Friday, October 15, 2004

An afternoon at the cockfights

Preparation Posted by Hello

Pic: Cockfighting is legal and popular in the Philippines. Here a trainer is outfitting a blade onto the leg of his entry as the spectators (young and old) look on. Bolinao, Philippines, 2004.

A promise to myself before I left the Philippines was to attend the local cock fights. It is a national past time with a main cock fighting ring in every town, small or large. Books have been written in giving advice to raise the perfect fighting cocks, posters advertise the latest match ups, old men carry around their entries with pride, specialty stores sell varying grades of feed and cock farms can be seen by the roadside. Old timers and child alike are ever ready to dole out advice and tips and everyone is looking out at netting the weekly prizes which are often worth a month’s pay for some. Bolinao is famous for its own brand of hardy cocks called Bolinao Botox and matches between them are fast, furious and often deadly. Though it is a cruel sport, I figure that this is one event which I would not probably catch in Malaysia (except for certain border sates with Thailand) so I didn’t want to miss out.

Preparation is elaborate, contemplative and intimate. The cocks are the prized possession of their individual owner, bred to perfection, affectionately trained and groomed and taken care of diligently. Like professionals, the trainer would open up his case of spurs (long elongated blades) and set out to wrap it round the leg of his cock, in the rings, two opposing cocks will then be harassed by facing them off with each other and when it all starts and the bets all placed, they are released and the fighting ensues. Matches can last from a few minutes to an hour depending on the skill of the cocks or just plain luck. The first bout I witnessed couldn’t end as both fought to a stale mate and it was decided that the first to peck the opponents head wins. Both survived to fight another day. The next match was not so fortunate and was lightning fact, one cock managed to stab the opponent after 5 seconds and it was all over in a flash. The third one was bloody, feathers flew everywhere and blood spurted in droplets over the sandy arena. Both opponents attacked each other with vigor but in the end both went down after each were stabbed. The losers are then brought out and removed of their spurs, bets exchange hands, arena cleaned and the bout with fresh competitors starts anew. Fights are usually only held on Sundays unless there are specials and lasts for most of the day from noon. So ends my experience with cock fighting.


bayibhyap said...

In a way I think the Filipinos are even more passionate about rearing fighting cocks and cock fights than the Kelantanese.

fishtail said...

Very enlightening. Wonder why they don't have dog fights.

Jeremy said...

This is one of those things that has always flummoxed me and I think I found the answer today. Not the cock fighting; I'm talking about afixing blades to the feet.

The question is: Why don't they go BEYOND blades? When will one of them cock-fighting enthusiasts catch the Leonardo Da Vinci spark and start outfitting his cock (I mean the fowl) with throat-slicing, beak-breaking, eye-puncturing war apparatusses? After all, isn't the aim to maim or to kill the other chicken? Why not do that as efficiently as possible?

This is the same thing with the samurais in Japan. They refused to wage war with rifles, preferring instead swords. Guess who's extinct now?

You see this strange beholdeness to old technology and the complete lack of effort in developing new ones in many cultures.

I was reading this article today on doing business with Chinese businesspeople. I came across this line: "In China, the process is more important than the outcome."

So I guess the problem with all primitive societies is misplaced attachment to the process and not the outcome. If British farmers were of the same demeanor several hundred years ago, we'd never have the industrial revolution and all of us would still be scratching at the soil for a living.

BTW, do they eat the dead chickens or do the chickens get proper burials?

bayibhyap said...

My question, which many would ask, is "Why put the blades on at all?" It is already cruel enough without them. I know I will get brickbats from the cockfight enthusiasts, but who cares?

Kervin said...

Bayibhyap: Yeah it's a passion there, a traditional sport. Met a man there (80+ years old) said he had a high paying job in America but gave it up because he couldn't stand to be away from his weekly matches. As for the blades yeah thought as cruel, but it seems a brief history given to me by a spectator was that in the past there were blades afixed on both feet. Rules are regulated by a committee nowadays but I figure many still can't fanthom a cock fight without bloodshed.

Fishtail: Actually they have betting fights among any animal you find, a collegue told me they bet on dogs, rodents and horses even.

Jeremy: Mmm never saw what they did to the chicks post mortem was there to see them chop off the feet to retrive the blade and I think later the bird goes to the put (can't just throw away so much investment can they?). and also like you said traditions die hard.

Jeremy said...

bayibhyap (what sort of a name is THAT?):

You're talking about animal cruelty. I was talking about the mentality required for progress.

bayibhyap said...

It's just a cyber moniker, Jeremy.

And I am no Punjabi, that is, if you know what I mean.