Thursday, June 08, 2006

Ilonggos Are Crazy Over Their Cocks


Aside from sugar and aswangs, Western Visayas is also considered the mecca of cockfighting in the Philippines. Although foreigners usually find cockfighting cruel and inhumane, gamefowl breeding is a multi-billion industry in the Philippines and cockfighting remains as one of the country’s three most popular “sports” (the other two being basketball and elections). Every Sunday, one can see cockpit arenas all across the region filled to the rafters as Ilonggos indulge in this most peculiar pastime. It is said that on Sundays, the women go to mass inside the Church while the men go to mass inside the bulangan (Ilonggo for cockpit arena).

Watching a cockfight is an unforgettable experience. Seeing it for the first time, one is astounded by the riotous noise generated by grown men frantically trying to place bets which would put New York Stock Exchange traders to shame. In the middle of the arena, two majestic-looking cocks take center stage to be closely scrutinized by prospective bettors. At the signal of the “christo” (referee), the two avian gladiators are unleashed against each other and the gallery would explode into a deafening roar each time the prizefighters engage in their furious aerial ballet. Once the winner is declared, a hushed silence engulfs the arena while winners and losers settle their business, only for the noise to gradually build up again as the next match draws near.

I am always amazed at how seasoned aficionados could almost always tell, just by looking, which cock is dehado or llamado. It is also astonishing that no one ever runs off on a losing bet considering that bets are made just with hand-gestures and signals. There are still many nuances to the game that I couldn’t quite comprehend like the meaning of hand gestures and how they compute the odds.

As a full-blooded male Ilonggo, I am quite unique because I never acquired a taste for the sport. Back when I was small, I remember going to the cockpit in Leganes, Iloilo during school summer breaks. I went there not to gamble but to help out an uncle who owned the arena. I would help sell food (sandwiches, softdrinks, even chicken barbeque!) and assisted in manning the gate to collect entrance tickets (like in a moviehouse, one has to pay a fee to get in the cockpit). It was like a “summer job” and the money was good because we had the monopoly for selling refreshments inside the arena. But I didn’t like the heat, the dirt, the noise and the brutality of the “sport.” So, eventhough the money was good, I quit my “summer job” and never returned to Leganes.

The Candelaria Fiesta of Jaro, Iloilo held every 1st of February is considered the biggest annual cockfighting event in the country. All the country’s wealthiest cockfighting aficionados and eminent gamefowl breeders gather in Iloilo to participate in that most prestigious event. The late House Speaker Ramon Mitra, an avid cocker, used to fly in his imported cocks in air-conditioned cages. To local cockfighting aficionados, winning the Candelaria Derby is like winning the Masters title in golf.

In Western Visayas as in most areas in the Philippines, cockfighting and politics mix. The region’s most famous breeders are also politicians or are relatives of politicians. Juancho Aguirre, the current president of the Negros Gamefowl Breeders’ Association, used to be mayor of La Carlota City in Negros Occidental. Narciso “Jun” Santiago, who held the “Cocker of the Year” title for several years, is the husband of Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago. Eminent businessman Jorge Araneta, whose family owns Araneta Coliseum (the venue for most of the big-time cock derbies in Metro Manila), is the brother of Liberal Party matriarch Judy Roxas and an uncle of No. 1 Senator Mar Roxas. There are countless other local breeders who have ties to politicians like Ricoy Palmares who is the elder brother of former Passi Mayor Jesry Palmares. I don’t know exactly why Ilonggo politicians seem predisposed to the game. Probably becuase of the "machoness" of the sport. It could also be because in small towns where there are no local media, one effective way to be visible to voters is to go to the bulangan. Inside, a local politician can gain instant voter recall and acquire a reputation as a winner if his cock wins regularly.

This is not to say that cockfighting is exclusively for the rich because one can see gamecocks practically everywhere in the region, even in crowded squatter areas and far-flung barrios. It is said that breeders spend more time tending their cocks than their children. Ilonggos are just crazy over their cocks.


====

Jo Martinez-Clemente of PDI-Visayas today wrote an interesting piece on cockfighting and gamefowl breeding in Negros titled "A Peek at Bacolod's Other Chicken."

5 comments:

ilongo sa toronto said...

Not only ilongos crazy over their cocks, but all pinoys and other nationalities too. just a few weeks ago on ongoing cockfighting derby here at the outskirt of toronto, canada, right in the middle of 100 acres farm bought to hide the Arena was raided by SPCA (society for prevention to cruelty to animals) with cops and you know who were the culprit? pinoys and lot of native (white, indians and other canadians). Although it is illegal, its been going on all over norht america. More than 100 rosters were eutanized and all found ins got a ticket for violations of special law ( not a criminal offense) so wherever there are pinoys of all stripes, there will be "bulang"..

Iloilo City Boy said...

Aficionados there should probably just go here because cockfighting is legal here and there's no risk of raids or confiscations.

ilongo sa toronto said...

If work and money is not the object, then it's not a problem. But we live and work and already part of the landscape, so will make do and play hide and seek with the authorities. the problem here, you can't bribe or buy these guys or you're in double trouble. Breeding is going strong (they can not do anything about that as long as you do it proper farms) and we just resumed doing it moving from place to place always a step ahead. Of course when we go home on vacation we could engage in some cokfighting there. We're not really the big timers (the big ones play in casinos), just your everyday "cockers". thanks..

Anonymous said...

The same thing happen in Borneo too.

rey alvin inayan said...

Gallera de Leganes
Brgy. Cagamutan sur Leganes
Iloilo City

Bodgie Inayan And Gallera de Leganes Gatekeepers
PROMOTION

Invites you to a
“ 1 Cock Fastest Kill Derby”
On
October 31, 2012
Pot Money: P 1,000.00

1 (one) Brand-new Motorcycle.
2 (two) Brand-new Tri-sikad Bike
Cash Price’s
Raffle Draw (Entrance ticket and Entry Fee)

BREAKDOWN:
1ST Fastest kill win 1(one)Brand-new Tri-Sikad Bike

2nd Fastest kill win P 1,500.00

3rd Fastest kill win P 1,500.00

4th Fastest kill win P 1,500.00

5th Fastest kill win 1 (one) Brand-new Motorcycle

6th Fastest kill win P 1,500.00

7th Fastest kill win P 1,500.00

Slowest Kill Win
1 (one) Brand-new Tri-Sikad Bike

Weight Limit: 1800 kg. – 2400 kg.
Submission of Weights on October 31, 2012.

PROMOTER:
Bodgie Inayan 0929-498-1642
Marilou 0920-765-5837
Inday 0908-670-4805

Good Luck!!! And God Bless!!!