Thursday, May 1, 2014

Cockfighting Tour: A Visit at the La Loma Cockpit

Wazzup Pilipinas!

My grandfather was a "sabungero" or "mananabong" (cockfighter). I remember him visiting our home so early in the morning to bring us some "puto" (rice cakes) from the "palengke" (public market) before proceeding to the cockpit which was just one ride away from our home. His routine would be to pass first by the public market near their home (one city away) to buy those rice cakes for us, then head on over to our home to drop off the treats. I was still in grade school but I remember him vividly well because my parents would always wake us up when he arrives. He will not join us for breakfast and will only have coffee before he leaves for the cockpit. I can still remember the rooster or cock which he carries around inside a box filled with holes and has a handle for convenience in carrying.

I was still too young to realize he was into cockfighting. During those days I thought it was just one of his pets. We had our own share of pets during my younger years. We had rabbits, ducks, dogs, turtles, chickens, and lots of birds of different kinds that made our home look like a mini-zoo. It never occurred to me that you can train animals to fight each other. All I've personally seen close to it during those days was spider fighting among my friends. My playmates would capture and force spiders to fight atop a stick. We would hunt for spiders at nearby areas where lots of trees used to exist, and put them inside matchbox cages. There was indeed a lot of thrill and excitement to see those little creatures fight each other. I can imagine right now what it feels like when cockfighters do the same with their cocks. 

Cockfighting is a blood sport in which two cocks bred for aggressiveness are encouraged to fight to the death. It happens in many neighborhoods especially in the provinces around the country. It is however considered illegal and a felony in many other countries. The chickens are pumped up with stimulants and have sharp razor blades or ice-pick-like gaffes affixed to their legs. They hack each other to death at the cockpit ring to the amazement of the spectators. Punctured bodies, gouged eyes, and other grievous wounds are part-and-parcel of cockfighting. It is a way of gambling in the Philippines but it is also seen as a national sport where both the rich and poor gather and witness some kind of extreme confrontation between fighting birds.

From our meeting point at 7-11 Blumentrit near the LRT Station, we took a jeepney ride to arrive at the La Loma Cockpit
Smokey Tours took us on a unique adventure that some would say is a visit to the other side of Manila, or the other side of It's More Fun in the Philippines. The Cockfighting Tour is just one of their four tours that showcases the other spectacles that gives more reasons why it's a lot more interesting to visit our country. Instead of taking you to the traditional tourist sites of beaches, forests, and mountains, this tour organization takes you deep within the Metro to intimately meet the people at their natural place of living, work or pleasure.

Our tour guide Nympha Flores took us to the La Loma Cockpit, one of the oldest running cockpits in the Philippines. The entrance is Php 200 per person but that only gives you access to the upper portion of the cockpit arena. If you want to sit at the area near the ring you'll have to pay an extra Php 100.

Our tour guide Nympha  took Kiki and I to witness cockfighting at the La Loma Cockpit
You'll also notice that there were a lot of motorbikes parked around the area. Filipinos consider motorbikes as the most affordable and convenient means of personal travel aside from commuting in our public transportation
The La Loma Cockpit is one of the oldest cockpit in the Philippines
Air-conditioned rooms for chickens
Our first stop was at an area where a few small rooms (some air-conditioned) are available  where cock owners can hold the cocks before it goes into a fight. Our guide said that some cocks are "sosyal" and prefer air-conditioned rooms, while others are used to the hot climate and can make use of the ordinary rooms.

Ordinary rooms for chickens
Nympha was telling us that even the owners will sleep inside the air-conditioned with their cocks

There were cocks everywhere
There were a few cocks that you can see tied almost everywhere at some portions of the cockpit. The owners probably leave them there while they watch  the cockfights. Our tour guide jokingly told a story that these cock owners love their cocks so much that they put more attention and care to their cocks rather than their wives.

These chickens were trained to be aggressive against other chickens
They may be tough inside the ring but gentle up close
Many of the businessmen with farms raise chickens as livestock to provide for the huge demand for chicken meat in many fastfood chains and restaurants, while some breed for cockfighting bloodlines - the more expensive hobby of cockfighters. Ordinary households in the provinces, and even in the metro including the slum areas, raise a few chickens at their backyards or even just in front of their houses.

This is probably why it is not a big issue to have these cocks fight to their death since they are a common meal for everyone.  However, there are groups and organizations that are against cockfighting because of the obvious brutality the chickens undergo, and the eventual death of many in just a span of minutes. The government of the Philippines is lenient probably because the cockpits also pay huge taxes for being a multi-million peso business.

Some cock owners hanging out at the weighing area
A cock is being weighed by a man just like how it is with human fights
We then were taken to the weighing area where they weigh the cocks, just like before a boxing or MMA match.

Gaffers work on the cocks to equip them with razor sharp knives
These little blades are deadly to the cocks
Kiki and Nympha interview a gaffer named "Carding"
Gaffers are available to equip the cocks with the knives or razor sharp blades available for Php 1,000 each.

Our tour guide tries her best to teach us about the system but I was too confused

There was also a portion where they had color-coded tags that are assigned to the cocks depending on the purse money. The money involved here can go to as low as Php3,300 for regular, hp 11,000 to Php 33,000 for super or Php 33,000 and up for express.

Mini-ring with glass walls where cock owners can sample a fight

The La Loma Cockpit also has a smaller ring where cock owners can do a pre-match between their cocks.

