Being Poor 2: More lessons from the ’80s

It has been said that a hungry man is an angry man, and if an SWS survey conducted last year is to be believed, there are about 4.3 million households that are pretty pissed right now.

The government has admitted that the current global financial crisis has affected food security, but says that it has programs and plans to address the problem.

Given how the government can take a P1-billion grant to curb corruption and still end up with worse corruption, we’re better off fending for ourselves.

Said fending for ourselves primarily limited to foraging at the supermarket, here are some god-sends from the ’80s that will keep you and your wallet relatively full (if not necessarily happy.)

Mang Tomas

If Perla is the jack-of-all-trades in the world of soap, Mang Tomas is the Jack (Bauer) and MacGyver of food in general. Not that it will fashion a helicopter out of spare parts or bust you out of a Vietnames POW camp, but it comes pretty damned close for something made of chopped liver.

Originally marketed as lechon sauce, it needed to rethink its strategy once lechon became a once-a-year delicacy so it soon became a sauce-for-all-seasons. Lechon manok, porkchops, crispy pata, sundry pork products. Pretty much anything would taste better with Mang Tomas. It was like edible weed if weed weren’t already edible in itself.

For the really poor (or high,) Mang Tomas was good as a substitute for meat. Poured on rice, it was not so cruel as not being fed. Mang Tomas was arrogant enough to advertise that it was good on bread, much like, say peanut butter, jam, and other bread spreads not made of chopped liver. And it does make sense, after a fashion. It was like duck liver pate, only made of pork, runny, and was the final undeniable sign that your parents just weren’t making enough.

Pic Related: Poverty Sandwich

Pic Related: Poverty Sandwich

Colored Bread

There was a time when an afternoon snack consisted of some random bread from the sari-sari store and some soda. If you were a bit more middle class than most, you got pan de coco or spanish bread. This was basically bread filled with margarine or coco jam, good for that extra burst of sugar to tide you over until dinner.

For those on a tighter budget, it was colored bread. Essentially, this was just plain bread, likea dinner roll, made festive with food coloring. The coloring didn’t really add anything to the bread, but one must keep up appearances.

So, you had random chocolate-colored bread, ube-colored bread and the sickly-pink-red pan de regla (bread of menstruation. If nothing else, the color helped distract you from the fact that you were hungry.

And then, of course, there was the rarely-seen but forever-remembered mutation called rainbow bread.

100% RDA of Vitamins FD&C

100% RDA of Vitamins FD&C

If you’re not at a birthday party and are made to eat rainbow bread, your mother probably resented you for being born.

Healthy Snacks

Most kids hate vegetables. Most kids love snacks. So, someone came up with the most insidious plot to deceive children since a wolf pretended to be someone’s granny: they made Snacku! vegetable flavored snacks.

Made of healthy rice crackers and fortified with iron, it would have been the golden mean between what kids want and what parents want their children to eat, finally bridging the gap between generations while keeping kids healthy.

Like most utopian ideas, it failed horribly. Snacku! tasted worse than okra (universally hated by children) and had a suspiciously green tinge, like someone had gotten too creative with their watercolouring project (or had no talent.) The ultimate test to find out if your parents secretly hated you was if they gave you Snacku! in the afternoons.


In time, children were practically begging to be fed actual vegetables instead of this mutated munchy. They even offered to do extra chores and eat soap just to get away from this stuff.

Sadly, with a more health-conscious consumer in mind, many other “healthy snacks” are being offered on the market now.

And we’re not talking about peanuts or sunflower seeds, either. We mean vitamin-fortified corn-based snacks that are little more than updated Snacku!. Even sadder, not even twenty years of technological advancements have succeeded in making them not taste like ass.


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