Wednesday, January 31, 2007


With Manila's temperature hovering in the mid-60s Fahrenheit lately, posting this entry today may suggest wrong timing. Nonetheless, thought I'd better post it now instead of waiting another month or two in time for the sweltering summer months.

This picture of a reproduction of a 19th-century ice box was taken inside Casa Manila in Intramuros. Although the museum's no picture taking policy was strictly enforced on that particular day as always, through a friendly request, one of the security guards allowed me to take a quick shot of it while no one else was around.

Many of you may already know about this, but it was only last year when I first learned from Carlos Celdran — while taking his Intramuros walking tour — that blocks of ice used to be exported to Manila from Boston. Smaller chunks of which would then be delivered house-to-house wrapped in cloth or rice husks on a horse-drawn cart. A typically-affluent household back then spent about a thousand pesos a month to get a daily delivery.

The fortunate owners of an ice box were not the only Manilans able to buy and store ice during that time. According to Ambeth Ocampo, the alternative method used to store a block of ice was wrapping it with a blanket and then putting it in the part of the house which was least cool, or inside a dry closet without any circulating air. Supposedly, with the exception of the sun and fire, whatever will keep a man warm will keep ice cold.

Also, according to Ocampo, the ice came from the Boston Lakes, famous of which was Wenham Lake ice. It was so pure and very clean, as well as stayed cool longer than other ices. It also proved suitable for putting in one’s drink or mixing with food. Hence the reason why the imported ice that Manilans enjoyed then came all the way from Boston.

But of more interest was the fact that had it not been the export of ice to India, in which Manila happened to be along the route, local folks back then would have never experienced any chilled refreshments or sorbet. Ocampo wrote, “On Average, the trip from Boston to Calcutta took 103 days; the record breaking time was 86 days. Now, how much of ice melted? Well, to give you an idea, only 38 tons of ice reached Calcutta from the original 160 tons that left Boston. It was a loss of 76 percent, but the Tudor Ice Company still made money. It must have been very profitable, because it was not long before Tudor had a bout a dozen competitors.”

Before Manila's ice age, the locals enjoyed a glass of water cooled in an earthenware tapayan. Ocampo knew about this. What he was unable to find from archives and old newspapers were firsthand accounts of the Filipino’s first encounter with ice. He believes that such stories would definitely make an interesting footnote in our cultural history.

Would it be safe to assume then that halo-halo might have been concocted along the same time during the 19th-century?

The Ice Man Cometh by Ambeth Ocampo
Aguinaldo's Berakfast and More Looking Back Essays
Anvil Publishing 1993

posted by Señor Enrique at 6:40 AM


Blogger wernicke said...

Brrr! It's so cold nga! And my officemate is craving for Razon's halo halo so we'll go there later during lunchtime. :)

I heard Baguio's temp was 9.6 yesterday. Parang gusto ko pumunta dun!

January 31, 2007 9:48 AM  

Anonymous jhay said...

Back when I was still at the Ateneo, in our Phil History class, we had this project of writing a research paper. My group considered about researching the origins of the halo-halo but dropped the idea because our professor told us that it would be impossible at our academic stage because the research work would be so great, Ambeth Ocampo is having difficulties with it.

So instead we worked on history of the very firs ice plant in Manila. I forgot the details and even the name of the plant but it was good paper and the experience of researching for it was priceless.

January 31, 2007 9:52 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Hi Wernicke. Is Razon's halo-halo one can get at Mall of Asia; the one everyone raves about? Where exactly is it. I'd like to go and try it.

January 31, 2007 10:21 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Since everyone I know claims the best halo-halo comes from Pampanga, I assume it was invented there, Jhay. Nonetheless, it would have been wonderful to discover its origin had your class embarked on its research at the beginning of the year.

At my father's home province, near my grandparents' house was an ice plant. It has since been demolished.

January 31, 2007 10:25 AM  

Blogger wernicke said...

Hi Erisac! Razon's has a branch in Greenhills, near the Caltex Gas Station. They also have a branch at Metrowalk and Megamall - where we will go later. Oh, they also have a branch at Robinson's Place Ermita. Their halo-halo only has 3 ingredients: leche flan, macapuno and saging - plus the milk which they suspect is carabao's milk. The milk gives a distinct taste to Razon's halo halo.

I am not sure if you can say for sure that halo-halo came from Pampanga just because they make the best halo-halos. For one, if it originated in Pampanga, it's name would have been kapampangan (though admittedly, I do not know what "halo" is in kapampangan.) Another thing, there is such a thing as cachang in Singapore which is actually very similar to our halo halo except from the ingridients. This cachang is also a favorite dessert in Indonesia. I also saw San Cai and Hua Ze Lei (hehe) in Meteor Garden eating something like Halo-Halo and they were in Taiwan. I am not sue though if the Taiwan halo-halo has milk but the cachang in Singapore and Indonesia is also mixed with milk. Hmnn...

