Sabong: More Than Just a Pastime or a National ObsessionCockfighting or sabong in the Philippines has been called the country’s national pastime, an obsession even.It’s a male-oriented blood sport that is as wild as men can be – loud, boisterous, and testosterone-driven. Aficionados can spend hours on end in the arena; others even give more loving attention to their gamecocks than to their wives.Animal rights activists are against it. But millions of Filipinos – rich or poor – love it because for them, sabong is insanely entertaining, a diversion from everyday stressors and a source of easy money – if one gets lucky, that is.Royal pastimeIn the Philippines, this bloody and brutal pastime is as old as time, dating back to the pre-Spanish era. In 1565, the natives of Butuan were already watching cockfights when the Spaniards came.It’s even more ancient in other parts of the world. Julius Caesar led Rome in enjoying the sport, while King Henry VIII allowed cockfights to flourish in England. Ancient Syrians considered the fighting cock as a deity.Electronic sabong soarsWhen the pandemic struck and the lockdowns started last year, people dependent on sabong for their livelihood were adversely affected, some of them tell me in an interview on the sidelines of a three-day e-sabong derby in a licensed cockpit in Laguna.This particular arena is operated by the United Association of Cockpit Owners & Operators of the Philippines, a group of around 2,000 cockpit operators led by gambling tycoon Charlie “Atong” Ang.But because of e-sabong, these informal workers now have their jobs back.Indeed, every fight, virtual though as it is, fuels a local economy that benefits a long line of individuals and their families.