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The sweet taste of home
Written by: Dheza Aguilar
For many Filipinos, Rizal Park is not only a historical park located in the heart of Manila. Commonly known as Luneta, Rizal Park has become an integral part of the Filipino society through the years, almost synonymous to family days and weekends out.
Summers spent in Luneta conjure up images of sweltering heat made bearable by the cool breeze from the Manila Bay, of colourful balloons in different shapes and sizes sold by vendors along the Rizal monument, Sunday picnics at the Japanese garden, children gathered around the cart of Mamang Sorbetero waiting for their crispy cone of sorbetes and ice cream on a bun, or eating barbecue and hotdogs from the stalls along the Quirino Grand Stand while watching the sunset of Manila Bay.
The memories of summers in the Philippines are what inspired the couple Dennis Rogacion and Rhea Topacio of Dea Chocolates to come up with a line of artisan ice cream they lovingly named after Luneta. With flavours such as ube macapuno, halo-halo, mango and buko pandan, Luneta ice cream not only whets your appetite but also reminds of the beautiful time of growing up in the Philippines.
“We want to offer everyone, Filipinos and Europeans alike, the kind of food that makes someone feel good. Our products give you that cozy feeling, whether you are having a bad day or enjoying a good time. For our Filipino customers, it gives them a sense of being home, a reminder of how home tastes like.” says Rogacion.
Staying true to the tradition of home-made products like Dea chocolates and Taartini Designer Cupcakes, they only use natural ingredients in making the base of Luneta ice cream, giving each scoop a delightfully creamy and silky texture.
“Our ice creams are made with no additional artificial emulsifiers or stabilizers. Most flavours are hard to find and some are even unique to the European palate. You could say that this is
our way of introducing the goodness of Filipino food to the Europeans albeit in a very sweet way,” says Topacio.
Current available flavours of Luneta ice cream are Buko Pandan (creamy pandan with coconut bits) Halo-halo (a mix of white and red beans, nata de coco, kaong, Jack fruit, banana and milk), Mango (made from Philippine mango, the best in the world), Ube Macapuno (purple yam with coconut sport strings) and the classic Rocky Road (with roasted nuts and marshmallows).
Luneta Home-made Ice Cream is available in selected restaurants and retail shops in Europe. They are also open to work with caterers and wholesalers upon request. For more information, visit www.lunetaicecream.com or contact them via email firstname.lastname@example.org or call +316 218 202 88.
Few people remember that Rizal Park was once named Luneta, the default go-to place for families, friends, and of course, lovers. It’s also a place where you don’t have to think about how much money you’ve got as long as you have company.
Luneta being a popular public park and highly accessible to all, was a watering hole for people from all walks of life. And when there are people gathering, strolling around the park, will food be far away? Home to snack kiosks offering the usual fare of hotdogs and hamburgers, spaghetti, and soft drinks, Luneta is also a place for more than a handful of ambulant vendors selling cotton candy, peanuts, popcorn and… ice cream.
Yep, there’s a Luneta Ice Cream and it’s a delightful treat for all Filipinos leaving in some parts of Europe, specifically, The Netherlands. The fun-sounding names Luneta Ice Cream has for its flavors will make you long for the Philippines as they sound soooo Pinoy! Sample these frozen delights:
Buco Pandan- Buco Panday
Mango- Go Mango Go!
Rocky Road- Rocky Streets
Ube Macapuno- Oh Baby Macapuno
Pink Guava- Mamink-mink
Maja Blanca – Coco Corny
Calamansi – Nagmamaasim
These flavors are available in 140 cc, 500 cc, 1 liter and 2.5 liters.
But enough of the ice cream and let’s go to the geniuses behind Luneta Ice Cream: the husband-and-wife tandem of Rhea Topacio and Dennis Rogacion. The author had the opportunity to touch base with Rhea and learned gallons of info worth sharing to you who are wondering who’s behind Luneta Ice Cream.
FFA: How long have you been in the business?
Rhea: With the ice cream business, we officially started February 14, 2015, after a couple of months of studying our own recipe. Our company, Dea Enterprise, started with chocolates (deachocolates.com) five years ago then ventured on designer cupcakes (taartini.nl).
FFA: How did you start the business?
Rhea: It was an accidental effort. We just wanted to export ice cream machines supposedly to the Philippines, but after trying out the machine, we decided to make ice creams here (The Netherlands) with Filipino flavors instead.
FFA: If you’re not in this business, what might have you been doing instead?
Rhea: Most probably, my husband will continue working and I will continue with my freelance jobs (balikbayan box agent, advertising manager (thefilipinoexpatmagazine), graphic designer, marketing) while pushing our cupcakes and chocolates business, and making new products to offer. We love making new products, our creativity and passion are utilized.
