Tuesday, April 29, 2008


With the prices of many of our basic consumer goods and foodstuffs having gone up, it's good to know that the "dirty ice cream" peddled by our sorbeteros remain at a cool ten pesos per cone.

The "dirty ice cream," commonly called as such not because it's actually dirty, but on account of some anti-homemade ice cream campaign instigated by a major local ice cream producer many years ago. Hoping to dominate the local market, it bashed the process of homemade ice cream; pointing it out as unsanitary.

Ironically, although the misnomer "dirty ice cream" stuck to the locals' consciousness and has eventually become its generic name, it remains popular to the masses, especially during the hot and humid summer months .

Anyway, since ice cream is basically comprised of milk and other ingredients -- prices of which had already gone up -- I was curious to know how the sorbeteros are able to keep selling them at its usual ten pesos a cone. So the other day, as I enjoyed a cone of this homemade ice cream, I posed my query to a sorbetero, Mang Danny (photo above).

Mang Danny hailed from Iloilo and worked in construction since migrating to Manila. However, with age catching up on him, he has since switched to a less strenuous line of work. For the past two years, he has been peddling "dirty ice cream" in the streets of Manila's Malate district.

Every working day, Mang Danny wakes up at a little past midnight to head on over to the public market to buy grated coconut, fruits, nuts, legumes, and whatever else he may need as ingredients for making the ice cream that he will sell for that day.

As for the milk, sugar, cones and ice, those he must purchase from the ice cream factory where he is alloted the space for making the ice cream himself. The pushcart that he uses for peddling is rented from the same factory at 30 pesos a day.

The ice cream factory's prices that Mang Danny has to pay for such items (milk, sugar, cones, ice, and etc.), are much higher than those found at the public market, but the steep markup is how the factory generally makes its money.

Mang Danny's daily capital amounts to about P1,600. However, on a good day, he could pocket a net profit of up to a thousand pesos. He averages about P20,000 a month income during the dry and hot summer season. Once can only imagine how much more Mang Danny used to make before the widespread price increase.

A taxi driver, Cris Ilagan, on his afternoon break and enjoying a cone of dirty ice cream as he listened to our conversation, couldn't help but chime in, "You make out better than us taxi drivers, Manong!"

Be that as it may, we'll leave Cris' story for another day. For now, please enjoy these other photos from my "dirty ice cream" collection.

Have a cool day!

Related links:

Site of the very first ice cream parlor in the Philippines

Manila's Ice Age

Please note:
I very much appreciate my articles and photos appearing on fellow bloggers' sites, popular broadsheets, and local broadcast news segments, but I would appreciate even more a request for permission first.
Thank you!


posted by Señor Enrique at 8:17 AM


Anonymous jo anne said...

Thanks for the insightful story!

April 29, 2008 9:36 AM  

Blogger Panaderos said...

Very beautiful shots, Eric. Manila will never be Manila without these sorbeteros and their colorful ice cream carts. I enjoyed dirty ice cream when I was a kid and I'm pretty sure that I will enjoy them again once I visit Manila. :)

April 29, 2008 9:42 AM  

Anonymous danii said...

dirty ice cream! yummy, especially if it comes in a hamburger bun :)

until now, i still can't bring myself to eat the tip of the cone.

April 29, 2008 9:48 AM  

Blogger Video 48 said...

Nice post as always Eric! Just enjoyed a few cones days ago.I don't mind paying bit more. Good day!

April 29, 2008 9:54 AM  

Blogger nutart said...

naku! Is that why they called it "dirty ice cream'?! Well, it didn't stop me from buying the ice cream whenever i can. I just thought that the reason was because the men serving you usually have dirty fingernails ;-)...

Nice kuwento as always, Eric.

Like you, I often say a small prayer of guidance and protection whenever i go through the day. But then, I can be very human nga lang... :-D

April 29, 2008 10:39 AM  

Anonymous rhodora said...

Eric, I'm loving these features you are doing here in your site about Manila's common folk. Nice work! You can actually compile them and come up with a "people magazine" sort of publication. :)

Oh, I like the second photo of kids sharing ice cream with one another. Look at the boy with his mouth open, as if saying to the little girl (kapatid siguro) - oops oops... konti lang kainin mo... Well, at least, he shared. hahaha.

