A very popular refreshment for the summer days in the Philippines is halu-halo (literally a "mixture"). You'll find different versions of this around the country being sold at restaurants including fast food chains. The more common scene would be roadside halu-halo stands and those you find in the sari sari stores (neighbourhood stores) and wet markets in every town. The roadside stands are the most informal ones usually manned by enterprising households hoping to make a few bucks for a serving of the treat. These, however, I think gives some of the best (and some will say the worst) experiences for having this summer treat.
But why pine for Razon's or Chowking halu-halo if you are in a remote area without the comforts we'd see in the bigger cities and towns? Certainly, when you're on a stop and craving for some refreshments then you'd probably take your chance by getting halu-halo from a roadside stand. That's not exactly throwing caution to the wind as we haven't heard of any rash of illnesses stemming from such stands. The rule when you're in the field seems to be "if it looks clean and people don't look sick then it's good enough to eat or drink." But then I don't want to include water in this generalisation and I would strongly urge anyone who's uncertain about the water source to opt for soft drinks instead.
|Our staff enjoying halu-halo from a roadside stand near the village basketball court.|
|This was definitely not one of the better halu-halos from the perspective of ingredients. However, on a scorching day it is a very welcome relief from the heat.|
|Most of the stuff seemed to me as coloured sago (tapioca pearls) or gelatine. What looked like coconut was actually agar agar according to the vendor.|
|Our refreshment with plenty of evaporated milk over the shaved ice to wash down the tremendous amount of sugar to the bottom of the plastic.|
So far there have been no reports of food poisoning among us though a couple have reported some LBM yesterday, a couple of days after our field work. Both declined to attribute it to the halu-halo though it suspect the water from which the ice was made to be the culprit. In any case, this is another one of those situations where we say we'll just "charge it to experience." On the extreme side, if it doesn't kill you, it will make you stronger!