves with the wrong intentions and becomes a criminal or a bad person.

What are you most proud of about being a teacher?

I am proud that some of my students become accomplished martial artists while others become accomplished businessmen. That’s the one thing I am very proud of.

“You need to be persevering. You have to take lots of hardships in learning the art and number one, you have to love the art. As in really love it.”

Master Arnold


What do you think the state of Wushu is right now in the Philippines?

Right now, the traditional Wushu is diminishing because the old clubs have shut down due to financial problems. Our club here wishes to continue the tradition. That’s the reason why we’re here.

Why do you think it’s important to keep the tradition going?

It’s part of the Chinese tradition. These traditions, if they’re not passed to the next generation, will be totally gone.

What are the basic forms in Wushu?

You can learn the basic forms of Wushu: Praying Mantis, which is Sao Chui, a basic form of Shaolin fist – a basic Tao Lu.

What are the basic forms with sticks and swords?

I could teach basic cajole and basic swords.

Can you tell us more about the Wushu experience that you offer?

Travellers could expect to learn basic Wushu such as the kicks, the punches, and the application. If the client is more adept with Chinese Wushu, we could go further higher with the system.


Photos credits: Jeff de Guzman

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