Sunday, April 5, 2009

‘Halo-halo’ business refreshes after 73 yrs

Pagsanjan tour includes stop at Aling Taleng’s

By Karen Lapitan
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 04:22:00 04/05/2009

Filed Under: Restaurants & catering, Food, Family

PAGSANJAN, Laguna, Philippines — Selling “halo-halo” during summer may be common for most local households, but not for Rita Zaguirre who inherited a trademark made popular by her grandmother over the past 70 years — Aling Taleng’s Halo-halo.

At 58, Zaguirre hopes to preserve the enterprise, which is 15 years older than she is, that has been handed down to her.

“When tourists arrive in Pagsanjan, they usually ask where Aling Taleng’s is located,” says Rita, who was tasked to manage the business after her mother died in 2004.

Now, Aling Taleng’s not only offers the halo-halo that has made it famous, it is serving up other dishes to customers as well. It has also expanded from its base in Pagsanjan, Laguna, 92 kilometers south of Manila, to nearby towns.


Aling Taleng’s Halo-halo was started in 1933 in this town by Catalina Zaguirre, Rita’s grandmother.

“My grandmother started a ‘halo-halo’ store in front of their house. It was just like [other such stands] that you see among local households,” Rita shares.

There were no tables for customers then. The only table in the store was the one that contained all the ingredients and utensils used to make the iced dish.

“The orders were all for takeout,” she adds.

When she was growing up, Rita observed how her grandmother managed the small business, which started with only P10 as capital.

The customers, mostly neighbors, she says, kept on coming back as they found the recipe of Aling Taleng’s Halo-halo to be different from all the others.

We combine different ingredients, setting our halo-halo apart from the ordinary ones served up in other stores or even fast-food chains,” says Rita.

Traditional “halo-halo” is composed mainly of sweetened banana, sweet potato, “gulaman,” sago and crushed ice.

But Aling Taleng’s Halo-halo takes pride in its seven main ingredients: “kaong,” “leche flan,” mongo beans, “macapuno,” sugarcane bits, “kondol” and “ube.”

“The recipe that Aling Taleng developed is still used up to now,” Rita says. “We have not bothered to change what the customers have learned to love.”

Rita belongs to the third generation of the family handling the business, located in Maulawin village here.

When Catalina died, Rita’s aunt handled the business that was later turned over to her mother.

Rita describes how overwhelming the patronage of local residents and tourists has been through the years.

“My grandmother, Aling Taleng, had indeed left a great legacy, not only to our family but also to the whole town,” Rita says, adding that “the business has also been closely associated with the town of Pagsanjan.”

“Your visit here won’t be complete without trying our halo-halo,” Rita says in Filipino.

No big changes

Asked about the changes that have been made to entice more customers, Rita tells the Inquirer, “Nothing big has changed.”

“I just invested some amount to improve the ambiance of the place. Except for the improvement of the physical location, our business has remained the same.”

Still located a few meters away from the municipal office where it started in 1933, Rita renovated the “halo-halo” store. Part of an old house that could only accommodate 20 persons was given a modern look.

“But the customers can still feel that they are just eating in their own dining areas,” Rita says.

The Zaguirre family did not have to invest much to promote the business. Aside from the municipal office’s efforts to promote local businesses online, the customers themselves are inviting more people to come to the place.

One can have a tall glass of “halo-halo” for just P50 with seven ingredients in it, which Rita considers the secret of the family’s success.

When she started handling the business in 2004, Rita decided to come up with additional food to offer customers, like “sinigang sa miso,” “pancit canton and “pancit miki” that, she says, are “for the convenience of the tourists.”

‘Lutong bahay’

“All of the dishes we offer are ‘lutong-bahay’ [home cooking],” Rita shares.

Municipal Tourism Office head Norbie Turabia says Aling Taleng’s Halo-halo has contributed much in boosting the tourism industry in Pagsanjan.

“Tourists are always looking for the place, and we have always been proud of that,” claims Turabia.

Turabia himself eats frequently at Aling Taleng’s Halo-halo. “People keep on patronizing their halo-halo mainly because of the different ingredients that only Aling Taleng’s can offer.”

Despite the small profit that Rita gets from maintaining the business, she remains unfazed and vows to continue what her grandmother had left her.

“It’s for Aling Taleng, and for those customers who consistently look for her ‘halo-halo.’”