Entrance to the lower portion of the cockpit ringside
Before the fights starts, betters and betkeepers will do all sorts of shouting and hand movements to encourage the people around to bet on a fight. Those who call for bets are normally the “Kristos” in the cockpit.  But there are also those who call for their own and looking for someone to take on his choice of bet. If a cock wins, the owner earns money, just as the persons who visit the fights and put their money on the winning cock.

They say its always busy here especially during weekends

You can see the "Meron" and "Wala" cube signs on the upper part of the ring. The fighting cocks are given their place on top of the ring before the actual fight.  One is assigned to the “Meron” side and the other is assigned to the “Wala” side.  Cocks that are assigned to the “Meron” side are called “Llamado” because the owner of this cock has a bigger purse bet than the one in the “Wala” side called "Dehado".

Cockfights are usually held in round or square enclosures called “cockpits,” or simply, “pits.” What we saw at the La Loma Cockpit was an almost square ring. With neck feathers fanned and wings whirring, the birds jump and parry at each other. They kick and duel in mid-air, striking at each other with feet and beak.

How I wish we were a lot closer but I guess the budget of the tour was not enough for the ringside view
Kiki takes a photo with her smartphone
Meron for the Llamdo
Wala for the Dehado
We witnessed a few more matches because a fight will last for only a few minutes
I couldn't really understand the hand signals and what they were shouting because of the noise
But I guess these people are already seasoned betkeepers
One of the patrons even posed with us with his money

If the fighting wanes, handlers pick up the birds and blow on their backs, yank at their beaks, or hold them beak-to-beak in an attempt to "ignite the frenzy." The birds are then re-pitted, and the fight doesn’t end until one rooster is dead or nearly dead and couldn't go on with the fight anymore.

Common cockfighting practices we hear include breeding birds for viciousness, drugging them to heighten aggression, and fitting their legs with deadly weapons. many would do almost everything just to put their cocks in top form and shape.

Cocks fight each other - Last cock standing!

Did you know that some of the cock breeders, also called "cockers" by some, pluck the birds’ feathers and hack off the roosters’ wattles (sometimes referred to as waddles) and/or combs (the fleshy caruncle at the top of their heads and hanging under their beaks) to prevent other roosters from tearing them off in the ring? Since roosters do not have sweat glands, losing these body parts deprives them of the ability to cool themselves. These “cockers” also cut off the birds’ spurs, which are the natural bony protrusions on the legs, so that the more deadly, artificial weapons can be strapped to their legs.

It may have been a gruesome fight but these people were too friendly to ignore while they treat the chickens
“Losing” birds are often discarded in a barrel or trash can near the game pit, even while they are still alive. Those cocks that could still be saved are treated at an area called "Gamutan" where you can pay Php 300 to have your cock's wounds treated which includes sewing up their punctured and sliced skin. There is no assurance the cocks will survive after the treatment but it's better than being instantly dead.

Only Php 300 to cure your cocks
A chicken calmly just lies there while a person works on her wounds
With only a few tools to work on curing the chickens
They cut the feet of the dead ones and the dead goes to an area outside where they boil the cocks
A man pose with the chicken feet. FYI, people of the Philippines also eat chicken feet
Outside upfront of the La Loma Cockpit is a dirty area where they boil the chicken and put them in plastic bags
This is where they boil the chicken after removing the feathers, They also say that it will also remove the chemicals potent within their bodies
The place is obviously unsanitary so you wouldn't catch me buying those dead chickens

Today there's no more place in our neighborhood to hunt for spiders since all areas are all occupied with houses. The small forest filled with plants and trees were all destroyed and a subdivision can now be found in its place. Even the riverside nearby that used to be teeming with our favorite "aratiles" trees and other vegetation have been occupied by informal settlers. The riverside lost its greens, and the river itself is brown as mud. Gone are the spiders, as well as the other colorful insects like the "tutubi" (dragonfly), "paru-paro" (butterfly), and "salagubang" and salaginto" (beetles) that we would normally always see at our backyard. Though cocks can be quite irritating for some in the morning because they wake you up at a time when you prefer to sleep for some hours more, they are still considered by some as living creatures that should be protected. I don't want to wake up one morning no longer hearing them.

Ross, Kiki and Nympha

Thank you to Nympha Flores of Smokey Tours for a very informative afternoon. It really gave me an idea of how my grandfather probably spent his days when he was still living and enjoying cockfighting. I miss him, but at least I got to relive a portion of his life. 

Thank you also to Kiki, our new-found friend from another country, who joined us in the Cockfighting Tour. I decided to use her real name because I find it very fitting for our cockpit visit. Lol!

Smokey Tours also offers other tours like the Market Tour, Bicycle Tour, and of course, the Smokey Mountain Tour (Slum Tour).

To know more about Smokey Tours, please visit their website at:

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  1. You have beaten yourself this time, and I appreciate you and hopping for some more informative posts in future. Thank you for sharing great information to us. Sabung Ayam

  2. Ask KU po ano araw Ang 2 hits ulutan at magkano pa premyo? salamat..

  3. I was also reading a topic like this one from another site..*.”‘ why not try these out

  4. I'm not sure if I'd ever see a cockfight. It's pretty cruel in my opinion. I love animals too much to watch these fights.

  5. I partly agree with you, I also think it's pretty cruel. But in general, I thought that sabong is an ancient Filipino tradition, besides that, now it's a lot of money, so it's unlikely that anyone will ban it. Plus, sabong is legal. I learned about i-Sabong here and on other sites. I still want to try betting because it's interesting and something new for me.

  6. I recently learned about cockfighting, which is a traditional fight in the Philippines, and started looking for different options and opportunities on the Internet. As a result, I found a cool betting site, which for a minimum deposit provides access to online sabong and other Philippine games where you can make good money.


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