Aside from sugar and the Masskara Festival, there is another industry that Negros Occidental is known for—the breeding of fighting cocks. All over the country, Negros is known to be the lair of the best game fowl breeders in the country.
I have traveled the country from Tuguegarao to General Santos City in search for the best breeders of the country when my partner and I were tasked to interview and photograph the most famous game fowl breeders in the land. The company that hired us chose the men who have made a name for themselves not only for their production and their winnings, but also for their credibility in the pit, in their dealings, and their personal lives. These breeders are then called and branded, “Ang Maginoong Magmamanok.”
Although the company would have wanted all the regions represented, it was impossible. Seventy percent of the breeders we interviewed are all Negrosanons.
We visited their farms from Northern to Southern Negros. We had the opportunity to visit the best farms in the province that featured either one or more of these features—impressive infrastructure, functional yet stylish set ups, expansive landscapes, verdant plantations to provide ample oxygen to the fighting cocks, and thousands of game birds from chicks to stags to bull stags to full grown battle crosses! And oh lest you think otherwise, the ladies (I’m talking about the hens) also have their own special places.
I can never forget the first few breeders that we interviewed—Rafael “Nene” Abello of Isabela, Ampil Brothers in La Carlota, Juancho Aguirre of La Carlota, Emmanuel “Mame” Lacson of Bacolod City, Renato “Otic” Geroso of Alangilan and Mambucal, Murcia, Bob Cuenca of Ma-ao, Bago City, Freddie Yulo of Hinigran, Danilo Hinlo of Victorias, Lance dela Torre of Talisay, and Itoy Sison of Bacolod City. The rest became a blur to me as the company started sending us to other places. We had the job that many men around the country would die for! We were ladies and were given the opportunity to meet these breeding big guns and visit their farms! Cool!
Breeder wannabes and cockers from everywhere would come and visit Negros on a regular basis just to buy fighting cocks. Financiers from other cities and countries would tandem with Negros breeders and join in local and international derbies. We are that famous for the breeding of the best fighting cocks in the land!
This is such a big industry that my photographer-friend who was my partner in these endeavors thought of holding a Breeders Tour around Negros and I was given the chance to go along with them. She chose several of the most famous farms that were going to be the stop for the tour. Many cockers, upcoming breeders, and those who were just curious as to the breeding system here in Negros joined the tour.
The tour of Negros Breeders was the tour of fancy of cocking aficionados from other places. They were given hotel accommodations and brought around in tour vans. At the Negros farms, the owners themselves did a guided tour of their breeding areas, explaining their system along the way. They also unselfishly shared their techniques and other information pertaining to breeding. The breeders treated the participants to sumptuous lunch buffets in the farm! It was fun to partake of a great lunch (that sometimes featured lechon) amidst the beautiful landscapes of game farms while the fighting cocks were crowing on the side.
By the end of the day, the participants bought so many birds from the breeders so everyone was happy.
Sadly, the pharmaceutical company that hired us had to lay low of their support for the game fowl industry because of an international law against cockfighting. They were an international company so even though cockfighting is a much accepted game here in the Philippines, they were affected in other countries. Needless to say, they stopped sending us around 2005. Oh well, what can I say, it was a good 7 years – from 1998 to 2004 – that we had traveled the country to visit the premier game farms not only in Negros but also around the country.
After the stint with the company, cockfighting publishers would commission us to interview breeders to be featured in their magazines. And up until now, even though my friend is already in the United States, I still continue to do profiling of breeders here in Negros.
Cockfighting may be associated with gambling for those who are not privy to this game, but for the breeders that I met, the breeding of fighting cocks is a science. They have a system of doing things and all their data are recorded religiously and meticulously. And all the breeders that I met do not bet much on their birds, they join derbies for marketing purposes. They would rather do breeding and do business. They are breeders, not cockers.
I am very privileged to meet these people. I have learned a lot from them, not only in breeding, but also in life. Through my journeys, I have met some of the richest and most influential people in the industry. One thing I really learned from them is building your credibility so that people trust you. In the cockpit, there are no receipts, but cockers honor their bets.