Cockfighting Gaffer Par Excellance: Nestor Espinel

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A Sought-After Gaffer all over the Philippines

Before he became a champion breeder, Nestor Espinel of Bacolod City was and continues to be a sought-after gaffer in local and national derbies. And despite his busy schedule as a breeder, he manages to go to the pit and provide gaffing services to his loyal clientele who had been with him for many years now.

Nestor Espinel attaches a gaff on a fighting cock.

Nestor started gaffing in the 80s. Although he was already growing fighting cocks at his dorm at the Riverside Hospital where he used to work, he was not yet a commercial breeder then. He relates that his gaffing was also trial and error at first, but he persisted on studying what works, after all he likes doing it. His persistence paid off and he became one of the best gaffers in the country.

The stag derby season is Nestor’s busiest. He installs knives to an average of 30 entries per event. Multiply this number to the number of stag derbies and the number of birds per entry and he ends up gaffing hundreds of fighting birds in one derby event alone.

Nestor has many breeder-clients from all over the Philippines, but he recalls some of his most memorable championships in the fights of Negros breeders, Elwin Javelosa and Joe Laureño. He also is very grateful that he was able to take part in the three-peat championship of Eddie Boy Ledesma in the NGBA stag derbies several years ago.

A case of long knives owned by Nestor.

Being a gaffer is not all glamor and victory, according to Nestor. He disclosed that he has had his share of controversy. His life was also put on the line one time just because the entry that he served was well on its way to the championship. He recalls that in one derby in Luzon several years ago, he was offered money by the contender of his client’s entry for him to sabotage the fight. It was the last fight and while he was limbering the bird, some men approached him, gave him money, and threatened him if he will not do as they say.

But because of his principles, Nestor did not accept the bribe and instead reported the matter to his boss then. His client praised him that he did not sell his integrity and told him to just do his best and after his work is done, he should just go outside where a car is waiting for him. So after he released the bird on the pit for the last game, Nestor left the rueda and went on his way. He learned later that the entry won and his client became champion. He just had to go into hiding after that because he was hunted down for a while by the other party.

Nestor Espinel considers these instances as the hazards of the trade but he stood his ground and preserved his reputation. That is why he continues to be effective and in demand for his services as a gaffer. A true Negrense gentleman indeed.

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