Search and You Shall Find in My World

05 September 2015

Designing from Experience

I was commissioned to design a box for a local chocolate company with specifics including it should appeal to the international and local AB market.

And, of course, there’s the product I should try. Yes, some companies do let you taste their products so you can have the feel, the inspiration to do whatever they wanted you to do for their packaging. For free! While munching on their chocolate, my mind wandered around- time traveling- 34 years way back. 

When I was younger, I used to spend my school breaks in a forested area way out of civilization in Batuan, Bohol. The place was called Tanod, literally, to watch, maybe because you go there to watch over your plants, ala plantation style. This was where my grandparents of my mother’s side lived, their old age no longer allowed them to go back and forth from their original house to watch their kaingin, so they made a house there. The total population? Except for the macaques that were abundant at that time, there were only four adults living in two houses there. Four old adults.

At eight, I never felt out of place in Tanod.

I became one with the cliffs, one of the sources of inspiration. I would go there to look for fossils. I used to hang from one of the sharp promontories that protruded from the steep cliffs. I would imagine Da Vinci or Wilbur Wright and their visions of flying while hanging from the promontory; but felt extremely afraid I would fall off to death. I also imagine dying and death there in Tanod.

The trees were also my friends. In fair weather or on rainy afternoons, I have a special nook in one of the biggest trees where I seek shelter by the lush foliage. No one can find me there. Amazingly, the trees were abundant in the area despite some patches of kaingin. The old folks were slashing and burning for rootcrops and corn, their main staple. Might also be the reason why the macaques, not native to the area, would do occasional raids for food. The old folks would fought back by putting up dangerous traps or shooting them macaques with slingshots. In retaliation, the wise macaques would come up to their houses and made their abode like a tornado just happened inside them. A vicious circle almost always never ending. 

This might be why the macaques would bully small children who came in their way, running after them until they were in some safe place. Can you imagine? I was the only kid in that place.

Why am I telling you these?

Because during those times, having a piece of chocolate bar or a hot cup of chocolate means you have an American friend or one of your relatives is in America. In short- you are rich, because you only have chocolates imported from America.

But not for me. Or us.

My grandparents had a considerable number of cacao and coffee trees around Tanod. During harvests, my taga lungsod eyes (a derogatory term for the much more civilized people from the town center) would pop out due to the war of reds, yellows, oranges and greens everywhere I turned.

Tatay Pastor, my lolo, would then ask me to suck and eat all the meaty parts of the cacao pods and coffee beans. This has a double purpose even if nowadays, sucking cacao seeds is discouraged because it would cause bacteria to thrive in the seeds, hence, affecting the quality and taste of chocolate. But it did not matter back then.

For one- the nutritious seed coating (called testa) is good for children to eat, a better alternative to candies.

Secondly, out of poverty, sucking on the seeds would give temporary relief of hunger pangs and parents would not worry about the need to buy food.

But while the rich had their imported chocolate, ours came fresh and direct from source.

After roasting, the browned cocoa beans would then be crushed using a big shell called melo-melo (Indian Volute). During grinding, my lolo would put muscovado in some portions and feed them to me.

No kid at that time exactly knew how it felt to be intoxicated. But at eight, I already knew. I would glow after several doleouts, my head felt like swimming in an unbeknownst stupor. The sugar-infused fresh chocolate and the hot choco would knock me sweetly down and woke me up famished.

I haven’t been to Tanod anymore. I haven’t been to that place since 1981. All the four people who loved me there gone. The place abandoned. I heard the place is now thick with trees and shrubs and already, the macaques taking hold like heirs of my grandparents. 

I want to go back to see if the cacaos and coffee trees are still there, my hauntings are still there.

So while I am thinking of how should I make this chocolate box appetizing to the international market, my mind wandered off and I became sentimental. Nostalgic. I cried remembering the people and the place.

This is the only product packaging that had me crying. I should bill them more.

My first study for Mint, Coconut, Chili, Dark and Coffee chocolate boxes

My second study for Mint, Coconut, Chili, Dark and Coffee chocolate boxes

Can you guess which of the two studies was approved by my client?

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