The Culture of Cockfighting in the Philippines

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The pastime of cockfighting was depicted in this painting by an Ilonggo artist that I was not able to identify.

Many of us know cockfighting as a gambling sort of activity. But that is just the tip of the iceberg. While cockfighting may indeed involve a lot of betting, it is not all there is to it.

Cockfighting could be anything to anyone involved in it. It could be a science, a pastime, a hobby, a sport, a source of income–anything.

What is cockfighting?
While we cannot really blame those who have limited understanding about the world of cockfighting who would just summarily say that it is a gambling activity where roosters and men get really involved, let us just try to define it here first.

Here is a article from Wikipedia about cockfighting:

A cockfight is a blood sport between two roosters (cocks) or more accurately gamecocks, held in a ring called a cockpit. The first use of the word gamecock, denoting use of the cock as to a “game”, a sport, pastime or entertainment, being in 1646. After the term “cock of the game” used by George Wilson, in the earliest known book on the sport of cockfighting in The Commendation of Cocks and Cock Fighting in 1607.

The combatants, referred to as gamecocks, are specially bred birds, conditioned for increased stamina and strength. The comb and wattle are cut off in order to meet show standards of the American Gamefowl Society and the Old English Game Club and to prevent freezing in colder climates. Cocks possess congenital aggression toward all males of the same species. Cocks are given the best of care until near the age of two years old. They are conditioned, much like professional athletes prior to events or shows. Wagers are often made on the outcome of the match. While not all fights are to the death, the cocks may endure significant physical trauma. In many other areas around the world, cockfighting is still practised as a mainstream event; in some countries it is government controlled.

Cockfighting is considered a blood sport by animal welfare and animal rights activists and others, due in some part to the physical trauma the cocks inflict on each other. Advocates of the sport often list cultural and religious relevance as reasons for perpetuation of cockfighting as a sport.

But here in the Philippines, cockfighting involves so many things. There is the science of breeding, rearing, and conditioning, the pastime of joining in derbies, and the thrill of gambling. And of course, there is the business side to it where breeders grow fighting cocks and sell them for a good profit. But most of all, there is the brotherhood–like those involved in the sport are blood brothers. It is a bond that is hard to understand and definitely harder to break. Yet once broken, it would be the hardest to mend.

The culture of cockfighting is deeply embedded in the Philippine culture and thus, it would be good for us to at least try to understand it. Let us celebrate the sport and the players in it.

4 thoughts on “The Culture of Cockfighting in the Philippines

  1. The cutoff comb and wattle are even fed to the cock. Cockfighting reminds me of the Roman gladiators. But you’re right, it’s already deeply rooted in our culture and there’s nothing we can do but to at least understand it especially since it’s a big industry in Negros Occidental second only to sugar.

  2. Indeed, cock breeding is a huge industry in Negros. People in Manila has high regards for cocks coming from Bacolod. Well, I don’t like this activity personally not for anything else. But in my line of business, in the recent Negros Trade Fair we were asked to create a sculpture for “cockfighting” because the client said we are familiar with it anyway.hahaha – daw manugbulang ako?

  3. Cockfighting is part of our culture. It is a pastime that dates back to history, just like other Filipino games. It is a product of influence of our Spanish and Mexican ancestors. In rural barrios where technology is not that so common still, cockfighting is an event that many look forward to. Although it involves gambling, it also supports many small businesses.

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