The White Halo-Halo
From a small eatery in Guagua, Pampanga, Razon’s has now become a growing chain of restaurants. The owners are known for concocting the most simple but incredibly delicious halo-halo in town.
This is the story of a Filipino family-their struggles, values and how they succeeded in business through the concoction of a very simple but incredibly delicious dessert the halo-halo.
No one knows in particular where the tasty concoction of this local refreshment originated from. Was it borne out of regional influence, the creative product of someone who grew up in a tropical climate, or was it sheer Pinoy ingenuity?
In the small subdivision inside the town of Guagua, Pampanga, during the late ’60s, one family introduced more than the usual (or less of it) halo-halo.
The Razon patriarch was a tailor in Pampanga. Coming from a family with humble beginnings, the 12 siblings learned to tend for themselves in order to survive. Elena Razon, together with her two other sisters, Severina and Virginia, one day decided to put up a small eatery just in front of their house in LM subdivision in Guagua.
The eatery would sell goto, mami, pancit, and other Pinoy native meriendas. However, it was the eatery’s halo-halo that became the favorite of many and had soon been known as the now famous Razon’s halo-halo.
Razon’s halo-halo is only made from three main ingredients: leche flan, macapuno and saging na saba.
From the’70S to the’90s, Razon’s halo-halo became more and more popular all over Pampanga. Even those living in the cities would visit this province just to have a taste of it.
It was not all good news though. After more than two decades of raving over Pampanga’s most desired halo-halo, the Razon family’s enthusiasm to continue the business soon started to wane.
Elena, Severina, and Virginia, were already in their twilight years and felt too old to manage a restaurant. Aside from this, the whole province of Pampanga during that time was practically submerged in lahar and volcanic ash brought by the eruption of Mt. Pinatubo.
But neither old age nor an anguished natural calamity could put off a genuinely good product. Roman Baltazar, Jr., the fifth generation of the Razon clan, is now the vice-president for marketing of Razon’s. He said in 2003, the whole family decided to revive the business and put up Razon’s Food Corporation.
People in cosmopolitan Manila were introduced to the taste of Razon’s halo-halo when their first branch in Robinsons Galleria opened up. “It was just 12 square meters, and we just served halo-halo and pancit luglug,” Roman recalls.
“My mom was very happy, even if we had only sold roughly Php 3,000 on
our first day,” he continues.
It was the same enthusiasm in the family that made them put up their next branch. In late 2003, the City Golf in Ortigas, Pasig City became the home of its second branch. “Dito, humaba talaga ang pila,” Roman joyfully tells us as he points from the restaurant’s counter to the establishment’s parking lot without an inch of exaggeration.
The family business
“Our restaurants are just an extension of our home,” Roman intones. “Sa bahay, yan ang mga kinakain namin. We’re not going to experiment on a product and offer a new one that we’re not confident about,” relating that Razon’s would never serve foods that they themselves would not eat.
Roman was also honest to admit that after some years of operation, they have been very blessed. “We’re lucky. Our ancestors started this out, the challenge for us was how to revive it,” he discloses.
“We know that our product is good. We trust the quality of our foods,” he adds. “So our job is really sustaining it. In business, success is longevity.”
The business is so akin to the family that they decided not to accept franchising. “It’s really the decision of the family not to do any franchise. It’s hard when you have the family name in the business.” In fact, the, carrying logo of Razon’s restaurants is a close replica of the Razon’s great grand father’s handwriting, “that’s how my lolo would sign it.” -
A serious business
The vice president for marketing of Razon’s Food Corporation was quick to admit that opening up to fresh ideas and new possibilities is very important to any business, especially to SMEs.
Four years and 16 branches later, with 200 employees hired, the family corporation is still learning a lot about running a business. Humility is one of them. As Roman declares: “We believe that being humble is accepting that there are still a lot to improve on.”
Another lesson is temerity in times of expansion. “Habang mas dumadami branches mo, mas humihirap.” (As you expand your branches, the more it becomes difficult.)
As a restaurant owner, Roman says choosing the location is very vital. Razon’s strategic position is to capture high density areas those that are near offices, schools, and residences. This also takes into the drawing board the kind of market you have.
Once you know the kind of market you cater to, Roman further adds that it is also important to note the pricing of your products. Razon’s pricing principle is rooted from the nature of foods they serve – pagkaing Pilipino-Filipino foods. That’s why Razon’s price for its foods is made reasonably affordable.
“Gusto namin walang social classes. Walang A, B, C, D, or E,” Roman declares.
But how does a business whose product is known to be be a cool refreshment summer favorite react to seasonality and change?
“We’re expanding our menu,” is Roman’s prompt response. “By next year, we’ll introduce more Filipino favorites.”
At present, aside from halo-halo and the pancit luglug, Razon’s menu includes yummy Pinoy meriendas and local delicacies, from chicharon and puto-dinuguan, to their version of -silog and sizzling meals.
Less is more
Still, if this were a show, the star performer in Razon’s restaurant is the halo-halo, which to this day, has many people wondering: it has very few ingredients-but why is it so delicious?
For Filipinos who are used to the kind of halo-halo that is colorful and filled with spoonful of at least a dozen ingredients, Razon’s simple version of this summer dessert is surprising.
In fact, the delectability of a halo-halo is seized up by the number of ingredients put into it. Sago, pinipig, red mungo beans, nata de coco, macapuno, ube, some would even delight a scoop of ice cream or two. It would not be called a halo-halo for nothing, right?
So how does Razon’s Halo-halo, made only with three main ingredients, leche flan, macapuno, and saging na saba, measure up to this?
It sets it apart for one thing. Many loyal customers call it the “White halo-halo.”
“It’s really a product concocted by my great, great grand parents,” Roman states. “To be honest, I don’t know. Perhaps it is intended. Perhaps yoon lang ang ingredients na nahanap.” But sure enough, all three ingredients, matched with milk and perfectly shaved ice, complement each other so well.
Roman tells that what sets their halo-halo apart from the rest is not the three ingredients per se, but on how they prepare those three ingredients. “I’d like to believe it’s really a labor of love… of my family.”
And as any family member of Razon would say, their beginning was humble indeed, and their halo-halo reflective of it – plain, simple, white, more than any other color. But don’t we just love things like that?
Unpretentious, nonetheless, delicious?
It’s no secret, the white halo-halo of Razon’s-there’s just really more to it.