What is ‘pagpag’? If you don’t know, read on!
For the poor who live in slums around garbage dumps in Metro Manila, it is food – actually leftover pieces of chicken or morsels of meat swarming with ants and other impurities. Yes, it is food that they call ‘pagpag.’ (Pagpag means to shake off.) They shake off the ants but not the salmonella and e-coli that inhabit the left-over meat.
After being washed 3 times in murky water, the pagpag meat is boiled and mixed with loads of tomato sauce to disguise the rancid taste and hide the foul smell of rotten meat. Another dish is called ‘fried pagpag.’ Meat is deep fried in boiling oil so that no one can really tell the difference.
It is indeed a very depressing sight to see such poverty happening in our home country. Scavengers go out deep into the night with their large kariton (push cart). They check rubbish bins, especially those in front of restaurants like McDonalds to pick up thrash bags containing left-over food.
When they arrive home, they separate what they consider edible from the assortment of recyclables and place the freshly harvested pagpag in cardboard boxes to be sold in a carinderia (a roadside Filipino cuisine) the following morning.
Such is the face of poverty in the Philippines. Here in Australia, we throw away excess food that is left in the refrigerator after just a couple of days. I must confess that my pet dog eats better than some of our kababayans and I don’t feel very good about it.