Since we got to the Philippines many things drew our attention and almost all the time, with no exceptions, they were good things. Among all those good things was the lack of interest of the people in football. For me, that I despise football, it was a liberating experience not to have to hear the same reflex response I get from people everywhere I go, every time I say I'm from Argentina. “oh!Argentina! Maradona!” and these days it only got worse because we have a new one, Messi. Being from Barcelona, Julia is also affected by the latter. On the contrary, in the Philippines paradise exists because football seems to be irrelevant. Beautiful. However, after having seen the “sport” that takes the place of football as the national “sport”, for the first time in my life I felt some true appreciation for football and I would've preferred it had been more popular than this monstrosity.
So, during our stay in Santa we decided to go and see a cockfight, the “sport” that makes Filipinos go completely insane. Cockfights take place three and even four times a week all over the country, but it is during the weekend when they reach their climax. When one is traveling the world by bicycle it is more common than not to forget what day it is, however after a couple of weeks of riding in the Philippines, we were already able to tell when it was Sunday because that was the day when we would see an unusual amount of motorcycles passing by with two men, the one at the back proudly holding a rooster. Also, in every village, at the front of each house, we would see both men and kids playing around with the roosters, holding them against their chests, as if that day, would be the day that they would make them a small fortune. They spend weeks, even months training their roosters for the fights. The cockfights are a very important event in the country, it moves millions of pesos every month. Big brands have huge ads by the roads promoting supposedly especial supplements with proteins and vitamins to make your rooster stronger and there are rooster breeding grounds everywhere.
There are cockfight arenas of all sizes everywhere, from the biggest cities where there are several to the smallest barangays. They consist of a square shape enclosed space, concrete bleachers on four sides and the ring made of pressed soil in the middle. The atmosphere is one of total excitement, hustle and bustle all over, men going back and forth, roosters crowing all the time. Right outside the arena, around the perimeter lies the preparation area. In one place, several men, usually in teams of two, get together, each with his own rooster. They meet there to find possible opponents for their own rooster, they contrast them and basically decide who's fighting who.
Once they agree on a fight they move to another place where each team starts preparing his beast for the battle.
While one of the team holds the rooster, the other one fits the weapon. A very sharp, 10 to 15cm long knife is tightly tied to the leg's spur.
Once fully armed, they proceed to the ring where bets start going. The hysteria, the excitement, the yelling is simply deafening.
In the meanwhile, each team starts with the warming up of the rooster. Each one has two roosters, one is the fighter while the other one serves as a provocateur, they use him to irritate the fighter, to annoy it, to get on its nerves to make it aggressive and get him ready to kill. They don't let these two fight, they just use one to work up the other one.
After a while, bets are off and the warm up is over.
Each one to its own corner
They release them very close to one another. Initially, the roosters look suspiciously at each other but they seem reluctant and apathetic. At that point, the arena goes completely silent.
And all of a sudden, they slowly start to crow, subtly at first but slowly increasing the pitch, their feathers bristle and their necks stretch and show naked. The first brutal blow comes and the arena burst into full swing.
If one survives the first blow, the counter-attack will eventually come.
People go mad, shouting, yelling. The fight quickly becomes a bloodbath.
Sometimes, in the longer cockfights ( between 20 and 30 seconds long) the roosters become exhausted but they are still alive. They are badly bleeding, they don't want to keep going but the referee will pick them up, put them face to face again and throws them to the ground so one finally kills the other.
In the end, the weakest finally gives up and passes away. Its rests will find a place in the cooking pot for the evening meal, but their masters show themselves truly devastated. The winner takes the money home with him. If his rooster has no severe wounds, it will be able to keep fighting. So in the end, some will go home happily and some won't but ultimately it's all about betting and gambling.
At the ring, the feathers are swept away to clean up the place for the next fight.
These events go on for the whole afternoon. The cockfights are so bloody that they never reach a minute in length. The average cockfight lasts around 7 seconds, the most brutal will luckily reach 20 or 30 seconds.
Sometimes it is hard for me to match the image of the people who, on the one hand are so kind and wonderful and show so much care for oneself, but on the other entertain themselves and profit from the worst kind of animal cruelty. Dualities and contradictions of us human beings, we all have them in different degrees. I just wish one day we would become truly human and stop fucking around with the lives of poor innocent animals who aren't responsible of our perversions.