This was one of those journeys which seemed to take forever but it did start easily enough. First off we went by Jeepney from just outside the street where our hotel was to the minibus station at Tayagytay. Then after a bit of a wait for the bus to fill up we went by minibus to get to our next change over point at a place called – possibly Lucena or Tayabas City – I forget due to being traumatised. Lastly (!) the coach from there was to take us all the way to Legazpi an arduous nine or ten hour trip. I am not really sure which part of the journey was the worst – the minibus, where a little girl who sat behind us kept feeling, and was eventually, sick – it could have been the tricycle guy at Tayabas who overcharged us to take us 350m down the road to a bus company with no buses running to Legazpi and then drove off before we had chance to confront him or the last journey which was a bit of a grueller by any standards – 9/10 hours on its own! So we reached Legazpi very late at night and absolutely knackered but when we finally got to our digs it was not only very nice but the lad who worked their did his very best to make us feel welcome which was quite nice after the day we’d had.
The long coach journey was fair enough and during it we did see plenty of the Philippines – there is an awful lot of roadworks going and people spend a lot of time in markets and eating – on but during the trip there was plenty of time for another of my mullings methinks! This time it was roosters or cockerels. These birds are almost revered in the Philippines as cock fighting is both big sport and big business as well. Men of all ages own cocks (Phnaar, Phnaar) and the top fighting birds are also used for breeding and buying and selling. In most towns they even have cock fighting pens almost like small boxing rings where spectators can watch the ‘sport’ take place. Speaking to some of the people we met in the Philippines who had connections with the sport, there is a lot of money placed in bets on the fights and for the owners there is also the possibility of winning prize money as well as great prestige, so the sport, in a poor country such as the Philippines, is a lucrative way of earning money easily.
Although I would never generalise about Filipino men there is definitely a certain element of it that given the chance of having an easy way of earning money this would definitely appeal to them. It is easy to spot the guys who are ‘in the game’ as it were, often they can be seen taking their birds for a walk. We have seen them actually walking alongside the strutting birds but more often than not they walk around holding the birds. They actually hold the birds backside pointed out and at you, not unlike a gun – cocked I suppose – and take them for a walk perhaps giving them a pep talk at the same time.
The sport as it has been described to us follows the format of two birds going up against each other and on their feet they have razor blades attached with which they can cut and maim the other bird. The birds then fight, sometimes to the death – pretty gruesome but we even tried to get into a cock fight just to find out what it was like but we did this in Banaue nearing the end of our tour of duty in the Philippines and it was only at certain times so we missed our chance really.
Is the ‘sport’ barbaric? Well yes, by sheer virtue of them ‘arming’ the cockerels the whole thing is most unnatural but most countries have something similar in one guise or another, in England it was fox hunting so when it comes to it are we any better? I think not. There will always be an element of a society which shall always be able to find an excuse in order to carry out such things be it in the name of ‘sport’ or ‘pest control’ or whatever and couple that with such people considering the animals they abuse as either having no worth or the animals themselves having no feelings then these things will always continue.
For me I would much rather some of the trainers and owners undergo the same treatment as I really do think there would be a market for it. I would pay to see scrawny Filipino men scrapping whilst holding their arms out like chickens or even roosters or even better, fat British toffs being chased by foxes on horses that would remove these ‘pests’ from the countryside … lol.