COCKFIGHTING IN THE PHILIPPINES

COCKFIGHT

The 2016 Philippine national election is fast approaching. Perhaps, it would truly amaze foreigners that, as it stands on the last day of filing for candidates aspiring to be the next President of our country (i.e. October 16, 2015), 130 Filipinos listed up. One candidate even flaunted an intriguing slogan, perhaps with the motive of enticing all Filipino cockfighting aficionados including their families to vote for him; which goes as follows: “ASENSO SABUNGERO”. [English translation: “PROGRESS FOR COCKFIGHTING AFICIONADOS”].  Plainly, cockfighting has become an integral part of Filipino culture.

Indeed, in the Philippines, cockfighting has been looked upon principally, not as a form of gambling but as a form of entertainment. It has even been regarded loosely as some kind of sports activity and is likened to boxing where game fowl instead of pugilists, display their skills and fighting prowess.

Writer Antonio A. Hidalgo who is himself a cockfight aficionado wrote in his book COCKFIGHTING SECRETS, the following account: “Cockfighting is one of the oldest sports in the Philippines, as it antedates the arrival of the Spanish colonialists. This is supported by the accounts of the first Spaniards who arrived in our islands more than four centuries ago.”

Though the modernistic sway in animal-rights conscious North America has resulted in the ban of cockfighting in the U.S.A., as it is alleged to be a form of cruelty to the game fowl, still in the Philippines, cockfighting has remained to be a favorite pastime not only of the hoi polloi but also of the rich and the affluent.

As harped upon by animal-rights conscious groups in the U.S.A., cockfighting is a form of cruelty to the game fowl. However, while the same human-rights conscious America, has banned cockfighting, it has turned a blind eye to the inhumane cruelty frequently shown on television of bloody fisticuffs brought about by the burgeoning popularity of the UFC.

Animal-rights conscious groups in America regard cockfighting as a form of cruelty upon the argument that in those cockfights, the game fowl invariably dies. These groups however have unwittingly ignored the fact that table chicken, after 30 days of mechanical feeding,  are slaughtered by the thousands everyday for food as poultry meat.

Game fowl, on the other hand, are fed nutritiously, nurtured, massaged, “vitaminized” and trained for over 30 days. And if these game fowl would eventually lose in the cockpit battle, then and only then, will they be consumed as poultry meat by humans.

In some instances even, game fowl which have displayed a sterling record of victories are literally accorded a hero’s burial by the game fowl’s owner.

In a rural setting in the Philippines, a typical sabungero [English translation: cockfighting aficionado], would be wont to first do the usual ritual of massaging , of rubbing and kneading, his fighting cock upon waking up, even before washing one’s face or brushing one’s teeth.

When I was still in my  teens, during the late 1960s,  here in Murphy, Cubao, Quezon City, Metro-Manila; as there was  a vacant lot behind our 19th Avenue residential lot (the vacant lot was  facing up to 20th Avenue), our enterprising barrio captain put up a tupada (i.e. an illegal cockfight) to be operated during weekends. The proceeds of the tupada  was supposedly to fund some community projects. News of the tupada went abuzz in our community  and every body was excitedly waiting for its operation, including my mother.

A jerry-built fence made up of two (2) layers of adobe stone as base, cemented on top and between  each other, and four-by-four wooden posts at about 2 meters intervals, horizontally stringed by barbed wires about half-a-foot distant from each other, lined the boundary between the vacant lot and our residential lot. So, my similarly enterprising mother prepared to put up a table where we could place and vend foodstuffs such as pansit guisado (English translation: sautéed noodles], dinuguan [English translation: pig’s entrails in blood soup] and puto [English translation: native cakes], bread and soft drinks. Business was so good as people from all walks of life came to the tupada and our foodstuffs for sale  were in great demand and would almost be out-of-stock by midday.

The   venue for the tupada after the construction was finished, looked as though it was a mini-amphitheatre though square, almost rectangular, with about five (5) tiers  of  wooden benches nailed to each other, rising outward from the center-arena. The facility was virtually wrapped from the outside as though an enclosure, actually the façade which faced the street (i.e. 20th avenue) and the right portion thereof, with a native wall called in the vernacular as SAWALI,  actually made up of woven strips of split bamboo almost about 10 feet high except that juncture where some kind of an opening for ingress and egress was carved out (the left portion from our vantage point is a high concrete wall which fences off the property of a neighbor). The arena at the center where the fighting cocks are paraded and let out to smash and scotch each other is surrounded by a bamboo fence about a meter high.   As we have placed our vending place just across the rear portion of the tupada venue which was unenclosed, our customers-diners would just jump out from the benches and buy foodstuffs from us.  Vending was easy, as we would place the chosen foodstuff on a paper plate with plastic spoon and fork, pass it on to the customer across the barbed-wire fence and get the payment in turn. As the aficionados were always in a rush, wanting to get back to the action, they would not care about getting the change anymore; and we would just consider them as TIPS.

For quite some time, the tupada operated unrestricted as though it was legal as no one from city hall or the police seem to care to enforce the law against this kind of unauthorized activity. But as the hollers, yells and shouts of the tupada bettor may have eventually reached city hall, a funny thing happened thereafter.

One afternoon, the tupada was raided by the police, and as though in a blinking of an eye, the swarm of cockfighting aficionados, as the area facing 20th avenue was blocked by  platoons of police officers dressed in civilian clothes, leaving our residential lot as the only way out; bulldozed our  barbed-wire fence down and left the tupada facility including the sawali native wall crumbling like a house of cards.

The devastation came quick as other cockfighting aficionados (including their companions and a host of onlookers/bystanders who were waiting for their turn to let out their favored birds in the arena) who were milling at the façade ran and scampered towards our direction to avoid being arrested by the police.

After the dust settled down, the tupada facility looked as though it was a huge dump of detritus and debris and our remaining foodstuffs, the pansit and the dinuguan and puto, got strewn all over our vending venue.

At that age of mine, as I was not then (and until now) an aficionado, I never felt the fun in cockfighting. What gave me FUN , as a teener then, and every time I reminisce the raiding incident,  a smile would appear on my face with restrained laughter; was the sight of those scampering from the tupada venue, ashen-faced, as though they have  seen a multitude of ghosts.

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