The 10 Filipino Sweet Treats That Remind Me Of The Holidays In The Province

November 10, 2021

Here's a list of my all-time favorite Filipino desserts that remind me of the holidays at home.

Growing up in the province, I’ve been exposed to a lot of native sweets during family celebrations like Christmas, New Year, and the town fiesta. It was an advantage that I had grand aunts who had with them age-old recipes passed down to them from generations. Although I wouldn’t consider myself as having a sweet tooth, I love Filipino desserts and wouldn’t say no to a piece of sweet rice cake.

Filipino desserts that remind me of the holidays at home

The 10 Filipino Sweet Treats That Remind Me Of The Holidays In The Province


    Desserts are the highlight of our Christmas table


    When you ask other people about what they consider as the highlight of their Christmas table, I think most of them would say ham, roast beef, or any savory meat dish.

    Festive Filipino-inspired holiday drinks and desserts from McDonald's
    Festive Filipino-inspired holiday drinks and desserts from McDonald's

    As a child though, I always looked forward to the desserts served on our Christmas table. It just looks more festive when you have sweet treats on the Christmas table, especially the colorful ones. I remember finishing my Noche Buena food fast just to be able to finally have a bite of those desserts.

    Filipino-inspired ube pastillas and Brazo desserts from McDonald’s


    Honestly, I remembered my favorite childhood desserts when I recently read that McDonald’s is offering several festive and Filipino-inspired holiday desserts on its menu.

    Ube Pastillas Sundae, Brazo de Mercedes Sundae, and Brazo de Mercedes Coffee
    Ube Pastillas Sundae, Brazo de Mercedes Sundae, and Brazo de Mercedes Coffee

    Ube lovers will rejoice because McDonald’s now has an Ube Pastillas Sundae and an Ube Pastillas Frappe. For those who go crazy over Brazo de Mercedes like me, you can enjoy the indulgent taste of this traditional Filipino cake in McDonald’s Brazo Sundae, Brazo Frappe, and Brazo Iced Coffee.

    As the morning air becomes a little chilly, there’s no better way to enjoy the breeze than with a cup of sweet and warm McDonald’s Hot Chocolate.

    Ube Pastillas Frappe, Brazo de Mercedes Frappe, and Brazo de Mercedes Ice Coffee from McDonald's
    Ube Pastillas Frappe, Brazo de Mercedes Frappe, and Brazo de Mercedes Ice Coffee

    You can order these McDonald’s treats for Dine-In, Take Out, Ride-Thru, or via delivery through McDelivery, Grab, or foodpanda! You can keep yourself updated with the latest announcements from McDonald’s Philippines through Facebook, Instagram, and Viber.

    Treats that remind me of the holidays in the province


    What I like in the province is that the native desserts are handmade from scratch by the grandaunts in our family. I grew up eating those sweets that’s why they have become my standard when it comes to

    1. Ube Halaya


    I remember watching a grand-aunt make ube halaya for Christmas and the town fiesta. It was a tedious job because you have to peel and mash kilo after kilo of purple yam or ube. 

    Ube halaya Filipino dessert

    And just when you thought you’re done with the hard part, you have to continually stir the ube halaya as you cook it in a ginormous frying pan to prevent the paste from coagulating. The result of this hard work is a rich-tasting and fragrant dessert that is so hard to stop eating.

    2. Pastillas


    There is one store in our town’s public market that sells delicious pastillas. I think they just get it from another local supplier, nonetheless, I grew up eating those delicious candies made of pure carabao’s milk. 

    While it’s easy to enjoy pastillas at home on any given day or occasion, we made sure that these are present at the Christmas table and during the feast of the town’s patron saint. Those pastillas came in boxes and each time I open them, I always feel like finishing the treats in one sitting.

    3. Brazo de Mercedes


    This is probably my most favorite local cake. While I don’t have any relatives who know how to make it, I bought it in one of the popular bakeshops in our town as a small boy. The decadent taste of Brazo de Mercedes is indeed unforgettable.

    4. Bibingka


    There was a time when we can only enjoy bibingka during the Christmas season. When you can smell bibingka in the air, you know that it’s already Christmas. 

    Bibingka Filipino dessert

    We have one favorite bibingka stall in our town where we would buy almost daily. Soon, they started cooking and selling bibingka even beyond the Christmas season.

    5. Puto Bumbong


    I wasn’t initially a huge fan of puto bumbong because I found it a little bland when I was a small child. As I grew up though, I began to appreciate its taste, enhanced with margarine, brown sugar, and grated coconut. 

    Similar to bibingka, puto bumbong used to be a seasonal treat appearing only during the days leading to Simbang Gabi. However, because of the demand for it, puto bumbong eventually became available in food stalls all year round.

    6. Leche flan


    Leche flan is another treat that reminds me of the holidays. I was always in awe as I watched an aunt separate the egg whites from the yolk, mix it with milk and key lime zest, and then steam it for hours. The result is a creamy custard that I kept a close eye on during meals.

    7. Ginataang Bilo-Bilo


    Ginataang Bilo-Bilo (or halo-halo) is another sweet dish that has a regular appearance on our Christmas table. 

    Ginataang bilo-bilo Filipino dessert

    I always considered it an indulgent dessert because of the rich coconut milk, glutinous sticky rice balls, sweet potatoes, taro balls, bananas, and jackfruit. I know other families would normally serve it during the town fiesta and New Year but we would traditionally include it also in our Christmas meal.

    8. Maja Blanca


    This delicate Filipino dessert is made of coconut milk, browned grated coconut, sugar, and sweet corn kernels. It is light and has a mild sweet taste that anybody will surely love. It’s something that I looked forward to when we visited my grandfather’s house for Christmas.

    9. Suman


    Suman is made of cassava, sticky rice, or even pumpkin. It is mixed with coconut milk and wrapped either in a banana leaf or coconut leaf and then steamed. It’s a good breakfast food but in our town, we serve the sticky rice wrapped in coconut leaves variety of suman.

    10. Gelatin


    Gelatin is a simple Filipino dessert that I often associate with the province. This easy treat is usually made of red gelatin (gulaman) mixed with water, condensed milk, and sugar. Raisins, pineapple tidbits, or corn kernels can be added for flavor. The result is pink gelatin that is best eaten when chilled.

    Epilogue


    These are my ten all-time favorite Filipino desserts that remind me of the holidays in the province. It used to be that we can only enjoy them when there are special occasions but it’s good that these days, those desserts are available all year-long.

    It’s also great to know that there are restaurants, such as McDonald’s, that create modern drinks and desserts that feature local Filipino flavors so that we can enjoy the taste of home in a different interpretation.

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    All-time favorite Filipino desserts at home

    *Photos of the bibingka, ube halaya, and ginataang bilo-bilo are courtesy of Canva.

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