As the self declared Street Food Guy, and of course a regular visitor to the Philippines i’m not averse to getting myself down and dirty with the street food scene, and have tried all manner of guts, intestines, the obligatory balut, birds nest soup, and even tamilok, a food so god damned awful they decided to make it a “challenge” to eat it, but this is nothing compared to pagpag.
Pagpag in Tagalog literally means “to brush of the dirt”, and when used in the context of food, it means leftover food, but not your homebred leftover food, leftover food that is rummaged from bins. If you’re not salivating yet, be patient.
The salvaged food tends to come from one of the numerous fast food joints, such as Jolibee, or mcDonalds, is then taken back to one of the slum areas, such as smoky mountain, before it is then fried up, and sold for a pittance to people equally poor and hungry.
Unsupridingly there are a huge number of health concerns associated with eating pagpag, from typhoid to cholera, and in general it is discouraged, although sadly whilst it is discouraged, a 2015 report stated that pagpag had actually helped decrease malnutrition in some of the most deprived areas of the country. In the airtight choice between pagpag and malnutrition, pagpag comes out an easy winner.
There main plan to reduce the proliferation was a broad stated idea to “reduce poverty”. Obviously fairly obvious, and a great idea, but its the reducing poverty part that is literally the hard bit!
Yet away from the slums you will not really see pagpag, and it is unlikely as a foreigner visiting the country you are likely to come across it, but its worth noting whenever you are enjoying yourself in any country that suffers from poverty how the other half actually live!