Pagpag: The ultimate junk food scavenged from bins and dumps

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trash ready to be turned into pagpag

PAGPAG: The recent election of President Duterte’s allies will no doubt make his administration much stronger, bolster him in his ongoing war on drugs, and maybe even propel him to do as he promised, and declare war on Canada! 

But whilst everyone concentrates on all these jovial parts of his presidency — the funny bits if you will — has no one noticed that there still seems to be quite a bit of poverty in the country?

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Smoky Mountain might be called Paradise Heights now, but the slum is still as big as ever, and when you walk the streets of much of Manila, in places such as Ermita, you will still see whole families sleeping outside, and kids in bins scavenging for food. 

OK, so kids scavenge for food in a lot of countries, but it is very few countries that have a whole meal and industry based around leftovers, we bring you pagpag.

Pagpag, which in Tagalog literally means “dust the dirt of” is a Filipino dish you are unlikely to try as a foreigner. Pagpag involves food being scavenged, mostly from the bins of fast food restaurants, such as Jolibee, or McDonalds, before being taken back to the slum areas, where resourceful people then fry it up, and then sell it on for next to nothing to other impoverished people. 

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Now, whilst I would rather refrain from stating the bleeding obvious, pagpag is not exactly healthy, with risks ranging from Hepatitis to Cholera not being enough of a deference, when the alternative is sadly malnutrition. Sadly in 2015 a report even stated that the reduction in malnutrition in the Philippines, had actually been because of the prevalence of pagpag. 

Much like Smoky Mountain there have been many poverty porn documentaries, with the last one being in 2018 when the BBC did a cute little three minute video about how to prepare this delicacy.  And much like Smoky Mountain, people get a little bit outraged, get on with their lives and carry on.

I suppose it’s better to have pagpag than malnutrition, but it would be even better if the government could start trying to address one of the world’s worst wealth disparities. Maybe after the war on drugs has been won. 

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