Here we are. The last decade of the 19th century and no confirmed sighting of ice cream nor the equipment to make it with, the garapinyera.
That gap may have much to do with the class structure of the Philippines at the time.
Who cared about the kitchen worker who made the ice cream? Much as no-one thought it important to gather the experiences of the common tao who bore the brunt of the Philippine revolution and the war of independence against the USA.
The comparison is certainly valid: Professional kitchens are as hierarchical as a military unit. A unit of kitchen workers, from dish-washer to Chef is known as a brigade. They do the work but are beneath being noticed in 19th century Manila.
That is why one hears of menus but not those who prepared them. Just as one hears from generals but never those who fought the battles.
The last two significant references to frozen confections are, as we shall see, ambiguous.
What happened to the Julius Witte ice plant on Calle Barraca remains a mystery buried in the business history of Manila. One can ask whether it is coincidence that what is today the country’s most massive food and beverage giant was born at the moment the Witte ice operation disappeared without trace.
Look on a bottle of San Miguel Pale Pilsen and you’ll see it was established in 1890. On October 4 that year Enrique Barretto set up a brewery on Calzada de Malacanang, which became San Miguel. In addition to a brewery the factory housed an ice plant producing 5 tonnes of ice a day.
Whether the ice was for sale to the public we don’t know. The plant could also have produced distilled water for brewmaking and for ice.
Barretto set up a partnership in 1893 and subsequently stepped away from company management. It was not going to be his last foray into the beer business.
1894 saw the emergence of Fabrica de Hielo at 660 Echague, San Miguel.
The factory had a capacity for 50 tonnes of ice a day but actually produced about half that amount. It delivered ice to homes in Manila and assured its customers that the ice was made with distilled water and could be added directly to drinks.
One wonders whether other ice producers existed who were using the equivalent of tap water, with its disease risks. There are, however, no records of any others.
Unambiguous references to ice cream do start appearing in the 1890s. An officer aboard the USS Alert cruiser ate ice-cream in a Spanish restaurant in Manila in 1892. In 1895 an American merchant woke in a wealthy home in Orani, 107 kilometres from Manila to the “familiar sound of the ice cream machine” and took some ice cream to the local priest for lunch.
These accounts show that ice-cream was being served at upper-class restaurants and being made it the houses of the wealthy – which pre-supposes the presence of ice-boxes and garapinyera in those houses. They also show that ice was being to coastal areas within a few hours steaming of Manila.
Our next stop is February 1898 by way of the Philippine Revolution of 1896. For 16 brutal months, Filipino revolutionaries fought Spanish soldiers to a standstill. It came to a standoff that neither side could win conclusively.
The two sides signed a truce in December 1897, the Pact of Biak na Bato which included a financial settlement by the Spanish, promises of reforms, a Te Deum to be sung in Manila Cathedral, and the surrender of all revolutionary arms by February 1898.
The Filipino leader Emilio Aguinaldo, and a junta went into exile in Hong Kong.
To celebrate the Pact a vast banquet was held in the ayunamiento a feature of which was a mountain of ice decorated with vines and lit from within by electric lights. Food historian Felice Prudente Sta. Maria describes desserts in a menu in French as : “Glace: framboise, creme, vanille” – ice: raspberry, cream, vanilla”.
These sound like ice cream flavours but cream and milk could also be added to water/fruit juice sorbets. So we don’t yet have our smoking, or frozen, gun. It is possible, however, that “glace… creme” was crème glacée, the French for ice-cream.
Ice-cream was known to 19th-century Spanish cooks as Sorbete de Leche, and Mantecado, the latter containing a lot of butter, made by mixing a litre of milk, 200 grammes of sugar, six egg yolks and keeping the mixture turning while it froze. Sorbete de Leche has yet to turn up in 19th century Manila culinary literature.
It is common to assume that sorbete and helado indicate ice-cream but the classic 1896 Spanish cookbook, El Cocinero Practico, treats sorbete and helado as separate items to Sorbete de Leche and Mantecado.
A couple of months after the celebration of the Biak-na-Bato, Commodore George Dewey sailed into Manila Bay and kicked off the Spanish American War. Aguinaldo returned from exile and reignited the war against Spain.
On June 12, 1898, Aguinaldo formally declared independence – which no American official attended – and the Spanish in Manila surrendered on August 13 after a pre-arranged battle. The soldiers on either side were not told it was a fixed bout.
As yet we have no idea what might have been served at the Independence Day celebrations in Cavite, but we do know what was served at Malolos on September 29 that year celebrating the ratification of the first Philippine Constitution.
It was a splendid affair with the lunch and dinner menus again in French.
Among the items is Glace Moka Parisienne, says Felice Prudente Sta. Maria. Again, this might sound like ice cream but mocha sorbet is a thing.
In December the US bought the Philippines for 20 million dollars. The Spanish era had passed.
So far, not a sniff of Halo-halo or anything like it.
But The Yanks Are Coming.