It was a sign that Mamang Taho was within the area and time to catch him before his “taho-oooo” faded away. When the line “taho-oooo” wafted through the air in the afternoons at my late grandparents’ place somewhere in UP Village, I’d made a beeline for the gate and catch his attention. That taho call is something to behold because it’s done in a full baritone voice which doesn’t crack midway. I tried copying it, but mine came out like street musicians caterwauling.
So, Mamang Taho would walk towards the gate and put down his wares – imagine a long piece of wood with both ends strung with two elongated silver containers, one for the taho (roughly translated as bean curd or soya) and one for the syrup and tapioca balls (known as sago in Manila and pearl to the rest of the world). It’s a tough job because the canisters are heavy and the heat is enervating. Walking and “singing” on the streets of Quezon City for hours is no walk in the park. Once the canisters are on the ground, lids hanging on the side, Mamang Taho would scoop taho with this slim, silver “spoon” into our bowl (it’s was bring-your-own-bowl eons ago) and would fill it depending on the price range – PhilP3.00 or PhilP5.00 – then add sago and drape maple syrup on top of it. Merienda (Filipino word for snack) was ready!
These days the taho vendors have upgraded. There’s still the unique “taho-oooo” call, but they have since gone from walking to pedalling. Onboard a bike attached to a cart holding the canisters of taho, they pedal around the city enticing people to buy a cup or cups of taho. But this one taho vendor doesn’t have to call “taho-oooo” anymore. I have never heard him call out, “taho-oooo”. The presence of his cart in front of the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper office in Pasong Tamo, Makati, is enough to alert the taho lovers in the building and in the area. He’s almost a permanent fixture in front that one wonders why he isn’t there when he is nowhere to be found. It had been years since I last bought a cup from this Mamang Taho.
He was fanning himself against the sultry heat when I crossed the street from the dentist and walked towards his cart.
“Nag-iisa kayo, Ma’am,” he said, getting up from the foot of the stairs.
“Galing sa dentist. Nasa office na si mama ko,” was my reply. “Isang cup. Magkano?”
“Sige, pero konti lang ang syrup.”
While scooping, he reminisced of how he used to see my father when he dropped off my mum and who would buy always buy a cup before heading home. Good memory – I’d almost forgotten about that.
“Eto po.” I handed him my PhilP20 and left. Through the window I espied the other taho lovers queuing for their cups.
Taho for merienda is never a bad choice, I say. I’ve been told bean curd is good for the health.