Bad day for cocks

Tagged along with my uncles to Lipa Games Cockfight Arena for free (females do not need to pay the entrance fee)! Regular games are held here everyday but the crowd and bets aren’t as big during a so-called ‘derby’. For every 30 to 50 fights in a regular day, there are more or less 100 in a derby and VIPs are present with their bodyguards.

SONY DSC Signs of different tournaments sponsored by persons and farms are posted all over the place. This one has a guaranteed price of 2 million pesos. According to my uncle, the biggest in the country is BAKBAKAN with a guaranteed price of 45 million pesos to be divided among the participants who meet certain criteria (held at the Araneta Coliseum, no less). Whew! The higher the price, the higher the pot money and minimum bet. In the case of the poster below, every breeder is required to bet at least 5,500 pesos for every gamecock he enters into the competition. In one other advertisement I saw, the minimum bet was 22,000!

SONY DSCWe arrived early because my uncle’s gamefowls need to undergo a process called “ulutan” where they are paired with another cock with the same characteristics so the fight would be as fair as possible. In huge tournaments though, only the height and weight of the roosters are submitted and the computer generates the pairing randomly. Regular games start at 12 noon while Derbies usually begin at 6PM to cater to those who have 9 to 5 jobs.

SONY DSCThe place was filled in no time. I like the thought that everyone is equal inside these eight walls. It is not wise to judge the players by their appearances. I saw a shabby looking man pull a thick roll of money out of his pocket and my uncle pointed a millionaire breeder to me, he was wearing white shirt and denim shorts.

Thank heavens for open air or else I would have suffocated with the amount of second hand smoke.

SONY DSCA couple of minutes before the actual fight, a tari or spur is attached to the leg of the animal. The purpose, sadly, is to injure or even kill the foe. This piece of metal is so sharp slight contact already wounds a human that’s why this task is done by someone skilled, someone who knows the appropriate length of spur and one who can secure it in place.

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SONY DSCBefore the fight starts, the two handlers condition the cocks to hate each other. I think the guy in black with the microphone is called llamador. I forgot what he does but it involved raising the bet.

SONY DSCThey let the animals bite each other to increase their aggressiveness.

SONY DSCAt this point everyone will start shouting because betting will start. Before, I thought that there is a system where someone collects all the money and then divides it depending on the outcome of the fight. I was wrong. Most of the people (except the VVIPs) bet on their own without anyone supervising. They have hand signals which indicate the amount they’re betting and the rooster they’re rooting for. Sometimes, the person you’re dealing with is not only a stranger but a stranger on the other side of the arena and you have no proof of your agreement except each other’s words (or signs). This sounded chaotic to me when explained a while back but when I saw the description in action I was amazed. The people weren’t confused. In fact, crumpled thousand peso bills are thrown after the game and the people around know exactly whom to give it. I can at least say that sabungeros are man of their words. I’ll post the hand signals some other time. hehe.

SONY DSCSilence descends the arena once the gamefowls are released by the handlers. All eyes are set in the octagonal-shaped ring. A game normally lasts 1 to 2 minutes, 60 to 120 seconds to determine whether you gain a percentage (sometimes more than 100) of your bet or you lose all of it (think about this: some stakes go as high as 5 million pesos PER fight). Depending on the tournament, awards are given to the fastest and/or slowest kills.

SONY DSCIt is the sentensyador‘s job to determine the outcome. With one rooster in each hand, he holds them closer to see which is still able to bite. After three tries, a winner is announced. Even if both cocks die, as long as one lived long enough to bite three times, it is still considered as victorious.

SONY DSCThe dead ones are put away in a pail, bets are settled (money everywhere), the ring is cleaned and the show goes on.

SONY DSCI am not sure if it is the same in all cockpits but in Lipa, the losing rooster, dead or alive (mostly dead), becomes the property of the winning breeder. After feathers and blood are removed, they are hanged in a place with a corresponding number, claimed by their new owner and then cooked for pulutan.

SONY DSCThose who are lucky (or unlucky) enough to live are surgically sutured without anesthesia by whoever has experience enough to do so. I saw one such procedure and I felt really bad. I saw the guy put a whole cloth inside the animal’s body to wipe the blood before he sutured the wound without any hint of carefulness. This rooster, if he lives through the pain, will be given antibiotics and vitamins and once it recuperates, will fight again. If I was the rooster, I’d prefer if my sufferings end then and there.

SONY DSCUp to the moment when I saw the chicken being sutured, I was having a great time observing everything that’s happening around me: the people who amazingly has wads of money, the actual amount of money going through the arena, the basics, the hand signals, the different staff that comprise the operational arm of the cockpit and etc. After seeing the scene above though, I felt guilty. People take care of gamefowls for close to 2 years only to let them kill each other for entertainment and financial gain.

It’s a sad reality of life and it’s not the only brutal thing we do. Think of where everything you just ate today came from for starters.

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