If, for some bizarre reason, I was forced to choose between two types of ice, and could only have either type for the rest of my life, there would be no hesitation on my part, and I would give up diamonds forever, and take a lifetime supply of frozen water instead. Along with say the invention of the 747 (or jet planes in general), Coke (and its variants Diet Coke, etc.), cotton fabric and television, I think refrigeration is one of mankind’s greatest recent inventions. Who cares if you can land on the moon if you can’t have your Diet Coke on the rocks??? :) Seriously, I am a huge fan of frozen water. If I were a truant in a small provincial town these days, you would almost certainly find me hiding out in the storage room of the town ice plant, a different form of “air conditioning”…


When I was in my single digits, my family had a rustic beach house in Batangas with a thatched roof and no electricity. It was right on the beach and it didn’t bother us in the least that we were “roughing it for the weekend.” And the most important stop we would make on the way to the beach was the nearest large ice plant. I had a tendency to get seriously car sick on long drives to the beach, so I was almost always relegated to the large “supply van” that inevitably made the market and ice plant stops. At that time, huge blocks of ice were stored in rooms coated with rice husks to slow the melting process. We bought several coolers worth of ice at any one time.


Today, many houses in the same area have refrigeration, lights cable television et al, so buying ice seems less common on out of town trips. However, we recently had to buy several coolers worth of ice and I observed that little has changed in the retail ice arena in Nasugbu in 30+ years. Still stored in a cement “room” and with turnover so fast they don’t even bother with rice husks, large blocks of ice are pulled out with little apparent effort and an ice-pick is whipped out and the huge block of ice is broken up in about 1 minute flat. The speed and efficiency was utterly amazing. And a whole medium sized cooler carried roughly PHP40-50 worth of ice. Some folks purchasing the ice specified a really fine consistency and the seated guy in the photo here spent another 5 minutes breaking up the pieces, at no extra cost…


Our ice was paired with salt to make several batches of homemade ice cream. We also used the ice to keep seafood completely fresh on the short drive back to the house. And finally, with so many people in the house that weekend, we now had enough ice to keep everyone’s drinks nice and cold!


14 Responses

  1. I just wonder how “clean” the water used for making ice blocks? I still see the scenes in your pics above in nueva ecija.

  2. Strictly speaking, I don’t think they are clean at all and shouldn’t be used to mix in with your drinks. They are fine for keeping meats and seafood fresh, for the ice cream maker or for submerging your soda cans in. But back in the days when “tube ice” was unheard of, it was normal and acceptable to use block ice in your glass. I still remember drinking soda with one or two rice husks inadvertently mixed in at parties in the province! haha. And, I think some halo halo vendors still use block ice until now, yikes!

  3. Ice financially supports a large segment of our society – manufacturers, wholesalers and retailers. It’s their source of livelihood. Summer is their feast months which rakes them money. Retailers have a book of clients from restaurants, beer gardens to a small halo halo stand, etc. With the modern day amenities of refrigeration icemakers and dispensers cannot cope up with the high demand for ice so ice plants are still around and doing well. I know a balikbayan guy from my hometown – every time he comes home he stays in his kubo house and has his bamboo bed lined up underneath with blocks and blocks of ice to cool him off day in and day out and the dripping just goes down the ground!

  4. We usually travel short distances from Manila to Pililla, Rizal. Along the way, we have used 3 or 4 ice plants, especially the one in Baras. Must have done this at least 30 times since returning to the country in 2000. Again, as mentioned in the other replies, best to use the blocks of ice for cooling and refrig rather than as a mixer for your drinks. The bags of tube ice that you can use for mixing in your drinks are only 25 php each.

  5. I recall that in the market of Puerto Princesa whenever we would buy shrimps and prawns, we can go to a section where they sell small styrofoam boxes and fill it with ice then tape the whole box so one can bring them to Manila. Neat service!

    Ice blocks are really so important for fisherfolks here in our island. Yesterday, we got the first experience of buying fish directly from the fish distributors from Abra de Ilog (Occidental Mindoro) and their 60 boxes had lots of ice in them as well. Now, for a seemingly “isolated” part of the island, they must have an ice plant there as well!

  6. hi.the place and the people in the picture looks familiar to me..Nasugbu again i wonder we might bump each other one day at the public market here.

  7. On old ice plants, block ice are frozen in standing position on the freezer’s floor, separated by rusty iron sheets, and covered by wooden planks, where people can step as its essentially the freezer’s floor. Dirt and other sediments accumulate in the middle, where they sometimes insert ice to speed up the freezing process. Takes about 2 days to totally freeze a block.

    Since personally witnessing this process, I never had drinks nor consumed halo-halo from ice blocks. Ice tubes are far safer, since most ice plants use purified water in processing, and lab tests are randomly done.

  8. Hi Everyone, I should have pointed out, this type of bulk ice purchase is only for external use, not as part of drinks. But a case of coke smothered in this type of ice makes for a very happy Marketman…

  9. almost everyday on my way to work, i see these ice vans weaving their way around the makati business district. the van’s back door is open to allow more humane temperatures (and dust and smoke) for the tired sweaty men inside who are chopping away at the ice blocks. it seems to me that they deliver to canteens all around makati. so beware of those canteen halo-halos. hehehe. anybody sees this around too???

  10. When I came home last May and stayed in Calauag, Quezon Province, I had to purchase daily a quarter block of ice, to put in our left-over food and to cool our water. It was becoming expensive for we have to travel 20 mins to the town proper for it, so I decided that if there is left over food, we just give it to neighbors. That left the scenario of cooling the bottled water we have. Well, some neighbors do have refrigerator, and they sell ice, so what I did, I paid them in advance and asked them to supply me with daily “clean” water frozen in plastic ice, that we can directly put in our pitcher when needed.

    This May I am coming home again, staying in the same location, and I am contemplating if I will buy a ref, or will just get the same supply from that neighbor. (My nephew wanted a TV instead, so I guess, rasyon na lang muna ng yelo, hehehe).

  11. It may interest you to know that there was a time that operators of ice plants were required to secure a license to operate a public utility. I think during the times when referigeration was available only to a few, ice making was such a crucial, protected and important market activity that the government saw it fit to regulate, much in the same way as communications, electricity and public transportation.

    Actually, wasn’t ice a status symbol during Spanish times? Only the well off families serve iced drinks since these were hauled and insulated with sawdust from ships coming from colder countries. (My history may be wrong.)

    Off topic here. Hi Maria Clara, I observe you’re a regular commenter. Depending on the day, I vacillate between the mental picture of you as the innocent, nubile MC (from the books) and a much older MC (cf. Apicio’s 2 century comment). I’m still divided.

  12. i often pile lotsa ice in my drinks and i don’t care vmuch if it tastes just water when it melts [yikes]. lol :p

  13. I want to buy block of ice for shaving machine. Size 22cm-25cm width and length, height 20cm. Do you have anything like this that is hygienic?



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