– Gameness til the End
It took me almost a month to start writing as well as two weeks to force myself (yes, this assignment is perhaps the farthest from my heart since I start writing for the Daily Dipolognon) to do the research. So off I go and know what I was wrong, cockfighting is a historical adventure.
The first thing one should do is go to a library. Where else will I go? But to the Andres Bonifacio College Main Library since this is the only Library in the province where you can find books old and new in such a gargantuan of selection.
So off I went to their Filipiniana Section. Boy, was I amazed! There are few books on the subject yet most are still unread until today. So, I took several books and start my reading adventure…
Cockfighting is part and parcel of the Filipino Culture. It is a traditional gambling sport of the Filipinos even before the Spaniards came. Yes, you’re reading it right.
There was even a hyperbolic tale regarding how obsessed a Filipino is when it comes to game of the war birds. The tale goes this way: When a Filipino’s home caught in fire, guess who will rescue first? Nope, it’s not going to be his wife. Nope, it is not going to be his children. But of course, his rooster first, then his wife and children.
There was even a tribe of mountain people, the Sulod, who made a story that the souls of the departed find the cockfighting as their favorite pastime.
For some, cockfighting is addicting, he bets everything he owns, steal if he must.
Now, those are simply stories but they bear some truths.
Pigafetta in his book, First Voyage Around the World, made the first historical mention of cockfighting by observing that local residents of Palawan:
“They keep large cocks, which from a species of superstition they never eat, but keep for fighting purposes. Heavy bets are made on the upshot of the contest, which are paid to the owners of the winning birds” – Pigafetta.
Cockfighting has changed little since the Spanish Colonial time, just a little.
Dipolog become a buzz every Sunday and holiday, for people mostly male, the “sugarols” ( a local term for habitual gamblers) troop to the city cockpit and with a smile on their faces and hope in their hearts placed their hard-earned money to a rooster of their choice. If he wins, you cannot erase the smile on his face but if his cock loses, he could offer a million reasons why his cock lose from the most rational to the most illogical.
A cockpit is a perfect arena theater, the place is compartmentalized: an area for the rooster to fight, an area for the spectators, a roof above, and a minimum amount of ventilation that separate them from the rest of the world.
You will be charged with a gate fee upon entering. If you have a cock, you will go immediately to the matching section where cocks are matched by their weight.
Rules of beyond comprehension could be observed during this time all done in the name of the game. Here are some:
A cock owner may handicap his rooster, while another may spur on the right instead of the traditional left leg of the rooster. Another owner may attach the gaff at an angle higher. All done in the spirit of fairness and justice (?)
After one found his match and bets are agreed. The roosters are heeled with razor-sharp slashes by professional heelers. A heeler chose the correct type of slasher for the rooster and properly attached the slasher at a proper angle.
Making sure that everything is done properly for a slightest error means everything.
In the cockpit, like paintings they are exhibited, weighed and judged. Then, the spectators start placing their bets. The rooster are identified and called by their colors. Are your for the “puti”(white) or for the “pula” (colored/red ones)?
Bets have two modes: the axial bets are made by the owners of the roosters coursed through the house which gets the ten percent then, while, the peripheral bets are bilateral agreements between spectators through an intermediary famously called “THE KRISTO”. While the casador remember the amount of bet and the faces that placed the bet before the official fight starts.
Then the fights begin…
The roosters are released by their handlers while another man serve as a sentencer known for his fairness and honesty.
The fight is bloody.
The winner has to peck the loser twice in order for his victory official.
Then, after the fight the bets are retrieved and another fight will start so it is not unusual to see people still inside the Dipolog City Cockpit going home until the wee hours of the evening.
This is cockfighting. For the outsider like me it is an adventure but for every true-blue “sugarol” it is life itself.