Cheap communal dining at Cebu’s ‘pungko-pungko’

Photo by Narciso Tapia

It's 7:30 in the morning and Jojo dela Cruz is already busy serving food to a number of people along a busy street in downtown Cebu City.

Elbows touching, diners huddle around a narrow rectangular table with a big plastic container on top containing all sorts of fried goodies: ginabot (deep-fried pork intestines, similar to chicharon bulaklak), ngohiong (a fried spring roll stuffed with meat and vegetables), dila (fried pork tongue), bola-bola (fried meat balls), and chorizo (pork sausage).

Instead of utensils, customers use their hands, which they encase in small plastic bags, to handle their morning nourishment.

The food might not be the healthiest and the locale the most sanitary to begin the day with, but Cebuanos who eat their breakfast in the "pungko-pungko" eateries are drawn by the affordability of the food.

"Sa una pa, estudyante pa mi mukaon na mi ani kay barato ug lami lang gihapon. (We've eaten here since we were students. It's delicious and inexpensive)," said pungko-pungko regular Mike Go, 25, who came with call center co-worker Aezi Sumayan, 24.

The ginabot, utok (pork brain) and tambok (pork fat) cost P10; the chorizo P8; and the ngohiong P5. For a little over P20, a diner can tuck into a hearty meal.

Fried pungko-pungko fare is often paired with the puso or hanging rice—which is cooked rice inside woven young coconut leaves.

The pleasures of pungko-punkgko
Pungko is Cebuano that means "to squat" and pungko-pungko eateries are so named because customers often sit on small, low benches or squat by the roadside to eat, especially when the food is brought from ambulant vendors.

Pungko-pungko has sprouted near churches, along busy streets, outside school campuses, and an enterprising person has come up with a mobile pungko-pungko using a multicab.

But it is not just the price that brings people to the pungko-pungko.

"Murag Coke ug effect. Mura ka maganahan. (The effect is like when you drink Coke. You seem to want more)," said customer Ralph Noval, 25.

His friend Niño Arañas, 24, added, "Once tasted, always wanted." Their friend Neil Languido, 24, nodded in agreement. The three are nurses coming off from night shift.

Jojo, at his makeshift stall, provides regulars with sauce made of vinegar, chopped onions and sili or hot chilies.

Mike dunks his favorite, the ginabot (fried pork intestines), in the vinegar mixture and bites into it with a satisfying crunch.

Cholesterol? "Ok ra man. Bata pa man. (It's OK. I'm still young)," Mike laughed.

Jojo, a pungko-pungko food handler for eight years now, is happy seeing the smiles of his customers. His simple business allows him to earn around P300 a day, which he brings home to his family of four kids, aged 2 to 7.

Cleanliness a problem
But no matter how satisfied the pungko-pungko seller and buyer are, it's plain to see that the manner by which these eateries are run leave much to be desired in terms of cleanliness.

Dr. Virginia Mesola, a well-respected microbiologist in Cebu, pointed out: "The problem with the pungko-pungko is that the food handler did not pass through the city health office for clearance."

Stalls don't have running water to wash hands. "And then they are handling money at the same time," she said.

Sellers could be carriers of Salmonella typhi that cause typhoid fever and other bacteria. Contamination may occur during the handling of food after cooking.

Though she noted improvements in hygienic practices including  the use of plastic bags as gloves as well as the use of tongs to pick up food items, "the danger is still there," she warned.

Despite these concerns, people keep coming to the pungko-pungko. It might be the price, the taste, or because one can come in with a free-spirited disposition and enjoy the food in the company of friends and strangers. But what is undeniable is that the pungko-pungko brings Cebuanos from all walks of life together.


Editor’s note:Yahoo Philippines encourages responsible comments that add dimension to the discussion. No bashing or hate speech, please. You can express your opinion without slamming others or making derogatory remarks.

