Halo-halo in the Philippines

by Michelle Mira, Ethnic Groups of the Philippines

15 July 2012

Quezon City Bring out the sunblock, bikini, and flip-flops and get ready to plunge into the clear waters around the 7,107 islands. Summer in the Philippines starts around March, as temperatures proceed to climb, hitting 32-37° Celsius. So how do we stay cool in the sweltering heat of the sun?

There are countless ways to chill in the Philippines during the warmest season of the year, but the all-time favorite summer snack is halo-halo. The sunny months would not be complete without this thirst-quenching treat, which is a good alternative to ice cream. Not so long ago, halo-halo was just a sidewalk refreshment, sometimes sold under the shade of a vividly hued beach umbrella. However, since the demand from both the locals and tourists has picked up tremendously, fast-food chains, restaurants, and chic hotels have gotten into the act and now offer halo-halo throughout the year.

Halo-halo, which literally means "a mix or mixture," is a concoction of various caramelized fruits, shaved ice, and evaporated milk. It is usually served in a tall clear glass. Although there are no specific ingredients prescribed for this dessert, the most common are jackfruit, plantain, coconut strips, palm fruit, tapioca, red mung beans, garbanzos, and ube (purple yam). The colorful layers of fruits and beans are topped with crushed ice. After the right amount of evaporated milk is poured in, the halo-halo is garnished with toasted rice and caramel custard. The "special" variety is topped with ube ice cream. A long spoon is used to thoroughly mix the ingredients and ice.

Filipino culture is pretty much like the halo-halo. The country has been colonized thrice and the cultures of the colonizers, superimposed on the various ethnic cultures that already existed, produced a beautiful blend.

So, enjoy the heat and chill with the Philippines' sweet summer delight!