My guess is, as far as Taiwan and Singapore are concerned - eating sweetened fruits with ice and milk were a British invention. I would surmise that the affluent Chinese who were driven away to Taiwan when China became communist rubbed elbows with the rich and famous of Hong Kong. And who would be interested in being refreshed in such tropical countries other than those who came from colder climates? As for us, Ambeth Ocampo's research pointed that we had ice in Manila only during the American occupation. Who could have invented it but the Tagalogs who were hosting the foreign guests? Hence "halo-halo".

January 31, 2007 10:49 AM  

Blogger christine said...

I loved reading this post, and how you took the story from that old ice box to halo-halo. :)I remember being shocked with the little bit of history during Carlos' tour, and it made me appreciate technology even more. What would I do without my margaritas and kamikazes!? hehe jk :) Now you've made me crave halo-halo.

January 31, 2007 11:02 AM  

Anonymous carla said...

ang sosi naman pala ng yelo ng mga ninuno natin hehehe.

my mum told me just last year that my oldest tito worked in an ice plant during the war and it was managed by a japanese soldier who was very kind to him and his sisters.

January 31, 2007 1:25 PM  

Anonymous tutubi said...

ah Ambeth, my history teacher

...on the net of course. I follow all his articles in the Inquirer. I just posted the
first of a series of his pasig river tour in my blog :)

I also read this article you quoted sometime ago

ei, you coming to Photoworld this saturday? might drop by

January 31, 2007 1:29 PM  

Anonymous Major Tom said...

A very interesting posts; it is just about topics like this that makes Ambeth Ocampo a very favorite writer of mine, so many information about the past.

Gee, ice was actually a high commodity at that time and even though its so logical to be that way, I never really thought ice could be that expensive.

By all sense, halo-halo preparation could have started only after ice trade already existed that time. It would have been unthinkable otherwise.

January 31, 2007 2:22 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Know what, Wernicke? An Indian restaurant in NYC serves a similar halo-halo dessert. It may be more ubiquitous than realized.

Many thanks for the info on Razon's. As I've said, I have got to check this out :)

January 31, 2007 5:43 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Or what about those Starbuck frapps, Christine?

Like you, I was really astounded to hear this imported ice from the States. Jeeez!

I'm also craving for the 3-ingredient Razon halo-halo!

January 31, 2007 5:46 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

I've heard of some poignant stories about the kindness of some Japanese officers during the war, Carla. After all, some graduated from America's Ivy League schools such as Harvard and then suddenly found themselves leading a bunch of fanatics whose sole aim was to please the emperor.

Yup, I can imagine our sosi illustrados paying an arm and a leg for ice much like those Europeans who did the same with the limited supply of table sugar from the Caribbean.

January 31, 2007 5:51 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

A new friend and fellow photography enthusiast, Allan, went to Ateneo and had Ambeth as history professor. He did mention how witty Ambeth was.

I will check out your site later on, Tito.

Yes! I was invited to attend the three talks to be presented by Nikon at 5pm. I'd most probably be there on Saturday, too. Just send me a text message when you get there so we could meet. I'll ask Sidney later if he plans to attend, too.

January 31, 2007 5:56 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Lol! Right you are, Major Tom! What would halo-halo be without the ice :) But I wouldn't be surprised if the Chinese had already been serving such, though with lukewarm milk instead. Because some of its ingredients -- sweetened white beans, garbanzos, monggo and others are served on its own on room temperature.

But how I wish Ambeth was able to discover some documents that illustrated how the Filipinos reacted to their intial reaction to crushed ice, sorbet, halo-halo, and so forth.

January 31, 2007 6:03 PM  

Blogger Sidney said...

Not sure if I can make it to Photoworld this Saturday. But I will try to drop by. At what time are you going. It would be nice if we could meet.

January 31, 2007 8:22 PM  

Blogger christine said...

You're right. A world without Starbucks frapps? Oh the horror! :)

January 31, 2007 9:20 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Hi Sidney! Just emailed you the schedule. Looking forward to meet you there as well.

January 31, 2007 9:30 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Hi Christine! Or how about my favorite frozen drink -- Pina Colada? Hmmm ... haven't had one in ages, though.

January 31, 2007 9:32 PM  

Blogger fionski said...

Halo halo.. Hmmm... I wonder if the halo halo store in Central Market still exists.

January 31, 2007 10:34 PM  

Blogger dave (",) said...

The Filipino's first encounter with ice? That's easy: hail stones. Although it's not pure H2O (some dust mixed), it's just as cold and hard. Given the rarity of such weather in a given area here (perhaps once a decade), the folks would find it a novel item.

