Mamang sorbetero’s dirty ice cream

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Sorbetes vendors have become rare, having been replaced by bicycle-powered carts with corporate logos of giant ice cream manufacturers.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.


  1. says

    I have fond memories of sorbetes. I love ube-keso and ube-langka-keso combination. My brother and I have a ‘suki’ who regularly stops in front of our house every afternoon. We eagerly wait for him everyday. He still sells icecream until two years ago…perhaps until now. Two years ago, when we had a party a home and my dad ordered icecream from him and requested him to stand-by so that kids will have a feel getting free icecream from mamang sorbetero.

  2. u8mypinkcookies says

    love this.. the best yung choco and mango flavors… way better that selecta’s or magnolia’s choco/ mango ice cream. LOL :)

  3. zara says

    may suki ako noon sa school namin. if we want something special he will drizzle it wih chocolate syrup. mango, ube and langka are the best. yum! :D

  4. Beatrize says

    dirty ice cream was also part of my childhood! favorite ko cheese flavor on ordinary cone, hay sarap!!! pero don’t forget the taho vendor too!!

  5. cheza1975 says

    my mom told me a story when i was a young girl why its called dirty ice cream hindi daw kc naghuhugas ng kamay si mamang sorbetero he will scoop his ice cream to his waiting customers after going to the toilet. maybe that’s the secret recipe kaya masarap sya.

  6. gelyn says

    I really loves the sorbetes back in the philippines. I remember my grandparents bought for us and they put it in a big container. I love the queso flavor and chocolate. I miss those days hayyy

  7. Steve Canuck says

    “DIRTY” Ice-cream? Only Filipinos would let others (others meaning big corporations / foreigners?) BELITTLE – DOWNGRADE their food! I grew up with eating this popular desert and I never got sick – nor I remember others getting sick eating them. Philippine SORBETES is equivalent to Italy’s GELATO!!!
    Let’s be PROUD of our creation and taken away the word ‘dirty’ from SORBETES!

  8. Leonila Pachejo-Littlejohns says

    I miss those times of simple joys that leaves the most memories. My Dad will always call me and my Brother as He hears the sorbeteros bell. ube sorbetes on a bun was so yummy. Now my kids love tge ube of r Queso flavor.

  9. Sale Seco Mallari says

    Parang kwento ng bottled water businesses scaring people para huwag uminon ng tap. I grew up drinking tap and buying sorbetes.. pero di naman nagkasakit. So dapat hindi natin tinatawag na dirty ice cream ang sorbetes kasi parte na ito ng kultura natin. Kahit mga konyo, pag nakita si mamang sorbetero… something in you.. you just have to buy!

  10. Rainero Rommel says

    Magandang negosyo yan, pag-retire ko, isa yan sa gagawin kong negosyo, kasabay ng pagbabalik ng sariling atin. Taho, Fish Ball, Binatog, Lugaw, Scamble atpb. Pinoy Atin to!