– Gameness til the End
Manila Bulletin > Home Category > Arts and Culture
Published May 22, 2017, 12:05 AM
By Dr. Jaime C. Laya
Filled with action shots and enlightening articles, the book Sultada: Sabong Sports sa Pilipinas, captures the excitement, blood and speed of cockfighting and the lives and spectacular end of the flying gladiators.
One can only marvel at how photographers must have positioned themselves, adjusted equipment and waited for the perfect moment. Come too close and get slashed, move away and miss the action, wait too long and it’s over before your click.
Pinoys and their love for Sabong Blood on the sand
(Image by Dewey Sergio of Alpha Camera Club)
Sabong or cockfighting is illegal in many countries, but it doesn’t occur to Pinoys that cockfighting is cruelty to animals. Chickens don’t snuggle up and wag their feathers and no fowl answers to “king kong,” “pork chop,” or “putól.” Rooster-human contact is arms-length, as it were.
The sport goes back a long way. In Noli mi Tangere, Rizal describes a San Diego cockfight using terms still current — rueda, tahúr, soltada, dejado, llamado, bulik, lasák. Betting was fierce, Capitan Tiago staking on his red and white the equivalent of hectares and hectares of rice land.
My first encounter with a fighting cock was unexpected. Hungry after a day-long drive to Vigan, I ordered fried chicken. It proved a toughie — my fork bent over. My ex-future dinner was obviously a fallen warrior.
Anyway, just about all I knew before reading Sultada is that cockfighters’ (a.k.a. “cockers’”) patron saint is San Pedro, he who denied Christ thrice before the cock crowed. Holy Week processions are thus invariably led by rooster and saint, naturally belonging to the town’s big cocker.
Sultada reveals more.
Cocking is big business, estimated to involve some 10 million Filipinos and to account for R50 billion of annual GNP from feeds, vitamins, and facilities.
Biboy Enriquez’ Tanáy Firebird Game Farm produces 2,500 stags and 1,700 pullets a year, in bloodlines carefully kept pure for their prized qualities. Butchers “are known for their accurate cutting ability and brainy fighting style.” Similarly, Kelso stags’ fighting style is described as “deliberate hitting, body puncher, excellent cutting.” Red Kelso stags go for P25 grand each and White Kelsos for P30 grand.
One can meet the dramatis personae at Manila’s La Loma Cockpit. Founded in 1903, it’s on the tourist route, attracting celebrities like Armi Kuusela, the first Miss Universe. There is the taga-ulot – matchmaker (of roosters); mananarì – the one who arms the fighters with a tarì, the lethal blade attached to the rooster’s ankle; llamadór – master of ceremonies; casadór – bet collector; Kristo – with pointing, outstretched arms, he calls out the odds, takes bets, and generally whips up enthusiasm; tahúr – a big bettor; kokektór or enforcer – makes sure losing bettors pay up; sentensyadór or umpire – proclaims a winner or a draw.
Articles are on breeding and genetics; the care and training that makes gladiators out of downy chicks; cockfight mechanics; betting and odds; cheating and how to avoid being cheated; things to do or avoid for Lady Luck to smile — did you know that standing a fighting cock on a tabletop guarantees that you’ll have the toughie for dinner?
Sabong is here to stay.