Giving nostalgic PH desserts a ‘Happy’ twist

OCTOBER 27, 2022


It was a hot, uneventful Sunday afternoon when I saw colorful depictions of our beloved desserts—halo-halo, guinumis, scramble, mais con hielo, among others—recreated to look more fun, colorful and festive.

When I realized whose creations they were, I was not surprised: Happy Ongpauco-Tiu has once again put together a concept like no other.

Dear Happy is a Filipino dessert bar that brings to light nostalgic Filipino flavors with a “Happy” twist. It is, to date, the first and only modern Filipino dessert bar.

The concept, as Ongpauco-Tiu puts it, is “a warm, inviting space where nostalgic Filipino desserts meet culinary creativity.” It is where the classic panghimagas is transformed into stylish gourmet desserts.

Ongpauco-Tiu admits that her endeavor is an ambitious one. To truly capture the essence of Filipino dessert culture and to reintroduce it in an elevated, upscale context, while still retaining the heart and soul of what makes them cherished favorites, is tough, to say the least.

Her idea is to house all our favorite sweet treats under one roof.

Dear Happy is her collective homage to Filipino sweets. The menu is her “love letter” to those who cherish the classics, into which her own personal spin is incorporated, to produce something familiar, with a touch of the new. “I’m proud to say that I took the beloved, time-honored flavors and gave them a contemporary, more creative touch that would appeal to both fans of these sweets, as well as attract new patrons who might be intrigued by the leveled-up approach to Filipino desserts,” she said.

Diverse clientele

By opening first in Boracay, Ongpauco-Tiu aims to attract “new patrons.” The diverse clientele that Boracay offers is her opportunity to promote the Philippines through our sweet and frozen delights. She added that Boracay, being an international hub, is ideal for brand introduction, and for local and global recognition.

Happy urges those who visit her dessert bar to try her classic Halo-halopiness—a “Mix-Mix of Filipino Sweet Treats!” made with homemade sweetened fruits, topped with leche flan, crunchy pinipig crisps, cereals and your choice of dirty ice cream soft serve. It can be had with your choice of milk ice, ube milk ice or vegan gata.

She expressed fondness for her take on sapin-sapin that is served as a mochi. Here, sapin-sapin is interpreted as a mochi wrapper filled with ube dirty ice cream.

The Dirty Turon Nachos, according to Ongpauco-Tiu, is also a must-try. The dish is served with latik ice cream, which she says is very yummy!

Dear Happy also has a Dirty Ice Cream line. “Imagine your dirty ice cream elevated in flavor, still with that nostalgic taste, but creamier and richer,” Ongpauco-Tiu said.

When she professed that she loves everything on the menu and that it gives her a natural high, I couldn’t agree more. Browsing through her offerings made me want to try everything!

Of interest to me is the Pan de Coco con Sorbetes, a spin-off on a sorbetero favorite, the ice cream sandwich.

There was the Palitaw Mochi, coconut ice cream enveloped in palitaw rice cake, topped with grated coconut meat, sugar and toasted sesame seeds.Maja Blanca Con Yelo is a twist on the traditional maja blanca made of creamy corn coconut pudding topped with shaved corn milk ice, sweetened corn, latik ice cream, latik crumble and grated cheese.

Indeed, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

Ongpauco-Tiu is daughter of Rod Ongpauco (of Barrio Fiesta, Bakahan at Manukan, Singing Waiters and Cooks and Isdaan fame), whose knack for creating one-of-a-kind concepts, we can attribute partly to genetics and partly to her own innate God-given gifts.

Happy shared an easy and popular Filipino dessert that is perfect for the hot summer months: Mango-Kiwi Float, a no-cook refrigerator cake.

Maja Blanca con Yelo
Maja Blanca con Yelo

Mango-Kiwi Float

3-4 ripe mangoes, thinly sliced

10 pcs kiwi, thinly sliced

1 pack (200 grams) graham crackers

2 c heavy cream or all-purpose cream, chilled

1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk1 tsp vanilla extract (optional)In a bowl, combine chilled heavy cream, sweetened condensed milk and vanilla extract. Whip the mixture until it increases in volume and becomes light and spreadable. Take care not to overmix, as it can turn into butter.

Take a rectangular dish or tray and arrange a layer of graham crackers on the bottom. Break pieces to fill in gaps if necessary.

Add cream, mangoes and kiwi.

Ube Maniac
Ube Maniac

Spread a layer of the cream mixture over the graham crackers using a spatula or the back of a spoon.

Arrange sliced mangoes and kiwi on top of the cream. Cover as much of the cream layer with mango slices as possible.

Repeat layering (depending on the depth of your dish or) until you run out of ingredients. Aim for at least two or three layers of each component.

For the top layer, finish with the cream and then decorate with mango slices.

Cover the with plastic wrap or aluminum foil and refrigerate for at least four hours. Overnight is best, as it allows the graham crackers to soak up the cream and soften, giving it a cake-like texture. INQ

Dear Happy is at D’Mall, Boracay; follow @dearhappy.dessertbar on Instagram.

Follow @iamreggieaspiras on Instagram and Facebook; visit


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