  • Aquino appeals to Indonesia one more time to keep Filipina alive
    Aquino appeals to Indonesia one more time to keep Filipina alive

    Philippine President Benigno Aquino said he made one last appeal to the Indonesian government to spare a Filipina among nine prisoners set to be executed for drug trafficking on Tuesday as she could be a vital witness in prosecuting drug syndicates. It was Aquino's third personal appeal, after the Indonesian attorney general rejected the Philippines' request on Monday for a second judicial review of the case of Mary Jane Veloso, who her lawyers say merely served as an unknowing mule to drug …

  • Cheapest motorcycles in the Philippines under PhP 40,000
    Cheapest motorcycles in the Philippines under PhP 40,000

    Are you hunting for an affordable motorcycle which you can use for personal use or a family service vehicle? Carmudi PH presents to you some of the cheapest motorcycles in the Philippines today. These budget friendly motorbikes will surely not hurt your pockets, and you may even buy them on the spot instead of monthly […] The post Cheapest motorcycles in the Philippines under PhP 40,000 appeared first on Carmudi Philippines. …

  • Indonesia gears up for executions as families wail in grief
    Indonesia gears up for executions as families wail in grief

    Indonesia made final preparations Tuesday to execute eight foreigners by firing squad, as family members wailed in grief during last visits to their loved ones and ambulances carrying white coffins arrived at the drug convicts' prison. Relatives of Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan, the Australian ringleaders of the so-called "Bali Nine" heroin trafficking group, arrived at Nusakambangan prison calling for mercy for their loved ones, with Sukumaran's sister collapsing in grief. They are among …

  • Labor Day heat index may heat feverish levels

    Temperatures could soar on Labor Day this Friday, with the "init factor" reaching the 40°C level in some areas of the country. Labor Day is a holiday in the Philippines, though many Filipinos are expected to go out to the streets to call for better working conditions. The so-called "init factor" or "heat index" gives the apparent temperature, taking into account the actual air temperature as well as other factors such as humidity. State weather agency PAGASA's Tuesday heat index indicated …

  • How Indonesia executes death row inmates
    How Indonesia executes death row inmates

    Indonesia is expected to soon execute by firing squad a group of nine convicts, most of them foreigners, for drug offences on the prison island of Nusakambangan in Central Java. The executions, which will be the second round under President Joko Widodo, have drawn international criticism and sparked diplomatic tensions with Australia, the Philippines, Nigeria and Brazil, which have nationals on death row. The group also includes a citizen from Indonesia. Recruits for the firing squad are …

  • Nine await mass execution in Indonesia, as foreign hopes for reprieve fade
    Nine await mass execution in Indonesia, as foreign hopes for reprieve fade

    By Kanupriya Kapoor CILACAP, Indonesia (Reuters) - Nine drug traffickers met their families for what could be the final time at an Indonesian maximum security prison on Tuesday, after Jakarta rejected international pleas for clemency and ordered their mass execution to proceed, possibly within hours. The death penalties imposed on eight foreigners and an Indonesian have been condemned by the United Nations, and strained ties between neighbours Australia and Indonesia. "We're hoping for a …

  • Isuzu PH announces new President
    Isuzu PH announces new President

    Isuzu Philippines Corporation (IPC) formally announced the appointment of Hajime Koso as the new president replacing outgoing president Nobuo Izumina, who will be assigned as the Director of Isuzu Body Corporation, an affiliate of Isuzu Motors Limited (IML) in Japan. A native of Okayama Japan, the 57 years old executive has been working for IML for 35 […] The post Isuzu PH announces new President appeared first on Carmudi Philippines. …

  • Pacquiao sees fist of God delivering win over Mayweather
    Pacquiao sees fist of God delivering win over Mayweather

    Filipino boxing hero Manny Pacquiao is confident he can beat American arch-rival Floyd Mayweather in Las Vegas on Saturday with the power of God, after abandoning a life he said was packed with sin condemning him to hell. Pacquiao is in top form both in mind and spirit after he traded his boozing, gambling and womanising ways for a devout life of prayer, his spiritual adviser, Jeric Soriano, told AFP in a recent Manila interview. Except the world got to him," Soriano said of Pacquiao's …


Should Aquino be held accountable over the Mamasapano operations?

Poll Choice Options