The Sorbetes Cart

If you’ve never tasted their produce, it’s no doubt that you’ve at least seen them around: they’re painted so that it’d be impossible for it to be otherwise.

If you've never tasted their produce, it's no doubt that you've at least seen them around: they're painted so that it'd be impossible for it to be otherwise.

Hand-painted. this is the key term in that last sentence — a matching technique for hand-made ice cream, and a fitting aesthetic for that same ice cream’s taste. If you’ve never tasted their produce, it’s no doubt that you’ve at least seen them around:they’re painted so that it’d be impossible for it to be otherwise. But where do these carts come from? Who paints them to look the way they do? I asked Jason Masankay, a 26 year-old vendor I met with a friend while walking down the road, these questions and more.

Hi sir, what’s your name?

Jason Masangkay. That’s my name on the cart.”

02 Jason Masangkay’s ice cream cart.

So you own this cart?

“Yes I do, my family owns it.”“

How did you get it cart painted?

“What, the lettering? I did that. It’s just lettering.”“

Did someone teach you how to do it?

“No. Just practice, on my own. lettering lang yan e (that’s just lettering)”

How long ago did you paint it?

“About 10 years ago? Something like that. I haven’t repainted it since”

Why is there a number 14 on the cart?

“Because there’s a lot of us.”

04 The number on the cart identifies it from other carts of the same brand.

How many exactly?
About 30-33? Some are family members, others are just vendors.

How does that work then, they buy the cart or they pay rent?

They pay boundary (daily rent).

Ah. So you dont pay rent, being the owner and all?

No, of course I do. We wouldn’t make any money if I didn’t!

03 Jason is kind enough to answer all our questions.

Good point. How much would it be to make an ice cream cart for oneself?

Around 35,000 pesos for one cart.

Wow. I was not expecting that. How long have you owned the business?

The father of my Grandfather owned it. It was passed on.

I see. Sir, so what type of paint do you use to paint the carts?

Any paint. Any paint will do.

How much would you charge if someone asked you to paint their cart?

I’d charge more for the materials. Around Php 700 for the labor. The paint was about Php 1,200 back when I painted mine. I don’t really paint carts now.

At this point, my friend was finishing his ice cream. We thanked Jason for his time and I wrote down the information I got from him.

05 In case you were wondering, they take special orders.

Sorbetes carts are quite the visual feast. Letters go left to right and up to down, interlocking like a colorful rainbow sealed into a box, making the most of the trolly’s four sides. Even the wheels are painted, down to their kalesa-like spokes.

As far as I’ve seen, the letterforms range from brush script, to single-stroke styles and then more detailed black letter. “Ice cream” is often painted in a style that seems to be woodblock-inspired. I’d like to think these styles were inherited from our Spanish past and subsequently adapted to the styles of generations of Filipino painters, but I may be getting ahead of myself.

06 The Masangkay Cart’s information panel. It’s common to see fruits painted onto at least one side of a sorbetes cart.

Click here for more examples of ice cream cart lettering.


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