I'm surprised to know - yung mga sorbetero rin pala ang gumagawa ng paninda nila? All the while, I thought the ice cream factory sells them the finished product. An income of P20k a month is not bad, huh.

April 29, 2008 12:17 PM  

Anonymous bertN said...

Without the sorbeteros when I was growing up, my life would not have been as fulfilled. Does that tell you how dull my life was and is? LOL.

My fondest memory of high school was the "recess breaks" when I would always tried to run out of our school building to beat the rest of the students to Mang Vic, the sorbetero, who allowed us to "utang" our ice cream cone or sandwich if we were low on cash. More importantly, he dispensed good advice and encouragement when our test scores were dipping below "sea level."

April 29, 2008 12:28 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

My pleasure, Jo Anne. Glad you like it :)

April 29, 2008 12:43 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Thank you very much, Panaderos!

I've a feeling everyone who grew up in the Philippines has fond memories of dirty ice cream -- a favorite local merienda by both kids and adults alike :).

April 29, 2008 12:45 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Yes, Danii -- ice cream sandwich Pinoy style! The best ... hehehe.

April 29, 2008 12:46 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Many thanks, Simon. The price and serving of dirty ice cream is just right, I think :)

April 29, 2008 12:47 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Thank you, Bernadette!

Lol ... although some blame the sorbeteros, I think it was more because of this smear campaign launched by a major ice cream manufacturer.

Yup, saying a little prayer tends to diminish the stress out of things :)

April 29, 2008 12:51 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Thank you, Rhoda. Glad you're enjoying these features.

I just thought that I'd branch out a bit and polish my reporting skills a bit while at it :)

Yes, that's one cool big brother yet, you can tell he didn't want to give it all away :)

Not bad at all. Manong makes more money than office clerks I know, but then again, when the rainy season comes ....

April 29, 2008 12:54 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

That's so cool. bertN ... a really concerned sorbetero. Reminds me of Bernadette's balut vendor during her student years.

My childhood sorbetero was Mang Fermin. He was too reseved an individual to dispense advice, though. But then again, it was probably because we were too young to appreciate his words of wisdom.

April 29, 2008 12:56 PM  

Anonymous leo said...

One way to perk up your children's party is to hire a sorbetero. Just asked the one you see in the street. We did that last year and the cost is much cheaper than those that are advertised as part of a party package.

April 29, 2008 1:01 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

That is true, Leo! The sorbetero that plies the neighborhood is most often available for such occasion.

My sister Inday used to have her ice cream provided by Mang Fermin, our neighborhood sorbetero. But it was an older brother who always insisted on doing the scooping :)

April 29, 2008 1:08 PM  

Blogger mtan said...

At a recent school activity, we rented 3 carts of dirty ice cream and believe me, those sorbeteros made a killing that night. Na-ubos, even with all the rest of the kakanin and food available. Plus they didn't have to ply the streets since they had a captured market.
And not too long ago, a friend rented out a cart with two flavors for a pre-easter dinner for about 100 kids and their families. It was a wonderful gift to those kids and they lapped up every bit of ice cream they could get. Still had a lot leftover!
I like cheese and avocado flavors, then mango.

April 29, 2008 1:49 PM  

Blogger reyd said...

Wow! Kleng...kleng..kleng.. hahaha!

Kahit na pinagbabawalan kami kumain ng nilalakong sorbetes nuon, bumibili pa din kami ng kuya ko. Ube at langka ang favorite flavors ko.
Masarap din yung ipalaman sa monay yung ice-cream. Pag may naglalako nuon sa amin, bumibili ang anak ko, pero nilalagay sa bowl at pinapapak yung apa muna. :D
Dito gumawa din kami ng ice cream, but after that, nakatambak na lang sa attic yung ice cream maker.
Labeled as unsanitary product, it really depends on how they handle the process of the making, up to the selling of those ice cream.
Nakita ko naman yung pagawaan nuon sa may papuntang USTe, it looks clean enough for me.
Everyday naman you eat outside your home, you take the risk. Just be careful and be aware to lessen the chance of getting sick.

