Authentic Filipino “Halo-halo”

Summer in the Philippines is marked by the appearance of ubiquitous “Halo-halo” stands.  From major thoroughfares to the narrowest alleys, “sari-sari” stores to house frontages, you will find them:  several bottles of stewed fruits, canned evaporated milk [ or horrors, one of these made-in-China synthetic milk substitutes capable of inducing kidney damage ], white sugar, plastic cups and spoons, all on a campy plastic tablecloth, and a styrofoam box with a block of ice and an ice shaver.  It’s the archetypal summer small business of Juan de la Cruz.

“Halo-halo” is exactly what it’s called:   a mix.  When I was a child in the early 1970s, and long before it was made chic [ and then bastardized ], the 10 centavo [ yes, 10 centavos! ] “Halo-halo” at the nearby “sari-sari” store of Aling Maring’s was a mix of stewed fruits like “saba” [ plantain bananas ], “langka” [ jackfruit ], “nata de coco” [ fermented coconut jelly ], sweetened “mongo” beans, “ube” purple yam paste, red “gulaman” jelly [ bought dried like loofah from the public market; not American “Jell-O” ], red “sago” [ tapioca ], and “pinipig” rice crispies and was topped by a scoop of shaved ice, to which one added “ebap” evaporated milk [ read:  e-v-a-p-o-r-a-t-e-d, not “President” or “Elle & Vire”  😛 ] and white sugar to taste.

A few summers ago, I was stalking an antique “kamagong” aparador somewhere in Tayuman district in Tondo when the car broke down.  It had conveniently stopped in front of a “Halo-halo” stand in front of a pleasant-looking little house manned by a young mother and her well-scrubbed children.  Looking at the ingredients in closed bottles — “saba,” “mongo,” “ube,” “gulaman,” the styrofoam icebox, and the ice shaver, I decided to give it a try and ordered two for my driver and I.  It was good and had that elusive, nostalgic, pedestrian taste I remembered from childhood.  Cost:  Php 20 each.

While the A-crowd can have their chichi “Halo-halo” at the top hotels, and the regular Joes can have theirs in the various “Halo-halo” outlets at the malls, I’ve always felt, and strongly, that authentic Filipino “Halo-halo” is the one found on the streets, in the “sari-sari” stores, and house fronts.  It has to have that nostalgic “cheap” taste.  After all, “Halo-halo” is a descendant of the PreWar Japanese vendors’ “Mongo con hielo” found in populous Quiapo, Santa Cruz, and Avenida.  It was so common that no upper-class matron of that time would have served “Halo-halo” at her elegant “asaltos,” “bienvenidas,” and “despedidas.”   It was really “PPP” proletarian, plebeian, and pedestrian… during PreWar, at least.

In the 1950s, the generation of my parents used to go to “Little Quiapo” for “Halo-halo” after watching movies along the Escolta or Avenida…

Nowadays, the chichi go to the Manila Peninsula hotel lobby for the “Halo-halo” of upper-class Manila [ seems like any other “Halo-halo” to me;  I’ve always wondered if they should up the ante and make the ice out of “Evian” and throw in fruit preserves and “marrons glaces” from “Fauchon” for good measure  😛 ].  The regular Joes head for the various “Halo-halo” chains in the malls and elsewhere like “Digman” of Bacoor, “Icebergs,” “Razon’s” of Guagua, and “Kabigting’s” of Arayat [ Ayala Marquee mall, Angeles ], etc..

Ideally, as with everything else, the best “Halo-halo” should be made at home, bursting with all the yummy ingredients…   🙂   🙂   🙂

So, what’s your favorite “Halo-halo”???


Funny story about “Halo-halo”:

My Valdes cousin Susie Tinio Arroyo was telling me of the time she went with a mostly female tour group to Taal, Batangas.  The Coaster bus was full.  As expected, they visited the sanctuary of the miraculous Our Lady of Caysasay.  When they were leaving the shrine, their tour guide pointed to a nearby roadside stall and said that the best “Halo-halo” was to be found there.  The 90 year-old Taalena proprietress was known to prepare and stew all the yummy ingredients herself.  Mouths watering, the entire group of 35 foodies immediately flocked to the roadside stall and ordered a “Halo-halo” each.  It turned out that the 90 year-old woman was the only one preparing the “Halo-halo”:  she huffed and puffed and hyperventilated as she hurriedly shaved the ice and frantically prepared “Halo-halo” for the 35 surprise customers from Manila.  Yes, the “Halo-halo” was goooood!!!  Cousin Susie pitied the 90 year-old woman who panted to the 35th glass of “Halo-halo”…

And just as the 90 year-old woman handed the 35th Halo-halo glass to the last of the tourists, another Valdes cousin, Bunny Katigbak Fabella, stood up and requested:  “May I have more ice, please?”   🙂

*LOLSZ!!!*  Cousin Susie could hardly contain her laughter!!!


  1. Enrique Bustos said,

    April 25, 2010 at 3:43 am

    “”‘Corazon’s’ halo-halo in Corazon St., Nepo Subdivision, Angeles City, also good their version of the halo-halo is made of mais, saging, pastillas and crushed beans.”

