Update on Philippines Pagpag: Nearly 2 Dreadful Decades of Consumptions

Update on Philippines Pagpag: Nearly 2 Dreadful Decades of Consumptions

Staple Food for the Philippines Poor

The poverty and hunger crisis among the Philippines poor has taken the term “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” into a whole new level. Pagpag is the treasure here, because the poor in Philippines slums could not afford fresh ingredients for their meals on daily basis, so they had to resort to scavanged meat from leftovers. These scavanged leftover meats is called pagpag by the poor local.

It is scavanged from the city dumpster, gathered as much as possible. Then, the poor would buy the pagpag in a bag and brought them home in which they will wash and recooked them. From there, they could eat the pagpag for daily sustenance or sell it to the neighborhood. People earn about $4-$6 per day selling raw it while the cooked servings only costs sixty cents or less.

Since it’s scavanged from the dumpster, health hazard would definitely follows. The ingestion of pagpag could be poisonous and toxic, eating it on a regular could lead into malnutrition and diseases such as Hepatitis A, Typhoid, Diarrhea, and Cholera. The good news is, nobody have ever died from consuming pagpag, claims the pagpag vendors. It seems like their digestive system already getting used to it, although there is children who became ill from consumption.

Speaking of children, you can also read: Stop Undernutrition in Children

Early Consumption of Pagpag

The earliest media coverage on pagpag consumption was in 2003 on a documentary show aired by Philippines television channel, GMA Network. It shows just how the poor have been gathering leftovers from the trash of fast food restaurants, and selling them in a bag, these pagpag gatherer is called Magbabatchoy (according to the documentary).

It has become the staple food of the poor because simply, they don’t have a choice. They were unfortunate enough to born and grew up in the filthy part of Philippines, and were shoved by hunger and poverty crisis that is intesifying in 2008. In 2012, CNN brought pagpag to the world’s attention by releasing a documentary, in which a pagpag customer made a statement, “It is the only thing the poor can afford”.

The Slum of Manila, where the poor work hard for a glimmer of peso in exchange of survival pagpag later on.

Image is taken from South China Morning Post.

From 15th-19th January 2015, Pope Francis made a pastoral visit to Philippines. Surprisingly, to celebrate the Pope’s visit, the local residents of Manila prepares pagpag for them to feast on. Considering this, the Philippines poor might not perceive the food as negative as we might do. As CNN made a mini-documentary video in February 2018, showing how the dish is made and brought to the dinner table, it seems like pagpag have become a part of Philippines culture.

Hunger Crisis Continues

So 2020 have passed, and if you’re wondering whether the Philippines poor and their pagpag consumptions is still running, then yes, it continues as this article is published. The poor is trying to make the most out of pagpag. It might be garbage, but flavor, quality, and presentation still matter for them. An inspiring mini-documentary titled “Slumfood Millionaire” shows how the poor make the most out of leftover ingredients into a decent looking meal, and of course the Philippines is highlighted.

These documentaries highlight how the slum-dwelling citizens getting close to their dream of having to eat decent meal by utilizing any resources they had. Slumfood millionaire show us how the poor can turn cheap and often overlooked ingredients into a decent looking meal, let’s say there is grilled frog, and pig intestine soup. However, we won’t say that this is allowed to continue for another years, poverty alleviations is needed immediately.

To alleviate this conditions will not be easy (and the pandemic does not help), but at least the goal is clear. We need to provide these Philippnies poor an alternative, healthier options. Also taking an in-depth research is recommended, examining what exactly is the econo ic anomaly that prevents these people from getting decent healthy meal.

To find out more about slum-living, you can read: How Manila’s slum hawkers turn unwanted food into delicacies for the poor, by Desmond Ng, September 23rd, 2020

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