The Corporate Slave – Part 2

Spain had helpfully disarmed lowland and vulnerable communities throughout out the islands so few had the ability to defend themselves. As late as 1864 many communities had little more than sticks and rocks in their armouries.

The only effective strategy against the slavers would have been for the Spanish to combine forces with the British and the Dutch, each of whom mutually hated the other as empires are wont to do. Think ABS-CBN and GMA or San Miguel and Asia Brewery. Or somebody big and somebody else equally big.

The economic effect was devastating. Samar’s tiny population lost some 500 people a year. Nueva Caceres alone lost up to 1,500 people a year. Even Manila Bay came in for trouble. Regular destruction of the coastal communities made the growing of crops, especially cash-crops a futile gesture. But the Iranun and Balangigi did quite well out of it, capturing around 300,000 slaves during the great days of slave-raiding, a fair chunk of the tiny Filipino population of the time.

Being an employer in those days in the Sulu Archipelago had a certain simplicity, or did it? After all, this was Filipino slavery. One wouldn’t expect Filipino slavery to be quite the same as anyone else’s and it wasn’t, as we’ll see.

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The Corporate Slave -Part 1

Your order books are full, you can sell everything you can make and the forward orders might just get you into Forbes. The 500, not the park.
Problem: you need warm bodies on the production line. So you call in your Human Resources Manager and he… does what? This is after all the late 1700s in Jolo and you’re the Sultan of Sulu, a Taosug aristocrat, and rule from southern Mindanao to North Borneo and the Celebes. There
won’t be a classified page until, at best, 1811. You could wait until 1860 and get a free six-line slave wanted ad for free by subscribing to the Diario De Manila, but a century is an awfully long time to wait for the hired help.

You need people to produce deliverables. So, you indent for a kampilan from the company stores, get the transportation department to send 1,000 company bancas around to the front door, load up your lantakas with powder and shot and go off for some serious recruitment in Leyte, Samar, Luzon and wherever else doesn’t have kampilan, lantakas and customers screaming for product.

It was in the 18th century that the slave-raiding business-model changed from one of securing a product, slaves, to sell around the region to one of of acquiring a labour force to produce product to sell to the British for their trade with China.

Don’t think of it as slavery, think of it as hard core recruitment.

Continue reading “The Corporate Slave -Part 1”

Kill The Chocolate Biscuit 4

To emphasise the high quality of their chocolate products, the Spanish called the very best chocolate ‘Filipino’.

Chocolate remained a beverage and possibly a food ingredient in local delicacies like suman moron, into the 19th century. In 1828 a Dutch chemist, Van Houten, invented the chocolate press, which separated the cocoa fat from the solids and turned the latter into a powder to make chocolate drinks.

The modern chocolate bar was developed by an English confectioner, Joseph Fry in 18471. A Swiss by the name of David Peters is generally creditted with adding milk powder to the mix to create milk chocolate in 1878.

The product of the time may have had a coarser, grainier texture than todays. The process of ‘conching’, which results in a smoother texture and better aroma was only invented by Rodolphe Lindt in Berne, Switzerland, in 1879.

Eating chocolate was being advertised in Manila by the late 1870s. La Bilbaina was operating a steam-powered manufacturing plant in 1877.
Chocolate is made of cacao powder, cacao fat – sometimes with the addition of peanut oil – and sugar, and melts easily in tropical climates. How the company overcame that problem has yet to be determined but some method of keeping the temperature low enough must have been used, possibly with the help of ice from the relatively newly established ice plant of Julio De Witte.

So, put all that fine history together and one can easily understand why a Spanish company called Artiach chose the name Filipinos to give their lines of white, brown and dark chocolate-enrobed biscuits an assumption of excellent quality.


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Kill The Chocolate Biscuit 3!

Exactly who brought the first cacao plants to the Philippines is hidden in the fog of history. It is a reasonably informed guess that Spanish immigrants from Mexico unofficially brought their own plants to maintain a taste of home.

For instance, Gaspar de San Augustin says that in 1670 a navigator, Pedro Brabo de Lagunas, “brought from Acapulco a pot containing a cacao-plant which he gave to his brother, Bartolome, a priest in Camarines, from whom it was stolen by a Lipa native, Juan del Aguila, who hid it and took care of it, and from it propagated all the original Philippine stock.” 1

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Kill The Chocolate Biscuit 2

Chocolate is made from the ground beans of the cacao fruit, native to pre-Columban Latin America. There it was used in rituals and as cash – 100 beans could buy you a good sized turkey – also native to the region. Nervous victims of human sacrifice would be given a drink of the beverage then known as xocoatl, an unpleasant quaff, to European sensibilities. Italian traveler Giralomo Benzoni with the drink declared it fit only for pigs. Jesuit writer Jose de Acosta said that no one would like the drink if they hadn’t grown up with it, and expressed horror at the foamy top layer with “bubbles like feces.”

Legend creditted the snake-god Quetzalcoatl with giving chocolate to humans, for which the other gods punished him. He broke the rule that it was the exclusively food of the gods, hence its technical name Theobroma Cacao.

My own introduction to real chocolate, made from a traditionally pressed, theobromine-rich tablea at a restaurant on West Avenue, Quezon City, resulted in my brain gently floating towards the ceiling. It was mildly narcotic and very different to the beverage made with mere chocolate powder.

No wonder it was considered food of the gods.

Continue reading “Kill The Chocolate Biscuit 2”

Kill The Chocolate Biscuit!

One benefit of historical knowledge and critical thinking is that it can save one from embarassment and shooting oneself in the foot while the foot is in one’s mouth. Such is the case with the Great Chocolate Biscuit Scandal of the 1990s.

You may wonder why an innocent, tasty chocolate biscuit would lead to speechs and resolutions in the Philippine Congress1, a diplomatic protest2 and an investigation by the Department of Trade and Industry.