We see pungko-pungko vendors everywhere in Cebu and yet we know so little about them. So, I decided to take the time to have a conversation with Manang Joselyn Capa a.k.a. Manang Ki, a 42 year old local pungko-pungko vendor. But, before I delve into our interview here’s a little something about these stores.

The reason why it’s called pungko-pungko is because “Pungko” is a bisaya word which means to bend or to crouch down. This is what they did a few years back when chairs weren’t readily available. People would put plastics over their hands, take food from the table and eat, of course, in a crouching position. Nowadays, people sit on chairs instead of crouching down the street. You pick what you want to eat from the assortment of food such as lumpia, puso, bola-bola, longaniza, chicken and the most popular, ginabot or bulaklak. The drinks are usually Pepsi and Mountain Dew.

These sidewalk delicacies are found all around Cebu, some of the few I know are near Fooda, JY square mall, beside the University of San Carlos and on the road going to the Marco Polo hotel. The pungko-pungko I went to was in Don Jose Avila Street, in front of Sacred Heart School- Hijas de Jesus. This is one of my favorites because they serve the best Ginabot I have ever tasted. Here are the questions I asked Manang Ki.

NOTE: The original conversation was in bisaya

032: First of all, how did you start this business? How much did it cost you?

MK: My husband used to work as a carpenter and plumber. Then his employer decided to help us. He felt sorry for us because our money wasn’t enough to support our family, most especially our children. My husband’s employer gave us 15,000-20,000 pesos to start the business.

032: Can you tell us a bit about your family?

MK: My husband is Manong Carlito Capa and he is 38 years old. Sometimes when he is busy, I run the business for him. I also have nine children, three boys and six girls. My oldest is 17 and my youngest is only 1 year old. Only two of my children go to school. Since the others don’t go to school, my younger children usually accompany me to the store and they help me with the customers. If they can’t help, I still bring them so that I can keep an eye on them.

032: Where are you from originally?

MK: From Tabogon, Cebu.

032: How much do you earn in a day from this business?

MK: About 3,000 – 3,500 pesos a day. (Editor’s note: But once you take away cost of the food and other expenses, they earn about 500 pesos a day)

032: Is it enough for your family?

MK: It’s just enough.  We rent a house in Capitol site and it costs 2,500 pesos a month, not including water and electricity which amount to about 1,200 pesos. But sometimes there aren’t many people who buy food. So when we need more money, my husband still has a sideline job as a carpenter for his employer.

032: Where do you get your food?

MK: We get our food from Rolan Bulak in Culacao, Pardo, Cebu City.

032: What do you do with the leftovers?

MK: We don’t mind if there are extras. We usually eat them. At least if we don’t have money, our children still have food to eat.

032: What time do you usually open and close?

MK: We open at 7AM and close at 4PM.

032: How long have you had your pungko-pungko?

MK: I think four years already.

032: Do you get cheated sometimes?

MK: Yes we do. Since pungko-pungkos are not like normal carenderias, there are people who lie to us. In carenderias, you get the food and then you pay before you eat. Here you eat first and then the customer tells you what he ate. There is never a day that passes when people don’t lie about what they ate. One time I saw a man who ate five puso, but he said he only had three. And there was nothing I could do because I didn’t have any proof. But sometimes there are people who are nice because they give us tips. Like there is one old lady that likes to eat here and she usually gives my younger children 10 pesos each. It makes them so happy.

032: How do you stop people from doing that?

MK: We can’t do anything about it. We just try to watch the customers very carefully so they know that they can’t lie to us. It’s very hard. The money we earn can’t make up for the money we lose when people lie to us.

032: What do you like about being a pungko-pungko vendor?

MK: I like my job because at the end of the day my family still has food. Also, if my husband is busy with plumbing and carpentry, my children and I are always ready to help and at least we still get to spend time together.

For Manang Joselyn hard work definitely pays off. Everyone should see the work she’s done and check out their pungko-pungko stand at Don Jose Avila Street! If you don’t know where that is then search the streets of Cebu and I’m sure you’ll find a pungko-pungko along the way!

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