April 29, 2008 1:54 PM  

Blogger Sidney said...

Lovely pictures, Eric. Life as it is.

April 29, 2008 3:35 PM  

Blogger Video 48 said...

btw, it also reminds me of the 1970s or 1980s song by Celeste Legaspi, Mamang Sorbetero, which actually made into a movie starring Joseph Estrada.
Again, thanks!

April 29, 2008 5:25 PM  

Blogger luna miranda said...

Ay sarap! I have fond memories of dirty ice cream! Our next door neighbor in Negros was a sorbetero. I watched him prepare “dirty ice cream” many times---di naman dirty! :D Our birthdays were never complete without a made-to-order ice cream from our neighbor, T’yoy Itik. My mother would provide the flavors we wanted—like cheese or mango, and he would sell us the whole tube for a song. My friends and I also sampled the ice cream as soon as it’s ready---for free! He would tell us kids to get our mugs and give us scoops…kami yong official taga-tikim. :D

In high school, I opted for plastic cups instead of cones after a teacher warned us that Mamang Sorbetero may not be washing his hands religiously (hahahaha). Great post!

April 29, 2008 7:36 PM  

Blogger Lola said...

Hmmm, sorbetes……. Every time we go home, I go absolutely crazy trying to eat and taste every thing local to the consternation of my husband. He thinks I am going to end up with a stomach ache. He was quite aghast the first time I ate sorbetes from the street but when he tasted how good it was, he didn’t want any other ice cream except the ones sold by these vendors. Mas masarap, diba?

What a way to make a living – getting up so early, making your own sorbetes and peddling it all day long. Sometimes, we just don’t know how lucky we are that we just work our usual 9 to 5 jobs. You really have to admire these people.

Love the second picture. Filipino children are so adorable.

Love these series of posts you are doing, Eric. It tugs at the heart.

Lastly, I just found out why there is a shortage of rice at the Sam and Costco warehouses – the Filipinos are buying it all up to send to the Philippines. This is a joke, of course, but I think there is an element of truth in it. My two girlfriends from Chicago are doing just that.

April 29, 2008 8:19 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

That really sounds like a wonderful idea indeed, Mtan. Plus, those colorful ice cream carts and wonderful flavors of the ice cream would definitely enhance the mood of any festive gatherings!

April 29, 2008 8:22 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Unsanitary or not, Reyd, much like the hots dogs sold in the streets of Manhattan, I'm yet to hear anyone getting sick or dying from enjoying these treats :)

Kids really have peculiar eating habits sometimes :)

That is why I never got an ice cream maker. My juicer ended being holed inside the closet until I decided to donate it to a thrift shop.

April 29, 2008 8:25 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Many thanks, Sidney!

April 29, 2008 8:26 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Thanks for the nostalgic trivia, Simon! Much appreciate it :)

April 29, 2008 8:27 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Aah, you were one lucky kid, Luna -- living next door to a sorbetero ... hehehe!

As Reyd had observed, whoever prepares this kind of ice cream I'm sure adhere to clean procedures. But one way for a competitor to make the public hate this product, or any product for that matter, is to spread unfavorable stuff about it.

Thanks, Luna!

April 29, 2008 8:32 PM  

OpenID juleste said...

Just like Video 48, Celeste Legaspi's Mamang Sorbetero came to my mind while reading. You know we have an 'in house' Mamang Sorbetero at work and he even put the name of 'the company' in his cart. But during summer he's not around because his customers are all in vacation, the school children.

April 29, 2008 9:03 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

And to think that Pinoys only did such thing with towels, Pat ... hehehe. But hey, no need to send rice over here via those balikbayan boxes. We have more than enough supply of rice :)

Yes, Stories of local folks like Mang Danny should awaken us and appreciate what we do for a living despite perhaps, some unpleasant bosses and co-workers we have to deal with at times ... hehehe.

Like you, I think I've been eating more dirty ice cream than any of those creamy imports. But I must admit I love those Fruit 'n' Ice Cream products :)

Many thanks, Pat! Glad you're enjoying these features :)

April 29, 2008 9:13 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

That is so wonderful, Juleste -- an in-house sorbetero. How cool is that, eh?

