In Case You’re Wondering Where Your Cone of Sorbetes Came From

Find out who to thank for your next cone of Sorbetes

Artwork by Gian Ferrer

Nothing makes you feel like a kid again than getting excited over the sound of a bell coming nearer and nearer. It sounds like any other bell but for some reason, you can distinguish it from that of a bicycle. It is the sound that means your favorite Manong Sorbetero is coming. Indeed, many years of childhood have trained your ears to make it out through all the honking of the cars outside. The bright yellow cart becomes more visible as the sound gets louder and you continue to wonder what those painted red words at the sides really mean. Perhaps it’s a mystery we will never know.

Once he opens the lid, you will be met with ice cream that’s as colorful as the cart – vibrant hues of Chocolate, Ube, Strawberry, Avocado, Mango, and sometimes even seasonal flavors. For such a handy cart, it sure has a lot of wonders to behold.

Origins of Sorbetes

History books say that even our ancestors loved the Sorbetes to bits. It was said to be first served during the Banquet of the 1898 Declaration of Independence when Emilio Aguinaldo became president of The Philippines. But who do we have to thank for bringing this national delight to our shores? A big part of its roots has something to do with the importation of ice to our country as ice in our country’s early days was an unknown commodity. Back in 1847, American company Russel & Sturgis found a way to import 250 tons of ice to the country tax-free. They then became the first ice plant in Binondo until they went bankrupt over 30 years later.

Made With a Garapiñera

Since then, more people had easier access to ice and naturally, they found more ways to make use of it. Thus, the “dirty” ice cream. The first Sorbetes was made using a Garapiñera, which is a Spanish term for ice cream freezer. The freezer consisted of a bucket filled with ice and a metal cylinder in the middle where the liquid ice cream mix was placed. The lid had a lever which they had to manually turn until they achieved the ideal consistency of the ice cream.

Family Pastime

The churning of the mixture took so much time that it even became a way for families to bond over the activity. Each member of the family took turns handling the lever until the mixture finally became ice cream. After all the mixing was done, one still had to wait a few more minutes to let it chill before it can be eaten. We could just imagine how agonizing it was to watch and wait for an hour before sinking your teeth into a dessert that was a labor of love in every form.

The Sorbetes Peddlers

Thankfully, these days, you don’t have to go through all the trouble of churning it anymore. As the demand for ice cream increased, so did the peddlers of Sorbetes. You don’t have to worry if you don’t have the energy to travel to the nearest supermarket for a cup of ice cream because Manong Sorbetero will be the one to bring it to you with his bright yellow cart. And that bright yellow cart has saved too many sweet tooths that it has merited a special place in our culture.

You can tell that the Sorbetero has made a huge impact when dozens of souvenir shops sell ice cream cart figurines and famous artists write songs inspired by it (e.g. Mamang Sorbetero by Celeste Legaspi). It’s no doubt that The Philippine’s own version of ice cream played a part in making each Filipino childhood sweeter.

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