    “‘Cool Spot’ is a halo-halo parlor that dates back to 1945. Built as makeshift halo-halo stand by three spinster sisters, Apung Nena, Apung Maring and Apung Tatu Natividad, Cool Spot’s halo-halo is a mix of real kiping macapuno (sweetened macapuno), kiping saguing (saba banana in syrup), leche flan and mais (corn kernels) and a generous serving of evaporated milk..Of the three, Apung Tatu is the only one left. The store is managed by their niece, Corazon Trinidad. The main store is in the old alley right at the back of the old Ocampo’s jewelry on Miranda Street.”

    “There are three distinct halo-halo varieties in Pampanga. These are Guagua (Razon’s), Angeles (Corazon’s) and Arayat (Kabigting’s and Jurado’s) halo-halo. It must also be noted that Kapampangan halo-halo is distinct from the other halo-halo served in the country because it uses only three or four ingredients or sahog. However, the richness of these ingedients more than compensates for the number of types thrown in the glass. Arayat for example is distinct for its pastillas, crushed beans and saging combination; Guagua for its macapuno, saging, and leche flan; while Angeles is distinct for its mais, saging, pastillas and crushed beans combination.””

  2. Becco Empleo said,

    April 20, 2010 at 11:30 pm

    “Salud’s” in Lucban, Quezon << love love love….eww for Chow King's parang bato ang ice…how about the one in Pagsanjan, Laguna? I've been hearing good things about their halu-halo..

  3. Vic Mayor said,

    April 20, 2010 at 3:00 pm

    My favorite “Halo-halo” is the one sold in Pagsanjan. Forgot the name but they usually serve their “halo-halo” with kundol.

  4. Rey Soriano said,

    April 20, 2010 at 6:30 am

    The best “halo-halo” for me, bar none, is “La Pampangueña’s,” a food stall in the old Manila Central Market. all the ingredients are carefully prepared, from the “halayang ube,” “langka,” to the “minatamis na saging.”

  5. Edwin D. Castro said,

    April 20, 2010 at 5:04 am

    The best “halo-halo” I had was the one from Ely at the pre-lahar Bacolor Public Market.

  6. Sandra Garcia said,

    April 19, 2010 at 8:36 am

    “Milky Way” halo-halo is really good. Nostalgic too.

  7. Josh Moya said,

    April 16, 2010 at 12:49 pm

    Love “Razon’s” halo-halo but “Chow King”? There’s nothing there but ice.

  8. luisa ditan said,

    April 13, 2010 at 10:12 am

    same as Larry…. I’ve had the one at the Peninsula and some ice cream houses, razons and Chow King are on top of my list now!!

  9. Paz Atienza said,

    April 12, 2010 at 2:41 pm

    The secret of good halo-halo for me is in the way the ice is shaved. It is a complete turn off when the shaved ice is too big and difficult to swallow. That’s why I like Razon’s although there isn’t much “halo” inside because it has this smooth milky taste.

    I remember when I was younger there was an hotel that served “isang plangganitang halo-halo.” I think it was at the coffee shop of the old Hyatt along Roxas Boulevard. My balikbayan cousin who was craving for halo-halo was treated by my dad to that “little basin” of halo-halo. He turned “blue” after finishing the whole thing.

  10. Ipê Nazareno said,

    April 12, 2010 at 4:04 am

    The Halo-Halo at Barrio Digman in Bacoor, Cavite can’t be beat. The freshly made (read: never canned) halo/minatamis is the secret to its goodness. In fact, a huge photo of the different kinds of halo/minatamis of Digman was the banner photo in the front page of the Inquirer.

    Another secret of the Digman Halo-Halo is the milk. And this is what sets the Barrio Digman Halo-Halo apart.

    Most Filipino restaurants (Razon’s, Via Mare, etc.) scrimp on the milk. These restaurants use run-of-the-mill evaporated milk like Alaska and Carnation. These canned evaporated milk are, technically, not considered “milk” in other countries as they are merely “filled milk” (in fact, if you bother to read the label of Alaska and Carnation, it clearly reads “Evaporated Filled Milk”). This means that the milk is not really “whole milk” but milk filled in with non-milk fats like coconut oil.

    At Digman, I noticed that they serve their Halo-halo with the more expensive Alpine Evaporated Milk which is whole milk as it is a “Full Cream Evaporated Milk” (Alpine is the only evaporated milk brand in the Philippines which is “full cream” as it uses no coconut oil or other non-dairy fats to fill in the milk). This gives the Digman Halo-Halo a richer, creamier taste.

    The best home made Halo-Halo I’ve tried was at the home of the late Ambassador and Mrs. JV Cruz in London when I was still a teenager. Mrs. Lucy Cruz, a wonderful hostess, served her Halo-Halo with the best English “Double Cream.”

  11. April 11, 2010 at 8:23 pm

    My top two are Razon’s for the classic minimal taste but believe it or else the Chow King version does it for me. Just discovered it this summer.

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