You may call these leftovers “trash,” but to the impoverished population in the Philippines, these “pagpag” or “recycled food” are their “meal of the day.” You may think twice the next time you throw away unconsumed food, after learning about the plight of these poor Filipinos.
It’s sad to say that pagpag is a thriving business in poverty-stricken areas in the Philippines.
Pagpag, which literally translates to “dusted off food,” are leftovers, typically from fast-food restaurants, scavenged from garbage sites, cleaned and re-cooked as a meal for the poor people.
These unwanted foods are recycled through boiling or frying, after washing off the dirt and taking out the bones.
The pagpag industry has led people to earn their daily bread through scavenging, processing, and selling this recycled food.
“A lot of people eat pagpag here,” Salome Degollacion, an elder and resident of Helping Hand, told CNN.
“It’s profitable,” said Dodong Esparagosa, who sells his pagpag in Helping Land, Tondo, one of the poorest slums in Manila. He scavenges and sorts leftovers from heaps of garbage, before selling it.
A bag of pagpag costs around 20P (Philippine Pesos) to P30 ($0.59 to $0.39).
To those living hand-to-mouth, they have no other choice and pagpag is better than nothing at all.
“By the mercy of God, this is enough,” said Morena Sumanda, a resident of Tondo and a mother of two.
“With the kind of life we live, this helps a lot. When you buy a bag worth a few pesos, you can already feed one whole family,” Tondo resident Amy Ignacio told Reuters.
Ignacio feels it was wasteful to discard leftover chicken and has been picking up leftovers from trash to feed her children.
Though they are convinced that pagpag will be safe as long as it is washed and recooked, its consumption still poses a major health risk.
Degollacion said that many have died from eating pagpag, as the leftovers are sometimes sprayed with disinfectants before they are discarded.
The National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC) also cautions against eating pagpag, as it can be detrimental to children’s nutrition, and causes food-related diseases, such as salmonella.
Despite the health risk, cheap pagpag has become nearly a staple food for the impoverished population in the Philippines.
As per the Bordon Project, 6.5 percent of Metro Manila lives below the poverty line.
“It is a private humiliation of the poor to have to eat off someone else’s plate. But it’s a survival mechanism for the poorest of the poor,” Melissa Alipalo, a social development specialist and a volunteer at the Philippine Community Fund (PCF) told CNN.