Ambeth Ocampo is one eccentric teacher, as far as stories I've heard. He asks weird exam questions like "Describe the Battle of Mactan in the point of view of a fish."

Oh well, I've stomached the Philippine History maverick Fr. Arcilla, S.J. I actually find his pro-Establishment ("history written by the winners") approach a refreshing break from the angsty, defeatist ("inaccurate," "illogical," "propagandistic," he claims) rants of popular historians. The experience is a re-education of sorts.

February 01, 2007 12:05 AM  

Anonymous kyels said...

I've heard of Casa Manila but did not manage to go there; maybe the next time!


I love the photo of the halo-halo, looks really yummy!

February 01, 2007 1:04 AM  

Blogger Analyse said...

i've never heard about that.. imported ice? hehe..must be expensive during that time then..

February 01, 2007 1:42 AM  

Anonymous LAR said...

You're very lucky to be able to take that picture. :) It's hard to look for a way to store an ice without a refrigerator.

By the way, can I also ask for the Photoworld schedule please? Thanks so much!

February 01, 2007 4:10 AM  

Blogger minotte's notes said...

hi eric,

thanks for the hopia. we shared it with our friends here and they loved it.

kaka-miss naman yung halo-halo.

just for your info, i am still awaiting the book. it's not here yet.

best regards,

February 01, 2007 4:17 AM  

Blogger Noypetes said...

Back in the 50's when it was still a luxury for a common pinoy to own a "Frigidaire"(a term most pinoys referred to refridgerators as well as the most famous brand in Manila then)ice was delivered on your doorsteps in a big green truck with 2 husky guys cutting and picking the big block of ice in the truck into retail sizes. If I remember right, it was the REYES ICE FACTORY that monopolized most of the Sampaloc and Santa Mesa ice delivery business. The advent of the halo-halo kiosks started together with the rectangular ice shavers. My guess is the Chinese brought the halo-halo concoction to the Philippines along with the boiled in mollasses banana with crushed ice sold in most chinese sari-sari stores in Manila. Let's not forget the pinoy banga water filtration and storage. The clay jar kept the water in there cold and refreshingly clean even in the heat of pinas summers.

February 01, 2007 6:12 AM  

Blogger Amadeo said...

Dave (",):

Was surprised to read your mention of your history teacher, Fr. Arcilla. I assumed you got him at ADMU. He had spent his youth with us at Ateneo de Cagayan HS – teaching us provincianos about history, too and other equally important subjects.

He will be invited to our forthcoming reunion, including a Fr. Thomas Green, if you are also familiar with him.


February 01, 2007 6:48 AM  

Blogger Belle TH said...

Ice exported to Manila from Boston, USA??? It must have been before the Panama Canal Era when they went around the tip of South America (Tierra Del Fuego)in English "Land of Fire", in order to go to Pacific ocean to Atlantic ocean. And some of the ice made it to Manila for that long of a voyage? AMAZING!

My husband was telling me that during the 19th century before refrigeration, people availed of the frozen ice from lakes to keep things cool.

February 01, 2007 8:12 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Hi Fionski ... what's the name of it and exactly where at Central Market. I was just over there the other see a framer for my photos. I can ask around to see if still there.

February 01, 2007 9:42 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Hail stones are more a pain in the head, Dave! If it did occur here in the archipelago, I can just imagine my religious aunt crying out that it's the end of the world ... hehehe.

Allen did mention that Ambeth is malupit when it comes to giving out exams.

February 01, 2007 9:45 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Thanks, Kyels. Visiting Casa Manila on your own might proved boring. I'd suggest jining a tour.

February 01, 2007 9:46 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Yup, Analyse, imported siya!

About a thousand pesos a month was what it would cost you for a daily home deliver. I can't imagine how much that wuld translate in today's value.

February 01, 2007 9:47 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

LAR, I just posted the schedule on your comment box.

If you plan to go to Glorietta during the early afternoon on Friday, email me your cell # so I txt you where we're at. This way, we can all get together and meet.

Tito, please take not as well!

February 01, 2007 9:50 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Hi Minotte! Glad you liked those Polland hopias :)

Fully Booked told me they have the book I want on order so I reserved a copy. They will call me once it arrives. Thanks!

February 01, 2007 9:52 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

The first fridge I remember that we have was a General Electric with a chrome door handle, Noypetes :)

That's what I thought -- the Chinese might have brought in the halo-halo to the Philippines.

Thanks for the info!

February 01, 2007 9:55 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Hi Belle -- The ice trade might have begun before the creation/building of the Panama Canal, but flourished after the canal opened in 1914; thus, the many number of competitors that eventually sprung up.

But I wonder what the folks did for refrigeration during the summer months? Come to think of it, the ice trade might be seasonl as well since I doubt it very much if the Boston lakes could provide ice during the summer.

