Did I Just Eat a Rat? Infamous Food Urban Legends in the Philippines

September 12, 2018

We Filipinos just love our urban legends. They’re the ultimate cautionary tales, so it’s no wonder that some of the most widespread ones involve another thing Pinoys are passionate about: food.

No one really knows where these urban legends come from. All we know is that before we had viral memes, we shared riveting stories through good old word-of-mouth. And with each re-telling, they’ve evolved into different, often scarier versions.

The following are just a few of the food myths being whispered about in the darkest corners of your neighborhood carinderia.

1. Cat Siopao

The allegation that cat meat is used as siopao filling is among the most famous (and most enduring) urban legends in the Philippines. It’s become so ingrained in our culture that whenever we eat a bad siopao, we joke that someone’s pet kitty must have gone into the steamed bun.

Grumpy Cat disapproves. “Humans taste worse”.

Where did it come from?

It is said that the streets of Binondo teemed with cats during the 1970’s. They were apparently attracted to the garbage generated by the area’s flourishing restaurants. Some disgruntled racist must have thought that the Chinese, being very resourceful businessmen, would eventually turn the cats into a cheap and sustainable raw ingredient.

Meanwhile, another theory claims that it was a meat shortage during the war that forced people to be less choosy about their sources of protein.

2. Dog Pares (Dog Stew)

Not to be outdone by its feline rival, man’s best friend also figures prominently in urban folklore. While some of our countrymen actually eat dogs, local myth also tells us that we may have been unwitting participants of the practice- courtesy of our favorite sketchy paresan (eatery).

Way scarier than any Scooby Doo villain. Zoinks!

Where did it come from?

As with cat siopao, the abundance of stray dogs on our streets probably gave rise to this rumor. Some overly imaginative guy probably thought that an unscrupulous carinderia owner must have butchered some of the mongrels to lower his food costs.

3. Formalin-Soaked Calamares

For those acquainted with Manila’s University Belt, the mouthwatering smell of freshly-made calamares in the streets is a familiar one. Imagine the horror of regular patrons like me when the squid fritters were rumored to be contaminated with formalin. Needless to say, I never bought them from the street vendors again.

But of course, Japanese tentacle monsters are still scarier.

Where did it come from?

My guess is that the neighboring carinderias and fish ball carts weren’t too pleased with how well the calamares stalls were doing. So they might have whispered that the fried rings were so cheap because they were China’s surplus squid, soaked in formalin to prevent spoilage. This rumor was later disproved on Imbestigador, where they found out that the things were actually infested by yeast and mold. Isn’t that a relief?

4. Jollibee Worm Burgers

Unless you’re one of those who were raised to avoid fast food, you’ve probably had a good ole’ Regular Yum. Well, according to legend, those Jollibee burger patties are 70% worm meat. If that were true, then let me just say that worms don’t taste so bad!

Remember, kids: Whatever you see in Jollitown, keep it a secret!

Where did it come from?

The fast food industry really exploded in the Philippines during the early 90’s. Again, the culprit behind this nasty piece of gossip was the tight competition amongst the fast food companies during that time. Allegedly, things got so bad that a few Jollibee stores had to be closed (because no one wanted to eat worm burgers anymore). This might explain why Jollibee burgers are now advertised as being 100% beef – despite them tasting otherwise.

5. Kentucky Fried Rat

This legend has many variations. A hungry customer takes out some fried chicken from KFC. She eats some in the dark (a cinema in the most popular version, her car in another), and wonders why the chicken is hairy and foul-smelling. When she investigates in a well-lit room, she is horrified to see that she’d been munching on a rat. Cue in the Psycho theme.

Yeah, I’d have that same expression, too.

Where did it come from?

This urban legend became very popular in the 90’s, and at least 2 people have told me that they know someone who experienced it firsthand. In some versions, the customer just finds a rat tail. In others, she munches on a full-grown rat, covered in the Colonel’s signature blend of 11 secret herbs and spices. I have a hunch it might be rooted in the same mud-slinging campaign that allegedly plagued popular fast food chains at the time.


Unfortunately, it seems as if these food-related urban legends all seem to be a consequence of ruthless competition. What better way is there to turn a food-loving populace from a certain restaurant, apart from spreading such nasty stories that prey on their worst fears?

So, what other food urban legends have made your skin crawl? Tell us in the comments below.


[Image Sources: Laughing SquidTao TeachingwhoaornoBiographywhoaornoSire Arevalo]

Adee de Leon SEE AUTHOR Adee de Leon

After numerous failed attempts to become a tabloid-worthy matinee idol, Adrian has since committed his eccentricities to more realistic goals, such as getting rid of his pot belly and discovering the cure for a hangover. He currently spends his waking hours writing ridiculous nonsense, eating copious amounts of cheap food, reading Seanbaby’s articles, watching “underground” movies, and scaring people with his other creepy fascinations.

17 comments in this post SHOW

17 responses to “Did I Just Eat a Rat? Infamous Food Urban Legends in the Philippines”

  1. ‘Yung Ma Ling, gawa raw sa mga patay na Chinese. ‘Yung apa ng ice cream, gawa raw sa kulangot.

  2. Nico Goco says:

    i was always told that kiamoy, and god-knows how many other preserved fruits, were made by workers pressing on the fruits with their bare feet. this urban legend was partly resurrected when it was associated with a certain corned beef brand.

  3. Mieke Zamora-Mackay says:

    The Jollibee worm burger and KFC Rat myth has been around since the 80s! The worm burger myth started when Jollibee characters started visiting grade schools and doing popular dance numbers. I guess it was to discourage the chain’s growing popularity.

    The cat siopao too, as well as the cat siomai. Honestly, the cat one sort of stuck with me and frightened me a lot. I still remember being told once that it was advisable that you peel first skin layer of the siopao because it was formed in the maker’s armpit.

  4. Brocken Gigant says:

    Good read! 🙂 My dad, who used to manage one of the largest piggeries in Puerto Galera told me that most of the time double dead meat are sold to merchants who make sausages. (The ones in can!) So he never allowed us to eat those foodstuff.

  5. Weena S. says:

    How about soups from tapsilugan or carinderia which you could ask for free?

  6. Hazel Guevara says:

    The KFC Rat Myth I know has a happy ending. After finding that she was munching on a rat, she immediately filed a complaint and threatened taht she will sue them. Of course KFC didn’t want to get it publicized so they offered her a free KFC franchise. Now she’s sitting pretty, watching her money grow. 😀 Ironic isn’t, it. :))

  7. […] to choose between Fluffy’s life or yours. If you’re a cat person, just think of it as dodgy siopao filling to make it easier to […]

  8. […] cleaned utensil). They just don’t want you to get sick by eating them, which is why stories like this is popular in the Philippines, popular ones […]

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