Sorbetes is the local name for artisan ice cream in the Philippines. And although “sorbetes” had become a brand name for an ice cream company, to older generations it will always mean ice cream made on a small scale (to distinguish it from factory made ice cream) and sold in pushcarts like the one you see in the photo. The customer chooses the flavor (the most common being ube, cheese and chocolate) and kind of cone he likes (regular, sugar or even pan de sal), the hawker scoops the ice cream and hands it over.
Sorbetes used to be so popular that it inspired a song — remember Mamang Sorbetero sang by Celeste Legaspi? — that became just as popular. Sorbetes vendors were a common sight on the streets when I was a child and we’d eagerly await for one to pass by especially on hot and humid summer afternoons. We’d strain our ears to hear the bells that they ring to announce their presence.
Today, sorbetes is more popularly known as “dirty ice cream.” Who coined the term, I have no idea. Perhaps, the term was invented to distinguish the lowly sorbetes from factory-manufactured ice cream. Or, perhaps, the term was chosen to put across a subliminal message to the public so that people would rather choose to buy big-brand ice cream.
Sorbetes vendors have become rare, having been replaced by bicycle-powered carts with corporate logos of giant ice cream manufacturers. But me? I belong to that generation when huge parts of lazy summer afternoons were spent gazing out of the window and waiting for the tinny sound of the sorbetero’s bell. And when I see a sorbetes pushcart, chances are, I’d stop and buy a cone. Or two.