‘Gentleman’ is not the first adjective that comes to mind when I think of people who gamble in cockfights but according to my uncle, they apparently are. Well, at least those who join the legal ones.
Tito Rodel is a man of varied and changing interests. Over the years, I have seen him change from one sport and business to another. He has played billiards and badminton then bowling and when I say play, I don’t mean the leisurely kind. I mean the sort where you buy all the gears, travel an hour or two just to train under a credible coach with fat fees and spend money on tournaments held by clubs and brands. He isn’t just looking for a hobby, he wants to actually be good at them.
His latest excursion is cockfighting. He started as a spectator, with betting. Then a year or two ago, I went home in Lipa and was surprised to see the garage and adjacent vacant lots converted into a backyard farm. Tito Del thinks it’s challenging to raise roosters into winning fighters so decided to man up to the challenge. He then explains to me the science behind doing so.
Since his land resources are limited and not enough to sustain his many hens, not all eggs go through their whole life cycle. Others are turned into scrambled eggs for breakfast (I swear they taste better than regular eggs).
Those that have embryos (or are fertilized) are covered in tissue and then put in a refrigerator for a certain number of days (I forgot). The tissue paper is to prevent friction between the two shells and the cold temperature is allegedly to preserve the semen (or something like that). NICE TO KNOW: hens can lay eggs even without their male counterpart. Only, these aren’t fertilized and cannot turn into hens/roosters.
After the certain number of days, these eggs are put in an incubator to hatch. TIto Del doesn’t have his own so he pays 5 pesos each for the rental of the facility in another place. It takes more or less three weeks for them to hatch and the owner of the incubator will just text him whenever they’re ready for pick-up.
At the back of the house is a newly-built room especially for the chicks. Upon entering, you immediately feel the rise in temperature. The chicks are put here because they cannot survive in cooler climates. Mangingisay daw at magkakasakit.
The chicks are separated based on age since vaccines are given at different stages of life. These are a few days old and they have only received one vaccine. A total of three will be given until they mature.
When they reach a certain age though, you have to separate them because cocks possess congenital aggression toward all males of the same species. Their comb and wattle are cut off and the area around their anus shaved for hygiene. In addition, you have to put a hen (or three) in the same cage as your roosters especially the ones you are eyeing for fights because the presence of a female improves their posture and hones their machismo.
The purpose of brightly lit cages meanwhile is to prolong mating time. To increase their stamina, perhaps?
Like humans, roosters get sick too. The one below has colds. When Tito Del pinched its nose, snot came out. Not exactly a pleasing sight to behold but I found it nice that he takes the time and effort to isolate and take care of them.
Running this backyard takes a lot of work. More than the money (because hell, I didn’t know cockfighting is such a lucrative business, if you raise the right fighters), I believe my tito is passionate about what he does. Why else would he persist despite discouragements from my grandmother and a non-steady return of investment after 7 to 9 months?
This is the first winning rooster from RL Black Farm (majority of his breeds are black). I watched a documentary before where killed roosters in a fight are turned into fried chicken so I asked if he does the same. Apparently, the losing cock becomes the property of the winning breeder so he can do whatever he wants with it. What tito del does is to trade any fowls he won with those he lost. He then buries the latter in a vacant lot. After 7 to 9 months of raising them, he says they’re not only roosters, they’re his pets.
The work doesn’t end in breeding because there is also such a thing as conditioning. The roosters are exposed to bright lights and loud music at intervals during the day weeks before the fight to mimic the scene in a cockpit so they can adapt.
I remember seeing handlers (the one who takes care of the animals) blowing cigarette smoke to the rooster to improve its chances of winning (probably because of anger. Do that to any non-smoker and he’ll be pissed) and I have heard of some who don’t let women touch the animal for belief that it’ll decrease its manliness. I asked Tito Del about these and he said they’re just superstitions without scientific basis so he doesn’t practice them. Besides, the smoke just creates unnecessary stress. I couldn’t agree more. As a shoutout to those handlers, he let me hold his prized fighter! 🙂
His current dream (because it might change in the future, typical tito del) is to have ample land for a badass farm like the ones owned by ‘celebrities’ in their world (1,000 to 10,000 roosters or heads). Also to be featured in their magazine (oo may magazine especially for sabong haha).
Grabe, this business is very serious to the point that handlers of big time farms are sometimes tied to a tree and beaten just so the roosters can be stolen. Other times they are armed with rifles to protect the chickens! Tito Del said a public figure bets as much as 8 million pesos in one fight. One fight rarely lasts 2 minutes.
I was supposed to go with him last Saturday in an actual sabong (women don’t need to pay the entrance fee in the arena and it is not compulsory to bet) to see the ‘gentlemanness’ he was talking about. Too bad it was postponed. Maybe next time.