February 01, 2007 10:03 AM  

Blogger BW said...

Manila in the 60's? That's very surprising indeed. Global warming reversed I guess.

Ice imported from Boston ? Wow - that's long ways man. I recall back in the 80's Saudi Arabia was planning to haul a large chunk of iceberg from the Artic down to the Mediterranean and through the Suez Canal to get to the western part of Saudi Arabia along the Red Sea. Saudi was planning to process the iceberg into drinking water. I wonder what happened to that plan.

February 01, 2007 11:15 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Oh, my God! Had that actually taken place, I'm sure I'd be seeing its documentary either on the National Geographic channel or Discovery Channel.

I really didn't know abut this, BW.

But the logistical hindrances might have been too immense to over come. And I wonder if the Suez Canal is deep enough to allow an iceberg to pass through. The thought alone is mind-boggling!

February 01, 2007 12:29 PM  

Blogger Belle TH said...

senor, the ice was kept in the sawdust-insulated warehouse and last through summer.

February 01, 2007 12:47 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Wow! Astonishing, indeed! Many thanks, Belle!

Personally, I have to learn to drink my refreshments with minimal ice cubes. I seem unable to shake off my evening coughing. I was told to stay away from cold drinks. Hmmmm.... Quite hard to do in a tropical country :)

February 01, 2007 12:55 PM  

Anonymous niceheart said...

"Whatever will keep a man warm will keep ice cold." That's very interesting to know.

Naglaway ako sa halu-halo. And topped with leche flan (?) pa.

February 01, 2007 2:13 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Hindi pa nga yan ang pinakamasarap na halo-halo, Irene, kasi yan ang pinakamura ng Chow King.

What I don't like about Chow King's: the ingredients are hard except for the flan; the ice also is hard unlke Jolibee's which is shaved as ordered.

I can't wait to taste the Razon halo-halo. That should be ineresting!

February 01, 2007 3:03 PM  

Blogger Mila Tan said...

I hope you've had your taste of Razon's already. Somehow I still prefer going all the way to Pampanga to the original store. The ones in Manila sometimes don't get the creaminess of the shaved ice just right.

It's also the only version of the Puting Halo-halo. All the other versions are multi-colored.

I enjoyed reading the ice-man cometh history. Imagine how much food was wasted in the old days because of the lack of refrigeration. Although I suppose there was less waste in general as people were using up what they needed, not in excess of that.

February 15, 2007 5:38 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Hi Mila!

Yes, I've a feeling that somehow folks back then were able to plan how divvy up a whole pig or cattle back then amongst other families so as to avoid wasting all those extra meat.

Sadly, I haven't had the pleasure of trying Razon's halo-halo; haven't been back to Mall of Asia. I will, however, dedicate an entire entry on it once I have a taste of it.

February 16, 2007 6:51 AM  

Blogger Mila Tan said...

You don't have to go to Mall of Asia for Razon's, I know of at least 3 other Razon outlets in MM: Greenhills, on Annapolis Street, near the gas station; Cubao, near Gateway mall; Greenbelt 1, inside the mall, the old Gourmet Cafe location, by Delifrance and the muffin shop; and along Jupiter, past Tomlinson's and the new Gerry's Grill. I'm sure there are other's near you. But of course, for the "authentic" taste, go to Guagua in Pampanga!

February 19, 2007 4:11 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Maybe the one in Cubao this coming up weekend, Mila -- before I go on a serious diet :)

February 20, 2007 5:58 AM  

Blogger Douglas said...

its nice to see an article about iced aged . very cool topic.... actually i am not looking for your article but it just so happen that when i search for O-Sei San, it sugest to see ambeth ocampo, then when i tune in to search about ambeth ocampo, i accidentally saw your article....

Thanks for bringing on that topic , " something prehistoric ice#@$^#"

hope to read more from you.

keep it up!!!

btw, i guess before chilled halo halo was invented, the introduction of Halo halo was introduced thru "GINATAANG HALO HALO, hot yet yummy "

March 03, 2007 5:27 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

That's right, Douglas, Ginataang Halo-Halo! I love it myself :)

Thanks for dropping by!

March 03, 2007 6:41 PM  

Blogger kim razon quiambao said...

yes senor... my family's halo-halo would be one of the best ones... & i really appreciate you guys admiring our original taste!

November 06, 2008 2:47 PM  

Blogger Señor Enrique said...

My mom loves your halo-halo, too, Kim!

Incidentally, you may want to read a follow-up post I had done on this wonderful halo-halo by your family:

Thanks for dropping by :)

November 07, 2008 7:52 AM  

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Life in Manila as observed by a former New Yorker who with a laptop and camera has reinvented himself as a storyteller. Winner of the PHILIPPINE BLOG AWARDS: Best Photo Blog in 2007 and three Best Single Post awards in 2008.


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