The Ice-Cream Man of San Roque

Erick Gil rides proudly around the “barangays” or villages on his tricycle, where his ice cream cart is mounted, filled with his special homemade ice cream. At five pesos per cup,  residents can get a small tower of yellow and white balls of coconut and mango ice cream, a delicious and refreshing treat for the village residents of San Roque, where he lives.

Erick is 32 years old. His job, two years ago, was less sweet. He used to fabricate concrete blocks to build houses. When typhoon Haiyan (local name: Yolanda) struck the Philippines in November 2013, it changed his life forever.

Considered the most devastating typhoon in recent history, Haiyan claimed more than 6,300 lives and caused millions in material losses: over one million of houses were destroyed and livelihood was affected.

Although Erick, Lopcita (his wife) and his twin daughters survived the disaster, they lost almost everything: his house was severely affected and the family’s economy suffered badly because for months all construction work was halted.

“I felt hopeless. We had no money and no way to earn incomes”, Erick recalls.

They finally decided to leave the devastated island of Leyte, one of the areas severely struck by Haiyan, and settled in Luzon on the northern part of the Philippines with his wife’s family. Without any means of an additional income, Erick learned how to make ice cream from Lopcita’s parents.

Months later, the Gils returned to San Roque in Tolosa, Leyte. But instead of seeking construction work, Erick decided to put his newly acquired knowledge to earn a living.

He and his wife made ice cream every night and they sell it in their barangay and surrounding areas in the morning. Ice cream of coconut and mango. Five pesos each cup.

Five months ago, thanks to the Philippine Red Cross in partnership with Spanish Red Cross and American Red Cross, and the Early Recovering Program, Erick and his family received 12,000 Philippine pesos. They used the cash grant and the savings of their labor to purchase a motorcycle, which Erick now uses in his ice cream rounds. He can now reach neighboring towns more quickly.

“I am doing much better with the motorcycle. Before I could only get to two or three villages. I sell ice cream every day. I can now support my family”, says Erick.

The Philippine Red Cross, in partnership with the Spanish Red Cross have given cash grants for livelihood assistance to over 1,500 families in the municipality of Tolosa, and another 3,000 families in the province of Aklan, where there is a similar project with the support of Canadian Red Cross and Austrian Red Cross. With this money, the typhoon survivors were able to recover crops or sources of income, diversify, or start new businesses, as Erick did.

Now, Erick and Lopcita can support the family. And, who knows? Maybe someday, if the business continues to grow, Erick can finally open his own ice cream shop and proudly hang a photograph of him with his tricycle. To remember how it all began.

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Profile: Livelihood - Ice Cream Man