– Gameness til the End
Jun. 9, 2013 1:56 AM
Written by Dance Aoki
Pacific Sunday News
Spectators watch as two roosters battle it out
in the cockpit of the Guam Liberation Day Carnival
at Tiyan on June 3. Rick Cruz/Pacific Sunday News
One golden-plumed rooster puffed his feathers confidently, while spectators motioned with their hands, placing their bets.
The opponent, with crimson feathers and a calm demeanor, had a sign that read “short” hung above his corner.
For most of the nation, any sport that pins two animals against each other in a death match is outlawed, but here on Guam, the celebrated blood sport of cockfighting is being held on the grounds of the annual Liberation Day Carnival for the first time in the history of the festivities.
The carnival was scheduled a few weeks earlier this year to avoid the rainy season, which proved to be advantageous for cockfighters, said Angel Sablan, executive director of the Mayor’s Council of Guam.
“It’s always been offered every year at the carnival, but the people who usually use the cockfights, it was usually during molting season, so it wouldn’t be financially feasible for them,” Sablan said.
Roosters typically lose their feathers to grow new ones during molting season. According to Grit Magazine, molting chickens are particularly sensitive and vulnerable.
Because molting season hasn’t begun, the roosters are strong enough to duel, cockfighters can garner winnings from their prize fighters, and spectators can place bets on the birds they think will arise as victors.
However, it’s unclear whether the gambling that occurs during cockfights is properly regulated because the laws that govern legal gambling aren’t specific.
During a bout on Tuesday evening, a streak of blood smeared one of the glass walls surrounding the cockpit.
Within seconds, surprised cheers sounded in the night — the red rooster survived, which meant big winnings for those who bet on him.
The golden rooster lay still, but breathed heavily on its side.
Edward Muna, a 69-year-old grandfather from Dededo, said cockfighting is deeply rooted in Chamorro and Filipino culture because it was inherited from the Spanish who occupied the islands for hundreds of years.
Muna was 13 when he first learned about cockfighting from his father. Muna said his dad allowed him to attend the cockfights as long as he stayed outside the derby.
“I kept trying to look in. I was so excited,” Muna said.
“When he came out, I asked him, ‘Did you really win? Are you gonna buy me something?'” he remembered.
An age limit is enforced at the cockfights — a sign hanging outside the front entrance to the cockpit states no one under 18 shall be admitted.
Muna said he was glad the sport was added to the Liberation Day Carnival festivities because it’s an important part of Guam’s culture.
Cockfighting is a game of chance legally authorized for the sole use of nonprofit community organizations, similar to other gambling operations on the island. The Agana Heights Athletic Organization coordinates cockfights at the carnival.
Participants start the rounds on weeknights and continue late into the evening, said Angelica Jamanila-Gumataotao, vice president of the Agana Heights Athletic Organization.
She said the fights typically begin around 10:30 p.m. and cockfighters could continue fighting their roosters until 1 in the morning, depending on how many people are participating. Admission is $5 per person.
Agana Heights Mayor Paul McDonald said the proceeds, which include a percentage of the gamblers’ winnings and the admission fees, go to the organization, which supports sports teams in the village.
McDonald said the organization first uses the proceeds to pay for the construction of the cockpit — a square, raised structure built on concrete blocks, with a sandy floor surrounded by glass walls. The group also uses the proceeds to pay the cost of utilities and for the employees, including those who tie blades to the legs of the roosters.
Around 11 p.m. Tuesday, a group of about 30 men gathered inside the brightly lit enclosure where wooden benches surrounded the cockpit. Some of the attendees held colorful roosters in their arms, stroking the emerald-flecked black tail feathers of their prized birds.
Spectators took the lulls between the bouts as an opportunity to talk story and connect with each other.
Meanwhile, long artificial spurs were being expertly tied to the toes of the fighting cocks and sheathed until the competitors were ready to do battle.
After each bout, both roosters were quickly carried off, one of them triumphant. Should the losing bird survive, an official was on hand to stitch up the injured competitor so that it might fight again.
Traditionally, Muna said, the winning owner would take the carcass of the losing bird home and make a meal out of it for their family.
“But now it’s a different story,” he said, explaining that many fighting cocks are given chemicals or steroids, which people would be afraid to eat.
According to Mayor McDonald, if roosters killed aren’t removed by the owners after a fight, they’re thrown into the garbage.
Earlier this week, the newspaper reported that bodies of roosters were piled up in heaps of trash near the carnival grounds over the past weekend. In response, Sablan said the matter was being addressed and that nothing like that would happen again. He added that trash was being taken to the landfill daily.
According to McDonald, the gambling that happens between spectators outside the cockpit doesn’t go to the Agana Heights Athletic Organization.
Compared to other jurisdictions, Guam’s gambling laws are sparse, providing little specific guidance or regulation for games of chance that are allowed, such as bingo, and casino-style games during village fiestas and the island’s Liberation Day Carnival.
Vice Speaker Benjamin Cruz, D-Piti, said he intends to introduce a bill to repeal a section of the government’s administrative rules and regulations, which appears to legalize and regulate limited forms of gaming on Guam. Those rules address dog racing, nonprofit bingo, lotteries, carnival gaming, cockfighting and various betting games, and state which electronic gaming devices are legal.
While the rules contain general guidelines, the rules leave it up to the nonexistent gaming commission to develop more specific gaming instructions. The government is supposed to have a gaming commission to regulate the various types of legal gambling here, but the governor hasn’t appointed anyone to serve on that commission.
McDonald said that the cockpit at the carnival is compliant with regulations, along with the permitted cockfights in Dededo and village fiestas. What aren’t legal are the secret cockfights that still take place in the backyards of villages, he said.
Posted: Jun 21, 2013 9:33 PM CDTUpdated: Jun 21, 2013 9:33 PM CDT
by Ken Quintanilla
Guam – For the first time in a long while, cockfighting is being featured at the Liberation Day Carnival in Tiyan. As far back as he can remember, Liberation Carnival chairperson and Agana Heights mayor Paul McDonald says cockfighting has always been up for bid but nobody has ever showed an interest.
“The chickens usually are molting when the carnival starts, but this year the carnival started early and some people were interested,” he explained.
Nobody submitted a bid this year, so the Agana Heights Athletic Organization took over due to interest from numerous cockfighters. The non-profit organization has been around for 20 years and sponsors youth sport teams and helps with village activities. Mayor McDonald says the organization paid the one thousand dollar minimum bid.
And just like fiestas, McDonald says the governor can sign a proclamation that would allow cockfighting and gambling like the casino for the liberation day carnival. Rev & Tax director John Camacho concurs, saying, “Gambling is illegal on Guam unless its specified by law, and one of the laws that says if the governor’s proclaims puts out a proclamation then they can have this, like casino going on or cockfight.”
Camacho adds Rev & Tax’s Regulatory Division is responsible to ensure the organization complies with the rules and does an inspection every now and then. McDonald meanwhile says it’s hard to gauge right now how much will be made, but says cockfighting has brought a more diverse crowd to the carnival than usual.
“It’s nice to see an organized cockfight where you can see who’s there and actually making money from these guys because it generates a lot of funds for our programs and activities,” he said.
The cockpit normally starts going around 9pm until late at night depending on how many roosters are signed up to compete. McDonald adds proceeds which include a percentage of winnings and admission fees go to logistical items like the construction of the cockpit and utilities. Thereafter, other funds go to the organization to support the youth teams in the village.