You know it’s summertime when stalls suddenly appear out of the sidewalk, selling plastic cups of halo-halo filled with milk, shaved ice and specks of purple, red, white, brown and green at 10 pesos each.
As the day progresses and the heat becomes more unbearable, more people get in line to order this classic Filipino dessert, hoping to some relief from the scorching heat.
Each cup of halo-halo varies per vendor but never misses the same formula of ice, milk, sugar, beans, gelatin and langka (jackfruit). The slightly pricier ones get a spoonful of ube, shaved coconut and even a dollop of ice cream, which are must-haves for the indulgent.
Interestingly, the origins of halo-halo were a lot simpler. In a write-up of historian Ambeth Ocampo, the dessert has apparent Japanese influences and consisted of a simple bowl of shaved ice, milk, sugar, topped with a head of mongo beans in a wide bowl.
Today, halo-halo is served in a tall cup with a corresponding long spoon to make it easy to eat.
Easy, of course, does not mean immediate. Halo-halo is a dessert for the patient, requiring a bit of jabbing before getting to the good stuff. The shaved ice – the finer, the better – is stabbed with a spoon, which when repeatedly done makes it disappear into the milk, cascade down to the layers of beans and fruits and finally make its cool descent down your throat.
Words by IAN BENETUA
Illustration by KEI UY