FFA: Why didn’t you pursue that other possibility?
Rhea: Getting a job here currently is quite difficult, taking into consideration the status of the economy. My husband lost his job recently and so have other people in the work force. The competition to get a job is quite high. We have our own company that we can maximize to earn enough for our monthly household expenses, so we might as well try pursuing it. We have been present already for quite some time, so we thought maybe it is high time to change gears to a manageable capacity. Our idea gained more push from the fact that my husband has been here in The Netherlands for more than two decades, and I’ve been here for five years. There are certain Filipino foods that we miss that are not available here. Filipino ice cream is one of the most hard-to-find foods here.
We know that our fellow Filipinos here do miss it, too. So instead of importing it which would entail more cost for them, we decided to make it ourselves.
FFA: Do you serve your ice cream at home, to family and friends? What do they say?
Rhea: Of course we do. Our immediate families and close friends are our product testers and, yes, they like them very much. They have their own favorites. They are our support group in selling, events, and promotion, as well. The name (Luneta) was the idea of our friend Walter Labajo, and the logo was designed by another friend from Singapore, Allan Osido. I’d say, Luneta Ice Cream is a product of love and support by our families and friends all over the world.
FFA: What’s your special ice cream?
Rhea: Our best seller is ube macapuno and buco pandan. For non-Filipinos, they love halo-halo and Philippine mango. Chocolate lovers love our rocky road, of course. Recent favorite is the pink guava. But we take pride that our ice creams are all special. We made them ourselves from our own tiny kitchen.
FFA: What’s your favorite local ice cream? How about foreign ice cream?
Rhea: Personally, the old Selecta super chocolate. After that, dirty ice cream. No favorite foreign ice cream. My husband, on the other hand, loves Ben and Jerry’s New York Super Fudge.
FFA: Any plans of further expanding?
Rhea: Yes, of course, slowly but surely. We are focusing now in saturating The Netherlands market. It’s a matter of supply and demand balance.
FFA: Where do you get your ice cream or dessert fix? What’s your recommended place for a good dessert place?
Rhea: Well, we do make a lot of sweets, and a lot of our friends make a lot of pastries as well, so having a favorite place to eat dessert is not on our list.
FFA: Thus far, what’s the most valuable lesson you can impart to our readers?
Rhea: Love and passion in what you do. Maintain, and eventually develop, your unique selling proposition. Have a realizable vision. Empathize with your customers—bring them happiness, not just a product. Plan with a balanced, idealistic but realistic mind. Think outside the box. Deliver beyond what is expected. Life lessons talaga ito, ever since.
FAST BREAK QUESTIONS
- Artificial sweeteners or white sugar? White.
- Chocolate or vanilla? Chocolate.
- Magnolia or Selecta? Selecta
- Coffee or Juice? Coffee
- If you are an ice cream, what flavor are you? Why? Luneta Ice Cream Rocky Road. Real chocolate, not powder. With lots of adventure while having it.
That’s it, folks! We here at Food Finds Asia had a fun time with Luneta Ice Cream’s Rhea Topacio. Now, if we can only get that ice cream here in the Philippines!
Isang karangalan ang maitampok ang Luneta Ice Cream sa pagdiriwang ng ika-118 taon ng Kalayaan ng Pilipinas sa The Hague, the Netherlands.
Taos pusong pasasalamat sa Embahada ng Pilipinas sa pamumuno ni Ambasador Ledda at ng kanyang may-bahay, sa pagkakataong naibigay sa Luneta Ice Cream. Ang maibahagi ang isa sa mga tradisyong Pilipinong pagkain panghimagas sa mga kagalang galang na kinatawan mula sa iba’t ibang bansa,na nakapagdulot ng ngiti at pagkamangha,ay nagdala ng galak sa aming mga puso.
Labis na pasasalamat sa mga tumulong sa pagbuo ng aming mumunting “Luneta Ice Cream Bar”. Ang inyong tulong ay katunayan ng kahulugan ng Bayanihan.
Maraming salamat po.
Our deepest appreciation to the Embassy of the Philippines under the leadership of Ambassador Ledda and his wife, for the opportunity given to Luneta Ice Cream. Participating in this event by being the featured unique product, our ice cream, a Filipino dessert, to distinguished representatives from different countries, which brought smiles and awe to everyone.
Thank you very much for helping build our little “Luneta Ice Cream Bar”. Your help is proof of Bayanihan’s meaning.
Thank you very much.
Ambassador Ledda with the Filipino Community and other attendees to the Embassy Festival
Philippine Embassy, The Hague participated in the Embassy Festival on 03 September 2016, held at Lange Voorhout, The Hague, The Netherlands.
