The convenience of powdered milk contributes to a relatively smooth, hassle-free feeding and milk rationing program at Gota de Leche today. A hundred years ago, however, the very real problem of spoilage needed to be immediately addressed.
Imagine a tropical climate around a century ago, with no electricity, no freezers or chillers, and no ice to keep the pasteurized cow’s milk fresh for beneficiaries. The milk supplies had to be kept in cold storage so they won’t spoil. Gota de Leche’s administration campaigned for help from the same kind-hearted donors who offered services, utilities, land, furniture, dairy animals, and even fresh milk from their own backyards, at no charge. They found their ally in an ice plant called Fabrica de Hielo de Manila — a company we easily recognize today because of its popular beer product, San Miguel.
Established in 1894, the Fabrica de Hielo de Manila was one of two documented ice plants in Manila in the 19th century. As historian Ambeth Ocampo wrote in a recent piece for the Inquirer, “mabilis pa sa alas cuatro” meant the 4PM end-of-work signal of an old ice plant near the Pasig River, which later became local slang to mean a hassle-free, speedy process.
Fabrica de Hielo de Manila’s “mabilis pa sa alas cuatro” response to Gota de Leche’s dilemma helped the institution’s programs until 1945. The ice they provided became an essential tool to keep the milk of human kindness flowing and fresh at Gota de Leche. Today, as in its beginnings, every drop of milk flows from voluntary contributions and donations of civic-spirited groups and individuals; the Fabrica de Hielo de Manila was one of them. Gota de Leche and its beneficiaries owe them a debt of gratitude.