Halo-Halo? Halo-what? Outside of the Philippines you probably will just look into puzzled faces, when people hear the expression. In the Philippines, instead you get one of the most common desserts. Halo-Halo (Tagalog: mixed together) is a mixture of shaved ice and evaporated milk to which are added various boiled sweet beans, jelly and fruits. Added, depending on the regions are more sweets like ice-cream, gelatin cubes or sweet potatoes. It is served in a tall glass or bow in the end. It´s delicious and I only can recommend it.
I got my second Halo-Halo-sugar bomb at the end of the Intramuros tour with Carlos Celdran. Intramuros is the old city of Manila and Carlos is a local celebrity in the Philippines. He is highly recommended in every guided tour in the Philippines.
We did his three-hours “Walk this way”-tour on a very sunny sunday afternoon, while the sun was burning with over 30 degrees. Carlos lead us through the walls and ruins of the old spanish Fuerza de Santiago (Fort Santiago). During the walk you learn a lot about Philippine history, especially about the spanish and american occupation. To keep the tour interesting Carlos gave us a lot of entertainment, so he started the walk with animating the (mostly filipino) audience to sing the Philipine national anthem.
Fun Fact: The Philippine hymne sounds similar to the french one, but the notes are just the other way around. Attached are both hymnes in the end to compare.
Back to the tour: The middle-aged Carlos consider himself more as an entertainer and inspires with his special humor, prominent body-language and broad knowledge about Manila and Philippine history. The most fascinating was the fact that he compared the Philippine culture in the end with a halo-halo. Because like a halo-halo the culture is mixture of spanish, american, chinese and japanese influence. The influences are all still visible. The best example for this is the oldest church in the Philippines: San Augustin Church. Which is a mixture of spanish baroque, mexican temple architecture and chinese lion statues. The church had been rebuilt after several earthquakes and wars. The reward for this resilience was its listing as one of UNESCO world heritage site in 1993.
After my first weeks I couldn’t find any better comparison for my impression. Manila is colored, crazy, multifaceted and tolerant. I´m happy that I did the tour with Carlos and learned about Manila and the Philippines.