Filipinos love urban legends. After all, these stories are the offspring of chismisan or what we call nowadays as pagmamarites. While some urban legends sound fantastical and almost too crazy for reason, there are those that might have come from actual occurrences. For this version of Legit or Urban Legend, let’s put the spotlight on Tsinoy food.
Cats in siopao is one of the oldest rumors in the book. Filipinos and Tsinoys have become familiar with the age-old joke either from their friends or from old local news stories. The urban legend has been around for generations and whenever shared as a joke, it always sticks the landing. However, is there truth in the statement?
Back in the day, Binondo was just like any other street in Manila: dominated by stray cats. As a result, the locals’ imaginations went wild with stories about the use of cat meat in street food. After a little while, the rumor became something like a slur against the Tsinoys selling food in the area. The rumor targeted stalls that were selling their food products for less. The idea that people “get what you pay for” meant using cat meat instead of real edible meat. The rumor took national attention when large, successful restaurants became the target of the rumor. Just as beloved Chinese restaurants began to rise, the rumor became louder. It had gotten larger that local news outlets took notice.
To find out the truth, many have sought the watchful eye of the Food and Drug Administration and the Department of Agriculture’s National Meat Inspection Service. Both agencies have found no signs of cat meat in pre-packed siopao. The National Meat Inspection Service also found no slaughtering practice of cats at all in making siopao. The urban legend is merely a rumor that was crafted with the hope to diminish the success of Chinese restaurants.
After all the fuss the rumor has caused, Pinoys and Tsinoys continue to enjoy siopao and other Chinese delicacies as if no story has ever tarnished its reputation. It only goes to show that no amount of pagmamarites can stop us from enjoying the things we love, especially when it’s as cheap, as filling, and as tasty as a siopao.