April is Filipino Food Month. Coincidentally, the nation also commemorates the 500th anniversary of the First Circumnavigation of the World by the Magellan-Elcano Expedition. An event that placed the Philippines right in the middle of a global trade route, changed the course of Philippine History, and influenced Filipino Culture that defines the quintessential Filipino today.
In line with these observances, the National Museum Bohol brings to you a pre-Columbian South American beverage introduced to the Philippines as Spain opened the Manila-Acapulco trading route – the Chocolate. Highlighting the technology used in producing a drink beloved by many Boholanos — the Sikwate.
Traditionally, the process begins with the seeds of the Cacao fruit (Theobroma cacao) dried and then roasted. The roasted seeds or cocoa beans are crushed using the Lusong Ug Alho to easily separate the kernel from the shell. Once peeled, the cocoa is grounded into a paste using the Metate, locally called “ligsanan og cacao“. The paste is then shaped into tablets or tableya which can be stored for later use.
To make the delicious sikwate or hot chocolate, the tablets are added to very hot water or milk. A wooden whisk, called Batidor in Spanish, is used to dissolve the chocolate tablets. Using the whisk also produces a frothy beverage. In other parts of the country, the wooden whisk is called Batirol but in Bohol, it is called the bornijo and the pot where the chocolate tablets are whisked and mixed with liquid is called batirol.
Today, the tableya and sikwate are often prepared using modern appliances such as the electric grinder or blender. But those who have tasted the beverage prepared the old way would attest that the taste and flavor of traditionally prepared sikwate is unparallelled.