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The Return of the Dirty Ice Cream

Updated on October 8, 2012

THAT LITTLE BELL held by vendor is more than enough to reveal the presence of that ubiquitous treat known as the “dirty ice cream”. These ambulant vendors push their brightly colored wooden carts that usually hold not less than three (3) flavors of ice cream stored in large and stainless canisters. The most common flavors of ice cream stored in this wooden cart are chocolate, cheese and yam. But there are a variety flavors available on certain days.

Dirty ice cream is usually served in a wafer cone, the size of which depends on the price. Of course, there is a price per scoop of ice cream. Aside from the cone, the ice cream can also be served using a plastic cup. Other customers prefer the so-called “ice cream sandwich” served on a bun.

The “dirty” description on this ice cream is a misnomer. It is claimed by vendors that such description is totally unfair and misplaced. The ice cream being served by them are clean. They assert that unlike commercial ice cream, those peddled in carts are made of fresh and natural ingredients like coconuts, fresh milk and fruits. There is absolutely no artificial flavor or color added.

During the summer season in the Philippines that is from the months of March to May, ice cream sales usually reach its peak. The very hot tropical weather of the country makes it ideal for selling cold and frozen products. The sun shining brightly in the hot summer sky means it is ice cream time. Ice cream can easily remove the stress and uneasiness of the hot weather.

Dirty ice cream is very affordable. Compared to commercial ice cream, the dirty ice cream is within the reach of the masses. A small cone costs less than twenty pesos. Just a simple cone of this delight brings back the smile on children’s faces. It is a really a heart-warming sightseeing children’s faces light up at the sight of the dirty ice cream. They would do almost anything to get their parents buy them their favorite treat.

Dirty ice cream is usually peddled along streets of Metro Manila and the provinces. But as time goes by, the presence of these merchants on the streets are becoming rare. That well recognized sounds of those hand-held bells are becoming scarce. It seems that plying that dirty ice cream on the streets is no longer profitable.

It used to be brisk business selling dirty ice cream. There are children almost everywhere on every street where the beautifully painted wooden cart of dirty ice cream can be found. Even adults patronize this dirty ice cream. There are always ready buyers and before the day ends, the merchant has already sold the product.

Unlike commercial ice creams, the vendor of this dirty ice cream can reach even the smallest nooks and crannies where cars cannot penetrate. Their carts can easily maneuver along narrow streets of Metro Manila. It is in this context that the peddler of this dirty ice cream has the edge over its competitors. They can serve dirty ice cream practically at the doorstep of their patrons.

There are stories of prudent vendors who by just selling dirty ice cream have been able to support their children to college. It may have been difficult but by being thrifty and carefully planning expenses, the modest income from being an ice cream vendor is enough to make ends meet. There can even be some amount for extra expenses when ice cream sales are high especially during hot weather.

But, with the competition getting stiffer from several franchises that serve ice-cream competing products such as cold shakes, yoghurts and other frozen delicacies, the dirty ice cream’s market has been cut in half. Instead of having dirty ice cream, some customers opt to buy fruit shakes and that famous Filipino concoction known as the “halo-halo”.

The “dirty” description of this ice cream has also shunned away health conscious buyers. It is very difficult not to think why this ice cream has been described as “dirty”. The term “dirty” in this ice cream should be dropped in fairness to this treat.

The unpredictable Philippine weather has also caused the decline in the sales of this ice cream. The sun would be shining brightly in the morning but then a heavy downpour greets you in afternoon. With this inclement weather, selling ice cream is a challenging business. It is highly dependent on the weather. Once it rains, the chances of selling ice cream become slim, if not impossible.

The dirty ice cream has existed for generations. It can be considered as part of Philippine Culture. Slowly but surely, this treat is making a comeback. It can be observed that more customers are re-discovering this treat that is genuinely Filipino.


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    • theBAT profile image

      theBAT 3 years ago

      Hi precy anza. Thanks for dropping by. Each time I see ice cream sold this way, I remember my good old childhood days too.

    • precy anza profile image

      precy anza 3 years ago from USA

      Hmmnn.... ice cream. Reading this reminds me of childhood, and ice cream on cone or bread. :)

    • theBAT profile image

      theBAT 5 years ago

      Hi laurathegentleman, thanks for dropping by. Hope you can visit the Philippines soon and learn more about our culture. Again, thank you.

    • laurathegentleman profile image

      laurathegentleman 5 years ago from Chapel Hill, NC

      This is great! I love to read about different cultures and customs, and this sounds like a wonderful gem in the Filipino culture that I never knew about! If I every visit there, I'll be sure to get some dirty ice cream! :)