Saturday, July 16, 2011


As I often say, to each his own. And there is this "eating style" in Cebu I didn't pay much attention to then. But when a visiting friend casually asked me (as we passed one), I realized there are not so many of these "pungko-pungko" eateries in other parts of this country. There are more notable "portable joints" than these elsewhere, I've seen many, but I now realize it is in Cebu where there's too many of them "pungko-pungko" - with interesting attributes! The very place that my friend pointed to me was in fact one such unique place that when I returned for more, they were not there anymore (or probably for the meantime?)!

These are generally adult joints. I mean most patrons are adults, though I'd see some kids here and there. Haven't heard yet though of anyone getting sick after eating at such places. These "pungko-pungko" stalls, if I might call them stalls, proliferate during late afternoons to evenings at what otherwise are just sidewalks, parking areas, building frontages or similar spaces around Metro Cebu. And yes, most patrons are the working class - from carpenters, drivers or hawkers, to policemen, bank tellers or call-center agents! I asked around and looked around to know more about these places, and yes, I am now ready to tell what I have discovered. Yey!

"Pungko" is a visayan word, more of Hiligaynon (Ilonggo, Negrense, Karay-a whatever) that means "to sit", a verb. And when a verb is repeated, it usually means doing the act repeatedly or superlatively like kadlaw-kadlaw, bayle-bayle, even down to adjectives such as dako-dako or sadya-sadya. I did learn from my tutor too, that if ever used in the Cebuano-speaking areas, it would be considered a very deep or even literary tone. But "pungko-pungko" in Cebu is rampantly in use as a noun. And that is what they call these eating places. Now that got me more excited.

What does "pungko-pungko" mean, so I asked around. And everyone I asked did not, does not know, or not sure of the real meaning. But they offered descriptions, if only to help me understand - which, in fact, muddled the meaning all the more hahaha! One driver told me that "pungko" meant "squat" and "pungko-pungko" means "squat around". I did not react, but in my mind I was saying "wheh, I have not seen anyone squatting in these joints"! Then he pointed to me a manong selling siomai in a cart while people milled around for their turn to buy. He said that's a "pungko-pungko". I protested that no one was anywhere near squatting! He just smiled. Ack, OMG, the term does have a wide breadth of things for a meaning hahaha!

Another driver told me a "pungko-pungko" is a "kan-anan"(eatery) without "lingkuran"(seats). Hmm, similar, so I just took note of that. Yet another cab driver I asked told me that a "pungko-pungko" is a "kan-anan" that sells very cheap food. I nodded, but was not quite happy with that meaning. Then, an architect friend I asked told me that "pungko-pungko" is generally a "portable", "fly-by-night", "flee-at-will" or "scram-when-needed" eatery. I asked more and he clarifies that these are cheap food hawkers who prefer to offer what they have at just about anywhere since they don't have stalls. Some are driven away by either building owners or the police while some have ingeniously fitted carts with wheels and station themselves anywhere, then they pedal off when driven away. Well, alright... enough of trying to specifically know what they really are. I thought I was satisfied with those descriptive attempts.

Observing intently, I noticed remarkable characteristics of the "pungko-pungko" hehe! Here I go...

+Cheap Food! Well, yes. Compared to well established fastfoods and restaurants.

+Unique Food. Almost bizarre actually. Many serve fried day-old chicks!

+No Rice. But the ubiquitous "puso" takes its place.

+Barbecue. Chicken or pork, that's the main staple. But there are others that are...

+Mostly Fried. And the smell alone tells you of cooking oil re-used for the nth time!

+Ngohiong. Ah that cousin of the lumpia-gulay rare to find at expensive restaurants!

+Suka (Vinegar). Seems to be 'always' a partner of anything sold in a pungko-pungko!

+Bottled Water Only. Or 'softdrinks' so everything is disposable.

+No running water. Who needs it in a pungko-pungko anyway?!

+No Utensils. You eat by bare hand or vendor will give you a transparent plastic!

+Re-usable Paper-plates. Yes, if any, they just change the transparent plastic wrap!

So far, those are what I have observed. There will probably be more as I keep watching these 'eateries'. And on the last two points above, you'll have to be imaginative on how you should do it! One such pungko-pungko I saw gives out 'glove-type' of plastic like what caterers, bakery employees or stewardesses use. That is what you use to cover your 'eating hand' so you won't start looking for a faucet to wash later on!

I always say "when in doubt, don't"... but seeing the pungko-pungko something else came to mind... "if you haven't tried it, you were not there".

Well, am still alive! LIKE!


  1. pungkô-pungkô in cebu has evolved.

    if you've noticed, the food is contained inside a basket. in the days of yore, the vendor only has a bike with the basket. he settles in a place where there are a lot of people, and then put his basket on the ground. people gather, and eat food from the basket squatting down.

    'pungkô' literally translates to 'squat'.

    vendors now don't use bikes anymore, and they established places and put up tables and chairs.

  2. my favorite thing about visiting other places is trying out the local dishes. I guess this is a must when visiting cebu. Good thing I am not picky, i love street food and i love 5-star restaurants!

  3. @LakbayDiva,
    i like your use of that letter O with the hat! indicates that its a 'maragsa' pronunciation :)
    regards to all, from Vigan!

  4. What I like when traveling is I learn a few local dialect beside the the local dishes.

  5. for some reason i find this too hard..i mean the it eaten handheld?

  6. June, yes everything is by bare hand. That for me is/should be easy. But using plastic bag (called cellophane) to cover your hands is indeed a skill to learn. First challenge: how not to puncture or tear the plastic hehe!