Have you ever wondered whatever happened to the left-over food you did not finish in fast food restaurants? You may think they would have been thrown away and discarded for good. For sure they are headed to the trash bin after people leave them on the table. But what happens next is something you ought to know. All the leftovers you throw away in fast food joint may feed entire neighborhoods in Philippines.
In reality, pagpag has become a futile solution for the Philippines’ hunger crisis. A slight glimmer of hope for the poorest of the poor that still carries great risks—including death, as there are some leftovers that are sprayed with disinfectants before disposing of.
Pagpag is an essential survival food in the poorest slums of Metro Manila. No matter if it is already spoiled, the empty stomach will still appreciate it. In fact, many scavengers consider pagpag as comfort food, much better than the gulay at asin they are accustomed to eat everyday. On a lucky day, they would find whole unsold Shakey’s pizzas or whole Max's fried chicken. A cause for royal celebration!
Indeed, living in the slums is like living in the jungle; the only difference is that there is already cooked food to be hunted in the mountains of trash. In this case, a scavenger needs all the survival techniques he has learned: jockeying for position, digging, clawing, shaking, and eventually developing the taste for discarded food. It does not matter. It is still food anyway.
The pagpag is one of the most blatant symbols of extreme poverty in the Philippines. It may be easy for most of us to dismiss pagpag as “kababuyan” o “kadiri”- two powerful Tagalog words that have no equal in the English language. But we have to remember that thousands of people rely on the pagpag for their daily survival. The pagpag exists not because there are desperate people who feed on them, but because poverty has forced them to do so. The sight of people feeding on the trash may be disturbing and even disgusting to many of us, but once we look at the problem from the perspective of the poor, then the pagpag becomes manna from heaven.
After writing this, I’ll never look at leftovers the same way again. After reading this article, do you think you have wasted so much food?
Author: Normunds Lokenbahs / LatConsul