Of course, most local restaurants claim that their version of halo-halo is the best. (Side note: Hailing from the Bicol Region, this writer will tell you that the version from Tiwi, Albay is absolutely heavenly.) But few can claim the somewhat hazy title of "unique" the way Razon's of Guagua can.
A Twelve-Year Legacy
According to their website, Razon's first opened in Robinson's Galleria, Quezon City on July 8, 2003. Since then, this Kapampangan restaurant has expanded to over 20 branches around Mega Manila (i.e. Metro Manila plus the surrounding provinces). There's also a restaurant called "Luz the Original Razon's Halo-Halo" in Pampanga, though it doesn't seem to have any connection with the roster of restaurants sprouting all over the Metro.
The restaurant is managed by Razon's Food Corporation, which lists "creating jobs, recycling, further educating our employees and being active in charitable events" as its core values. (From a cynical perspective, though, one can argue that all corporations name these as their core values, at the very least.)
Aside from halo-halo, Razon's also serves Kapampangan dishes like pancit luglug and sizzling bulalo. They also have general offerings like their Homeburger, Homefries and taba ng talangka. ("Taba ng talangka" literally translates to "fat of crab," though it's actually a paste made from crab roe.)
However, their halo-halo is arguably their most popular offering — judging by the fact that this product has its own official website.
Which begs the question: Is Razon's famous dessert worth all the countless social media photos of it tagged #halohalo? We'll get to the bottom of it — the way you dig your spoon to get to the bottom of a halo-halo — in the next section.
Less is More
Unlike with your usual halo-halo, you can count the ingredients of Razon's version on one hand. You have the macapuno (coconut shavings) at the bottom, the sliced ripe bananas, the thick layer of shaved ice, the milk and two slices of leche flan (caramel pudding). Doesn't sound like an impressive dish, huh?
Wait 'til you dig into this deceptively simple meal.
Considering the soft plastic cup where this dessert is served, you'll have to eat the leche flan and bits of shaved ice quickly before the whole thing melts out of the container. Then, you mix it all together using your spoon, and let your taste buds savor the combination of all the ingredients above.
And what a combination! The sweetness of each ingredient complements all the others, and you never get the sense that any ingredient should be — or is — left out. That's no mean feat, especially for a dessert.
As for the price, the website says the dessert is worth one Manuel Roxas. However, some places (like Cash and Carry Mall) offer it for Php105, so it really boils down to where you buy the product.
The only nitpick you'd probably have is the container. You'd probably feel more inclined to mix this up the "normal" way if the halo-halo was inside a thick plastic/glass cup. But this only shaves about 5 percent off the total experience.
Points of Concern
Now, the health-conscious among you may be asking: "Is it too sweet?" Truth be told, any Filipino dish that uses sugar leans on the "sweet" side. But you'd hardly notice it with Razon's halo-halo, probably because of the thick layer of shaved ice.
Also, they seem to have an ongoing "Comment of the Moment" promo. Basically, you pick which one of the halo-halo's ingredients you like best, and comment about it. If your comment is chosen as the CotM, you will receive a gift certificate worth one halo-halo, redeemable in any of Razon's branches. So far, however, they don't seem to have any winners. What's up with that?
At any rate, you can shoot them a message at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow them on Facebook and Twitter if you're looking for a place to voice these concerns.
At first glance, Razon's halo-halo is unimpressive. Since it obviously has fewer ingredients compared to the "standard" halo-halo — whatever "standard" is supposed to mean — it's easy to dismiss it as an inferior product. However, Razon's halo-halo not only debunks any (negative) preconceived notions, but it's also an excellent example of Filipino ingenuity. Who would've thought you can make a superior product by subtracting, rather than adding, ingredients?
Whether you're a Filipino or not, Razon's halo-halo is worth a try. Since the El Niño phenomenon isn't showing signs of letting up so far, why not indulge in a dessert you won't easily find anywhere else?