Pagpag: A thriving business

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Scavengers in Barangay Helping Land pick food from the leftovers, which they systematically distribute for selling.

Metro Manila, (CNN Philippines) Pagpag has long been seen as a terrible symptom of widespread hunger. It has also become a business in marginalized parts of Metro Manila.

A bucket of pagpag can be sold to a hungry family for P20 to P30.

That's P20 for the bones of leftover fast food chicken (buto-buto) and P30 for leftovers with a little more meat. A used fast food fried chicken bucket is the usual container for pagpag, so called because the food is shaken to remove any dirt from it.

Dodong Esparagosa sorts out and sells the trash in Helping Land, Tondo.

Related: Informal settlers relocated — only to live in squalor

Every day, starting at 3:00 a.m., he picks food from piles and piles of garbage.

The business is very profitable and has been around for some time.

"Hindi ko negosyo to, iba ang may-ari," he said.

[Translation: "This isn't my business. It's someone else's."]

Salome Degollacion, a nanay or elder from Helping Land, said that many have died from eating pagpag, as the leftovers from fast food chains are sometimes sprayed with disinfectants before disposal.

Every night, Espargosa says, trash gets delivered to Tondo, where scores of scavengers pick food from the leftovers, and systematically distributes them for selling.

Among the scavengers, children play on top of muddy garbage, hardened by the sun. 

"Marami ang kumakain niyan dito," Degollacion says.

[Translation: "A lot of people eat pagpag here."]

"Mabenta naman," Esparagosa says.

[Translation: 'It's profitable."]

Related: Informal settlers refuse to leave in hope of a decent life