Life in the slums of Manila can be incredibly difficult, and putting food on the table every day is a big challenge. That’s what makes “pagpag” so popular. This Tarong term usually refers to the dust one shakes out of clothing or carpets, but in the slums it means meat picked out of the landfill, cleaned and recooked into cheap meals.
Pagpag has long been a staple of Filipino slum cuisine, but in recent years it has also become a lucrative business both for landfill scavengers and small restaurant owners who buy the discarded meat at cheap prices and recycle it into various dishes. Scavengers who were previously only interested in recyclable metal and plastic now focus on leftover and expired food coming in from fast-food chains and supermarkets, scouring for it alongside feral cats and rats, packaging it in plastic bags and selling it for a small profit.