Young Pioneer Tours

Pag Pag – The street food to avoid…

At YPT we are all about the weird dishes, but there is at least one that we see regularly on tour that even we balk at and that is Pag Pag.

This dish, which for the most part consists of food garnered from dumpster diving can be witnessed when YPT visit Smokey Mountain, the biggest slum in Manila and is not for the faint hearted.

What is Pag Pag?

In the national tongue of the Philippines, Tagalog the phrase “pag pag” means to brush off the dust/dirt, which has now led to a hole breed of cheap slum cuisine. The involves people getting up super early and finding the remains that people have left from takeaways such as KFC. Jolibee and even Kenny Rogers Chicken – yes that is still a thing.

The food people usually look for is chicken, rather than buns, burgers, or the like, although there are no set pag pag rules as such. This meat is then cleaned before being taken to the restauranteurs who then clean it again. They then cook it, usually by frying and then serve it as a cheap staple food. And it is cheap as hell and popular, despite the many risks it can cause to health.

And because of this the government of Bongbong Marcos and those before him have frequently tried to “ban it”, but they have tried to this while failing to address why people need to eat it – poverty. Although this facet is hardly a new one for the Philippines.

Pag Pag Restaurants

So, while this might seem gross to us, not only doe sit provide well needed food for those of the slums, but is also a cottage industry for the people of Smokey Mountain. When you come here you will find a whole street devoted to the art, which includes the famous “Queen of Pag Pag”, who you can see in my photo, as well as in the video.

Her fame has led to some foreigners coming here and documenting the process, with the Queen herself stating quite rightly that she provides a service that is all too sadly needed within the slums.

Has anyone tried to gentrify Pag Pag?

Thankfully there has not yet been any formation of Pag Pag Restaurants, but there is a journalist writer called the Gutter Gourmet, who surprise surprise writes for “The Guardian”.

He was written extensively about how he dumpster dives and he does so without any form of irony supposedly against “waste”, therefore proving that certain people can even gentrify pag pag…

Can I try pag pag on a YPT tour?

While we do visit and donate to the slums, we do not offer, nor encourage eating pagpag while on our trip to Smokey Mountain. This is not through any moral judgment, but due to the fact that eating it may make you sick – even if you do have a constitution of steel!

It is also a necessity for the people who do eat it, so you “gong local” might also be seen as a tad offensive. We can though take you about as close as we can get as part of our Extreme Philippines Tour, where if nothing else you get to meet the Pag Pag Queen…..

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