I should check out this "Mamang Sorbetero" movie :)

April 29, 2008 9:15 PM  

Blogger pelotario said...

The picture of mamang sorbetero peddling REYES ice cream. I wonderif the
factory still exist in La Loma. I know the owners they hail from Batangas. They make delicious ice cream

April 29, 2008 10:38 PM  

Blogger mimi said...

masarap parin ang dirty ice cream.. kahit dirty pa sabihin nila.. ^_^

April 29, 2008 11:53 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

I didn't know there's an ice cream factory in La Loma, Pelotario. Hope it still exists. Sayang naman kung nagsara na.

April 30, 2008 6:36 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Tama ka dyan, Mimi! Also, mas lighter ang texture ng dirty ice cream pero may pagka creamy pa din siya.

April 30, 2008 6:38 AM  

Blogger Aura said...

Dirty ice cream or not, i still eat sorbetes whenever i can. i have good memories of it when i was young ,eating the ice cream as palaman sa "monay" :) Love it!!

I like the pictures,tunay na pilipino!!

May 01, 2008 12:22 AM  

Blogger Al said...

Can't wait to try dirty ice cream again when I finally come home this May! Thanks for sharing....

May 01, 2008 1:47 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Thank you, Aura.

Yes, most folks' love for dirty ice cream is rooted in fond childhood memories :)

May 01, 2008 6:14 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

I'm sure you'll have a wonderful time during your homecoming, Al. Enjoy!

May 01, 2008 6:15 AM  

Blogger grumpyurbanslacker said...

nice story, senor!

i was surprised they earn P20K/month....thought it was much, much less!

i esp. like dirty ice cream Queso flavor on a sweet cone during hot summer days....2 cones pa nga consecutively!!:D


May 01, 2008 11:11 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

That's because "dirty ice cream" is much lighter than most regular ice cream, Peter.

As for Mang Danny's income, let's not forget that during the rainy season, it's practical cut in half if not even more.

Many thanks, Peter!

May 01, 2008 9:02 PM  

Anonymous caryn said...

hahaha! i still remember the one-peso cones! i loved queso! the guy who used to pass by our house in tondo passed away a few years ago. too bad! are there still a lot of them around manila eric?

May 02, 2008 10:44 AM  

Blogger BW said...

I've always wondered how much income these ice cream vendors make and I'm glad it isn't that bad.

It's a tough grind to be standing out in the sun the whole day. Much like the hot dog vendors here they can get up to 6 figures a year if they bust their butt vending until midnight.

May 02, 2008 7:43 PM  

Anonymous kyels said...

But I think that's the beauty of it all; street food and these peddlers. After all, they're simple and you can just enjoy whatever they're selling especially ice creams, noh?


May 02, 2008 11:17 PM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

And I remember when they were a mere ten centavos per cone, Caryn .... hehehe!

Yes, there's plenty of sorbeteros still. Actually, I treated some friends to a cone just yesterday afternoon :)

May 03, 2008 7:25 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

The average hot dog street vendor in New York City maks an average of $35,000 a year, BW. But I sometimes feel bad for them during the cold winter days.

Yes, not bad income for a local.

May 03, 2008 7:27 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

That's right, Kyels. Ice cream I have no trepidation whatsoever. I'm just wary of fried foods sold in the streets because of the cooking oil they use over and over again. There's also the excessive amount of salt and MSG added to those foods.

May 03, 2008 7:30 AM  

Blogger Liza's Eyeview said...


Can I copy some of the sorbetero photos to post in my blog (with link credits back to here)....

I'll check back here. Thanks.

Liza's Eyeview

June 09, 2008 7:56 AM  

Blogger Senor Enrique said...

Yes you can, Liza. Thanks, too!

June 10, 2008 1:48 PM  

Anonymous Anonymous said...

hi, do you know where we can buy one unit sorbetes ice cream cart? we need it for exhibit display and use. please email me to raffyr@ramarfoods.com. thank you.

December 14, 2009 9:21 PM  

Blogger user62949 said...

sorbetes is delicious esp ube and macapuno <<<===my faves...dirty or not. it also is a sentimental word as it transports me back in time during my elementary and HS days......

June 30, 2010 7:34 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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