If you come to the Philippines and want to see an exhilarating Filipino game, this is the one for you. The highlights of a cockfight are two cocks fighting each other without any intervention except for bets. Cockfighting is a national pastime because it’s an affordable sport that can be enjoyed by the masses. Sabong gives you a unique and thrilling satisfaction of a Filipino national pastime. There’s no pastime in the Philippines that is as popular and as old as sabong (cockfighting). Before the Spaniards came, it was already around and well loved by Filipinos, mostly men and young boys. In all Philippine cities, Philippine provinces, towns, and practically every barangay (42,000 all), cockfighting derbies and hack fights rule. It has grown to a P50-Billion industry involving an estimated 10 million stakeholders. This pastime is a hobby, a sporting event, and a gambling instance all rolled into one.
Kinds of Sabong
Basically, the game has 2 kinds… gaffed and ungaffed. The Filipino cockfighting gaff is called ‘tari’, a very sharp knife usually measuring two inches.
The Ungaffed Type
In this type of cockfighting, gaff is not used. Many Filipino men and boys love to watch it. I’m one also. A multiple-cock option is a rare event that cockers employ for the fun of it. It’s called ‘karambola’ and it’s very exciting. In a no-bet show, the cocks scuffle for as long as the cockers allow, or when one cock runs away. Ungaffed is also a way for cockers to test the mettle of their cocks. A runner goes quick to the kitchen to the delight of the cocker’s wife and their children.
On the other hand, the fast, strong and brave cock becomes the cocker’s pet for further rearing. Some times, the wife is irked when her cocker-husband gives more attention to the cock than her. Some wives, though, prefer their cocker-husbands fondling their cocks rather than the other woman.
Ungaffed betting was common in Mindanao in the 60’s and earlier. In Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi provinces in Southern Philippines, the ‘sabongeros’ (cockfight aficionados) call it ‘parawakan’. Some Filipino Muslim cockers have ‘parawakan’ cocks they source from Indonesia or Malaysia. I have seen several ‘parawakan’ matches in Southern Philippines when I was stationed there as a Marine during the 70’s. I would say the ‘parawakan’ cocks thereat are really durable, making matches longer.
Gaffs are the single biggest difference between the true fighting game fowl and the favorite sparring game fowl. This type employs a gaff called ‘tari’ usually hitched on the left leg of the fighting cock. On very rare occasions, right gaffing is used with the explicit acceptance of the contending cockers. The gaffed type is so popular nation-wide. On Sundays, all cockpits throughout the country are exhibiting the sports.
Unwritten Protocol Among A Special Class Of Men
Sabongeros are a rare breed of Filipino men. In the real sense of the word, they don’t cheat in the game and don’t cheat on their wives. They believe in fidelism, believing that happiness can only be found by being loyal to those you love: your wife and your family. They’re afraid of ‘malas’ (bad luck), which they believe comes with cheating… I submit too. I would venture to say that Sabongeros ‘are the most honorable people in the Philippines’. They have a time-honored tradition and culture of honesty and dignity. It is their character that has accentuated the existence of sabong in Philippines history for thousands of years.
In the cockpit, or even in the streets or backyards, the actors of the game pay respect to each other. A losing bettor never fails to pay. The losing cocker, gaffer, handler, or bet barker never complains. The bet barkers called ‘kristo or masiador’ are a class of their own. A ‘kristo’ can memorized as much as 50 bids of bet he has closed at different amounts. It is their art for them to offer their customers with his good advice and services so that they could make profits from betting on horses. The ‘kristo’ can memorize where the bettors are sitting or standing. Years of practice gained him that exceptional range of mental retention. When his bet loses, he asks his sponsor for the bet and goes around to hand out the money to the winners. The sponsor never fails to oblige too. On the other hand, the losing bettors, usually the unanimous ones in the great crowd, never fail their obligations too. Without moving from where they are, they just crumple peso bills (payments) and throw them into the air towards the ‘kristo’, who is also an adept catcher. That’s it.
Sabong is a special pastime enjoyed by many Filipinos. It is a hobby, a sporting event and a gambling instance all rolled into one. Forming part of the Filipino culture, its unwritten rule of integrity and honesty makes it distinct from other games individual players may be used to. Therefore, if you intend on setting foot in the Philippines it will be there to entertain you, should you bother to watch.
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