This one-day festival is an annual event for the diplomatic community that highlights the different cultures in The Hague through various activities in music, arts, dance, and cuisine from the different countries. With its theme “Lifting Global Culture”, the Philippine Embassy participated in the festival for the fourth consecutive year, promoting tourism and our rich culture to the people living in The Hague and its environs.
This year, distinct Philippine flavours such as calamansi, pink guava, buko pandan, maja blanca, ube macapuno, Philippine mango and halo-halo were showcased at the Philippine pagoda by local vendor Luneta Ice Cream with its home-made traditional and “deep-fried” ice cream.
About 35,000 visitors came to the Festival and enjoyed the sights and sounds of fifty (50) cultural performances and delightful cuisines participated by forty-three (43) embassies in The Hague.
Visitors, both local and Filipinos, enjoying Luneta Ice Cream’s home-made and “deep-fried” ice cream.
Credits: Philippine Embassy in The Hague
Recently, Filipino cuisine has been making headlines abroad. Apparently, our local dishes have hit the jackpot among casual diners and foodies. From the well-known adobo to the more complex sinigang, our native dishes and Filipino recipes have indeed come so far. Thanks to Filipinos living abroad, they have kept the Filipino spirit alive through cooking. It’s a Pinoy pride thing; it has enabled the enterprising spirit of the Filipinos working and living abroad to share our dishes with other nationalities.
What makes our dishes special? No matter how simple or complicated Filipino dishes are, you know that aside from it takes time and effort to prepare these dishes, love is an extra ingredient in preparing them. That’s why the term lutong-bahay has always been the word-of-mouth that drove our dishes to the forefront of the culinary world.
That aside, lutong-bahay gives that vibe of love, care and deliciousness you only get when food is home cooked. You always look forward to having your meals at home after a long day. These dishes have found its home abroad and they are fast becoming favorites by foreign taste buds too.
Then there’s the dessert. From the simple minatamis na saging to the all-time summer favorite halo-halo, and the most popular purple ube halaya, these desserts are prepared at home. What more if your dessert is an ice cream tailored fit to suit the Filipino taste buds? Pinoy ice cream! I remember my grandfather used to make ice cream for us. And that’s always been a treat! Flavors like ube and mango, or buco pandan, and other local ingredients… that’s what makes it Filipino. That’s what makes it sariling atin. And bringing that culture abroad, that Pinoy pride, is the entrepreneurial spirit of every Filipino.
In The Netherlands, Luneta Ice Cream has been promoting the Filipino culture, that sense of sariling atin, through its ice cream with native flavors like mango, ube, buco pandan, macapuno… truly authentic Filipino ice cream! What makes it truly Pinoy is that it’s personally managed and made by its owners. The right ingredient that makes any Filipino food authentic and real. That kind of claim can only be made by Luneta Ice Cream.
“We have thought of bringing smiles to our fellow Pinoys here. So we ventured into making Pinoy ice cream. Thus was born Luneta Ice Cream. From the basic of ice cream flavors to our new offerings, all of these are borne out of our love and pride for our home country,” Rhea Topacio, Luneta Ice Cream’s Managing Partner, says in an interview.
“We want to share this passion with you, to bring that taste of authentic Filipino ice cream,” Dennis Rogacion, Luneta Ice Cream’s other partner, interpolates. “That kind of care and meticulousness that is a throwback to all things Pinoy when it comes to preparing food, that’s what Luneta Ice Cream is all about. We want to inspire the Filipinos here, that they’re not alone in working towards success. We are working on our success. So they can do it too!” Dennis adds.
Many Filipinos are trying to find the right combination to succeed, wherever they are; whether it’s work or putting up a business. Some have brought native dishes to commercially share it, some have even found their niche and established their own restaurants and catering services. And they’ve found support among the Filipino communities and the locals there.
Whatever the case may be, with the number of Filipinos working and living abroad, you already have a market for the Filipino dish, be it main course or dessert. Proof that our sariling atin has a place in the global dining table.
Philippine Mango Ice Cream drizzled with Lemon Olive oil? A perfect combination for a healthy and refreshing taste.
It was a great opportunity for Luneta Ice Cream to be a part of the cooking demo lead by Chef Ces of Ces Kitchen and Ladi Biosas λάδι βιώσας Premium Virgin Olive Oil at the FairPlaza Inspiratie Dagen in Culemborg Netherlands. One of the featured recipes is a choice between Luneta Ice Cream’s Philippine Mango, Melon, Pineapple Sorbet, Lychee Sorbet and Macapuno (Sweetened aged Coconut), then drizzled with either Lemon, Orange or Original Premium Ladi Biosas Olive Oil. The taste is classy and fresh as the flavors blend and brings out the best in both products. Highly recommended for everyone this summer. Visit our websites to know how to get hold of this exclusive goodness.