finally went to a cockfight. Cockfighting is a popular Filipino
diversion. It's practiced throughout the country, and you can
read the results of the "Cocker" or "Cock Derby" in the newspapers.
It was sensational, but actually a little less brutal than I expected.
arena I went to was built like a big square wooden barn stadium.
It held about 1,000 people and it was packed -- standing room
only, hot as heck, and smoky. Almost all men, just a few women
around selling cigarettes or fruit juice (everyone shares the
they sold sandals, live ducks, an odd assortment of cock necessities,
pork intestines, and traditional foods. In
the center of the stadium was a glass-walled square ring where
the fight would take place. I'd guess it to be about the size
of a boxing ring. The ring held about four or five men (referees
and cock handlers) and two angry roosters.
cocker began with two men bringing out their cocks. Each cock
had a razor "talon" attached to one leg. The two men sat their
cocks down so everyone could get a look at them. One cock was
placed under the "Wala", sign and the other was dropped under
"Mana". (I don't remember the sign names exactly, but it meant
something like "more" and "less".) Then the place erupted in shouting,
and the gambling began.
was total chaos to me, but somehow everyone else made sense out
of it. The men used a set of hand signals to indicate to each
other how much they wanted to bet and on which bird. Everyone
screamed and signaled. I saw bets going down for as low as 20
pesos (50 cents) to as high as 2,000 pesos (50 dollars) in my
corner of the arena. Men would bet with several people simultaneously.
the fans were yelling, the bird handlers were getting their cocks
ready for the fight. They picked up the birds and brought them
near each other. One guy would hold his bird and let the other
cock peck at it a few times. Then they would switch and let the
other bird have his turn pecking. They would move the birds back
to their corners and put them down again. The birds would fluff
up their feathers and strut around. Then the men would repeat
the process. I guess it gave the spectators time to gamble and
the birds time to get really mad.
the cocks were placed about a yard apart and released. The entire
stadium goes silent. The birds sort of fly or bounce in the air
at each other, there's a flurry of feathers, men start yelling
again, there are some "ooohs" and "aaahs", and about thirty seconds
later it's over. One of the birds will be lying in a clump of
feathers. The referees will pick it up and put its head close
to the other bird to see if it will still do anything, but it
owner of the winning bird gets to take the losing bird home for
dinner. The talons are exchanged too. I expected something far
more dramatic. The fight itself was sort of anti-climatic to the
rest of the process. I expected something resembling the familiar
farmer dad-hatchets-chicken scenario that I remember watching
a few times at home. Now that was exciting!
spectators exchange gambling debt money by balling it up and throwing
it to their partners. Lots of rolled up bills are flying around
the arena at the end of a fight. I left after watching about five
of the twenty-fight derby. I met one of the cock owners outside
the arena. He is a guard at our university. He held his winning
cock in his hands and the bird looked fine -- calm and peaceful.
The other cock was in a little yellow plastic bag ready for the