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History and General Background of Sabong in the Philippines (Sabong Arena)

Sabong History
Genre Sabong Arena
Keywords Sabong History
Article ID 00000286
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Origin The history of cockfighting trace back to the time period before Christ. During the middle ages, the Persians brought cockfighting to Greece, although most experts believe that the tradition itself originated from Southeast Asia. The Greeks practiced it before battle to encourage their warriors to act courageously. It became widely known across the countries in Europe especially in England as a gambling activity which can be enjoyed by all social classes from the nobles to the commoners. Soon, the tradition spread across the world including the New World colonies as it was brought by the English settlers. In the Philippines, cockfighting which is also known as sabong, was first witnessed during Magellan’s voyage of discovery of the country in 1521. It is considered to be a popular pastime in the country as it has been existing for more than a hundred years. Filipinos from all social classes partake on this gambling sport which has been integrated into the Filipino culture. Due to its popularity, cockfighting has become a billion dollar industry with thousands of arenas and an estimated of more than a million cocks killed across the entire country. In many countries, this activity has been banned due to its violent and cruel nature, but cockfighting in the Philippines is considered to be legal. During 1974, President Ferdinand Marcos signed Presidential Decree No. 449 creating the “Cockfighting Law of 1974” which governed the establishment and operations of cockpits in the country. As stated in the law, cockfighting is a vehicle for the preservation of Filipino culture which may enhance the national identity. However, cockfighting will only be allowed to occur in licensed cockpits which means other unlicensed venues that hold cock fights are illegal. Most legal cock fights are held in stadiums or arenas while illegal cock fights are usually held elsewhere. Recently, due to the rise of digital technology, Filipinos can bet on fighting cocks without having to be physically present in the cockpit through e-sabong or online cockfighting. General Background of the Game Roosters normally go through proper training that involves teaching fighting skills in order to participate in the competition. On the day of the competition, owners would stay in a designated area outside the cockpit called ulutan where the cocks are paired together based on physical qualities such as height, weight, and wingspan. After the cocks have been paired, a gaff, locally termed as tari, and a leg band with specific numbers for each cock are attached on the leg of the cock. The length of the gaff is determined by the size of the cock’s leg and it must be set at the right angle and height to inflict maximum amount of damage with minimal movement. Placing tari on the cock before the match In the cockpit or sabungan, the owners and cocks are assigned to a specific side: Meron – the cock that is favored to win which means the odds of winning in this side are higher, but the betting multiplier is much lower as compared to the other side, and Wala – the less popular cock or the underdog with a higher betting multiplier. A cock can be placed in the meron side of the arena if it has survived past fights or the owner may have a huge influence in the cockfighting community. The odds as well as the multiplier may vary depending on each fight. Before the competition begins, the owners hold both cocks close to each other until they start pecking to provoke aggressiveness and competition between the two cocks. The cocks are also given time to walk around the area for the betting spectators to observe the cock’s stance, movement and boldness. Once the announcer or casador gives the cue, the spectators will begin yelling their wagers out to each other. Due to the deafening noise in the arena, the betting manager known as the kristos rely on hand signals to communicate their bets with the audience. The direction of the fingers signal different denominations. In particular, fingers pointed upwards would mean bets are accepted in denominations of tens. When pointed sidewards or horizontally, it would mean that bets are accepted in hundreds. If fingers are pointed downwards, bets are accepted in denominations of thousands. For instance, four fingers upward would signal forty pesos, two fingers downward for two thousand pesos and three fingers pointed horizontally for three hundred pesos. Spectators can make two types of bets among other people in the arena and through the kristos. Betting usually lasts around three to four minutes before the match begins and bets can go as high as thousands of pesos and are immediately paid after each fight. These cock fights are judged by a referee also known as sentensyador or kyome, who normally has the final verdict which is not subject to any appeal. After the competition, winners not only collect their prizes, but they also take the losing cock which is intended to be the celebratory dish.

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