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The Cockpit - What Goes On in Sabong (Sabong Arena)

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Sabong Cockpit
Genre Sabong Arena
Keywords Sabong Cockpit
Article ID 00000295
If one has travelled around the Philippines before- to a developed city or through the most rural villages; there is no escaping the local Rooster. You’ll find it tied to a tree, in a cage or even under a bridge. It will crow at ungodly hours of the day or night and summon the rest of its brood to join. Worrisome if you are a light sleeper. I have lived in Manila long enough and the best advice is to check your neighbours for chicken coops before moving. Island resorts included. Sabong or cockfighting in Tagalog is a national pastime and obsession in the Philippines. The 6,000 year old spectator sport originated from the Indus Valley. It was popular in ancient India, China, Persia and other Eastern countries. In the Philippines it has been manufactured into a legitimate billion dollar industry. People would revolt otherwise. Sabong is a way of life and part of the Filipino man’s daily struggle to make ends meet. It has existed even before Magellan’s expedition in 1521. Presently there are 2,500 dedicated stadiums across the country. The World Slasher Cup and the World Gamefowl Expo were both held in Manila a few years ago. Owners place the roosters into a cockpit and they fight until one is fatally injured. The gruesome sport leaves over 30 million rooster deaths a year. Local animal rights groups can’t do a thing. It is an accepted part of Philippine society. Gamecocks are especially bred and conditioned for increased strength and endurance. Hectares of farm land or even a regular backyard are converted into breeding and training grounds. Like real life boxers the birds are pampered with enriched feeds, trained, massaged and worth hundreds of thousands of pesos. Bets go up to large figures. Legal cockfights happen at least once a week. On my side- south of Manila, Pasay holds large scale derbies at least twice. Pasay is a gamblers paradise- from high end casinos to run of the mill poker clubs it has it all. The arena is a couple of blocks from my apartment. The last match I watched was by the beach. In a beat up tricycle (local motorized rickshaw) I sit close to a foetal position with my knees up to my chin. There are a lot of pick pockets while walking. The colourful contraption is lower than the Tuktuk and rather uncomfortable but is the only safe way to get through epic traffic jams. The Pasay City Cockpit parking lot was filled with posh cars and four wheel drives. $15-$20 will get you in. A group of men walked through the main gate; one with a tough looking rooster under his arm. It gleamed as the fluorescent light hit its dark plumage. A shiny metal gaff was attached to the left foot of the cocks’ natural spur for added entertainment. The levels of testosterone are particularly high. I walked up grey concrete stairs and felt an immediate blast of cold air against my face. Most cockpit arenas are not air-conditioned. This one was an exception. There weren’t many women around and received a few curious looks as I picked out a seat alone. It was fairly intimidating to be in such a big crowd. I leaned against the ledge and had a decent view. The high rollers sat below. One of the few instances in the Philippines where millionaires talk with the common man. In this pit they were all equal. Each match is judged by a referee called the sentensyador. Bets are taken by the “Kristo” – named after Christ because of their outstretched hands when calling out for wagers from the crowd. They wore bright orange shirts. Some work for big bosses others freelance. This particular evening had 53 fights in total that would go on until midnight, roughly 10 matches per hour.

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