Planned trips are great, but spontaneous ones are even better.
Recently, my mom and I headed to Cagayan de Oro (CDO) for a business meeting and a family gathering. The former was to take place on the first day of our trip, while the latter was set for later on in the week. That business meeting didn’t materialize—so what were we to do?
The answer? Go someplace new.
Although my mom and I had just arrived in CDO, with our luggage in tow, we immediately set out for Gingoog City, a place we both had never been to but had only heard about from my cousin who drove us the entire way. It didn’t matter that it was lunch time and we hadn’t eaten yet (a stopover at a gasoline mart for water and Skyflakes solved that); we were determined to get to our destination in the soonest possible time.
You might ask, “What’s so important in Gingoog that you would skip dropping off your stuff at your lodging and forego what could have been a sumptuous sit-down lunch?”
Well, giant fruit statues and delicious halo-halo. (At least that’s what our short visit could afford us.)
Gingoog (pronounced ‘hi-ngo-og’), a two-and-a-half-hour drive from CDO, is said to be the oldest city in Misamis Oriental. Its original settlers were the Manobo, from who the city got its name. In their language, it means “good fortune,“ which is why Gingoog is christened “The City of Good Luck.”
How lucky it is indeed to be blessed with an abundance of natural wonders and fresh produce. The City Plaza even has gargantuan representations of staple fruits from the area. (Oversized coconut, mango, pineapple, marang, bananas, and lanzones, anyone?) The locals may have gotten used to them, but visitors can’t resist their massive charm. (Pun intended.)
After a quick and fruitful (sorry, I can’t help it!) photo session at the City Plaza, it was finally time to cool off with Gingoog’s famed halo-halo.
Mariet’s Halo-Halo has a long, celebrated history of serving up the best halo-halo in the city for almost 40 years. If practice makes perfect, then they’ve had 40 years of practice in perfecting their version of this ubiquitous summer treat. You can order the halo-halo three different ways: Regular (P35), Classic (P50), and Special (P55).
Since we had traveled all the way from CDO for this, it was only right that we each got our own Special Halo-Halo—and it was scrumptious. No wonder people trooped to this place to get their halo-halo fix.
At first, it seemed like that paper cup only contained ube and vanilla ice cream, crunchy corn flakes, and leche flan, but a quick dig exposed the fine, shaved ice beneath it. And under that layer, we discovered the rest of the ingredients such as kaong, corn kernels, minatamis na saba, and ube, waiting for their turn to be revealed. As we continued to scoop up spoonfuls of that sweet symphony into our mouths, we noticed that even though the frozen bits melted, the halo-halo didn’t get watered down. That led us to speculate that the shaved ice was actually made from frozen milk. (If true, what a smart idea!) But the biggest surprise ingredient in the halo-halo was the ginger-infused suman. Who knew suman would make such a delicious addition to halo-halo (and a ginger-flavored one at that)?
Besides halo-halo, Mariet’s also serves simple snacks. Although, during our visit, it seemed like a whole lot of menu items weren’t available. We settled for some Asado Siopao (P25) and Egg Pie (P20).
The pillowy soft siopao tasted like standard fare, containing a generous filling of pork and chopped-up hard-boiled egg. Unlike some other asado siopao, though, the meat wasn’t shredded and it wasn’t sauce-laden inside. Nevertheless, it made for a good, sweet-salty snack to tide us through the afternoon.
As for the egg pie, it’s thankfully not too sweet and not too eggy either, exhibiting a balance of flavors in that smooth, silky, and creamy custard filling. The only complaint we had was the slightly hard crust encasing the pie.
Next time, we’ll try the cassava cake, Mariet’s other best seller.
Mariet’s Halo Halo
R. Baol St. corner National Highway,
Barangay 20, Gingoog City,