The Heritage Town

Sabong (Cockfight)

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The Sabong is a “national pastime” where two gamecocks are selected and paired (ulutan) to viciously dual until one dies. It is similar to boxing, where people make bets on their favored opponent. In this case, the opponents are roosters highly trained to kill. This fierce and bloody entertaining battle takes place in a loud cockpit filled with the din of adrenaline pumped townsmen from rich to poor. Most fanatically save money just for the event and revel in gambling in the intense frenzied entertainment. Every parry move and slash from the cock’s blade (tari) evokes loud reactions from the crowd. The tari is a blade that is tied to one leg of the cock to slash their opponent. The experience is like an arena during the gladiator days but on a miniature scale and with dangerously aggressive cocks fighting in a flurry of beating feathers as the center of attention.

On the outside of the cockpit is a busy scene of the game of cocks being carefully paired, taris being meticulously tied to their legs, bloody cocks being treated and sewn up by specialized doctors, and an area where dead roosters are prepared for the winners to take home. In the end the winners not only claim their pot and prizes, they also claim the losing cocks (sambot) which are destined to be a celebratory dish.

In the cockpit (ruweda), the owners and cocks are assigned to two sides. Meron is the side for the larger pot money bet or favored game cock (llamado), while Wala is the side of the long shot. The cocks walk around for a short time so the betting spectators can make observations on the cock’s stance, movement, and bravado. The casador announces the opposing bets. If he needs to equalize the bets, he yells, “Larga na!” Spectator betting begins as the betting managers (kristos) take bets. He makes all kinds of hand gestures in wild loud gusto of numbers and odds as he collects money for the pot. During this time, the cocks peck at each others heads to arouse aggression and competition.

If a person has the stomach to venture into this sport, they might as well experience the wild whirling event at a rural cockpit. As oppose to the conservative urban-suburban venues catered for the rich, rural cockpits like the ones in Taal, give the raw experience of the traditional “Filipino pastime” described above.

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