Thursday, April 9, 2009
Sabong : A Sport and Industry Filipinos Can Be Proud Of
by Rolando S. Luzong
Even before the Spaniards landed in our shores, our forefathers were already fighting roosters. According to Magellan’s chronicler Pigafetta when they landed in the island of Palawan, “We found the natives fighting huge, but very tamed roosters”
In a case study by American Scott Guggenheim, who stayed in Cagayan Valley for almost two years, it was mentioned that the Filipino’s fondness for cockfighting was employed by the Spaniards to make governing of the natives easier. People were living so far apart from each other, so the rulers built cockpits and the natives transferred around these establishments.”
It was also thru cockfighting that the first acts of taxation were implemented. History tells us that the first semblance of upheaval by the Filipinos was when the Spanish government raised the fees and taxes on cockfighting.
Though it may be true that cockfighting was employed against us, we did turned the tables on the Spaniards in the same manner, due to the fact that the cockpits became the ideal recruitment grounds for the prospective members of the Katipunan that paved the way for us to win back our freedom.
In the chapter “The Cockpit” of Jose Rizal’s Noli Me Tangere, this conversation between Lucas and brothers Bruno & Tarsilo can be read :
“I’ve already told you. If you will undertake to get others for the purpose of making a surprise attack on the barracks, I’ll give each of you thirty pesos and ten pesos for each companion you bring. If all goes well, each one will receive a hundred pesos and you double that amount. Don Crisostomo is rich.” Lucas said.
“Accepted!” exclaimed Bruno. “Let’s have the money.”
“I knew you were brave, as your father was! Come, so that those fellows who killed him may not overhear us,” said Lucas, indicating the civil-guards
When the Americans came, they implemented things to make the Filipinos turn their backs from and forget cockfighting, but they failed. Under the American regime, textbooks were printed in the hope of putting the Sport in a bad light, thus the phrase that “if a cocker’s house catches fire, he will save his rooster first, then his wife”, was spread.
The Americans also introduced baseball to the hilt, hoping the youth would adopt the said sport and completely veer away from cockfighting, but to no avail. Cockfighting continuously became popular.
In 1974, two years after Ferdinand Marcos declared Martial Law, he signed Presidential Decree 449 or what is known as the Cockfighting Law of 1974.
SABONG IN THE ‘80s
In 1981 the Philippine Gamefowl Commission was created by virtue of Presidential Decree 1802.
The ‘80s was the decade when Philippine cockfighting saw a strong resurgence. The success of what were considered as truly Filipino breeds such as the Lemon 84, the Mitra Blues and the Zamboanga Whites gave new colors and a fountain of hope to the Sport.
It was also during this time that a number of cocking stars rose to fame.
New cockpits were built while existing ones were refurbished and improved such as San Juan Coliseum, Cavite Coliseum and Roligon Mega Cockpit that presented record-breaking events that brightly augmented the glitter of Araneta Coliseum’s revered contribution to Philippine cockfighting, the World Slasher Cup.
SABONG IN THE ‘90s
The passing into law of the Omnibus Local Government Code of 1991 that ordered the devolution of the Philippine Gamefowl Commission and gave the local government units blanket authority and power over cockfighting, paved the way in the easing up of restrictions on cockfighting that blew open doors for the long overdue expansion of the Sport.
More cockpits were established. More derbies were held.
It was also during this period that several periodicals on cockfighting were put in circulation such as Pinoy Sabungero Magasin; Sabong Magasin; Birds & Steel and Philippine Cockfights Newsmag. Tukaan, the first tele-magazine program on cockfighting and gamefowl breeding went on air in 1999.
It was in the ‘90s when specialty feeds, vitamins and medicine for the gamefowls were produced by such companies as Thunderbird with its “winning formula”.
The huge increase in the number of cockpits resulted in stiff competition to the benefit of the cockfighters. Rich and attractive derby promotions were staged outdoing each other in the amount of prizes and gimmicks. They offered large guaranteed prizes with easily affordable entry fees like the Hatawan sa Tag-ulan and Largahan of Roligon. This paved the way for mass-based cockers to try derby fighting for the first time.
2000 TO THE PRESENT
It can not be denied that at the onset of the new millenium, one of the biggest things that ever happened to Philippine cockfighting, particularly in the field of gamefowl breeding, came to a reality. It was the creation of the National Federation of Gamefowl Breeders that bound the already existing breeders’ associations under one umbrella and also provided the inspiration for gamefowl breeders in every region and provinces to put up their respective associations.
NFGB’s Annual Bakbakan National Stag Derby was the shot in the arm that introduced the much-needed adrenalin to the veins of Philippine cockfighting that empowered and livened up the Sport and the gamefowl industry as well. Started in 2000, participants to Bakbakan continue to increase each year reaching 1,274 in 2006 and 1,463 entries in 2007.
The next big development was the easing up on the importation of fightingcocks and breeding stocks from America. While before that time, only participants in an international derby can bring gamebirds into the country, the Bureau of Animal Industry, to the delight of the local rooster-raisers allowed anyone to import, as long as his farm is registered with the said agency.
For the first time the fighting chances of the “haves” (meron) and the “have-nots” (wala) are leveled.
Nowadays, Philippine cockfighting is at an all time high.
There are now two federations after the United Gamecock Breeders Association was formed by groups that decided to break away from the NFGB.
Today, NFGB is stronger with about 30 member breeders’ associations boosted by the formations of new provincial and regional groups. Their recently concluded 2008 Bakbakan National 10-Stag Derby gave the richest prize purse ever of P20 million that attracted more than 2,200 entries – both unprecedented in world cocking history.
More and more cockpits now operate on a daily basis like the Las Piñas Coliseum and Kaybiga Cockpit in Kalookan City.
Before, it was only the World Slasher Cup, but today there are five to six international derbies being held each year. However, the Slashers which is held twice a year at the historic Araneta Coliseum for more than 30 years now is undoubtedly the most prestigious and regarded internationally as the “Olympics of Cockfighting” joined by the best cockfighters from here and abroad bringing along their finest winged-warriors. Legends like Duke Hulsey, Joe Goode, Billy Ruble, Jimmy East, Dee Cox, Ray Alexander, Carol Nesmith and Johnny Jumper have graced the Slasher which is Jorge “Nene” Araneta’s flaming commitment to Philippine cockfighting.
For the first time, World Slasher Cup’s 3-day format had to be spread as a five-day event with the number of participants finally breaking the 200-mark.
The healthy competition and interaction between local and visiting cockfighters has contributed so much to the high pedigree of “warbirds” that we have in the Philippines today.
Moreover, this bi-annual cockfighting spectacle, through the years, have also become the homecoming occasion for thousands of Pinoy sabungero working abroad or have acquired foreign citizenship, but have remained Filipinos in their passion for sabong.
Philippine cockfighting is alive and kicking and tens, if not hundreds of thousands of families now owe their livelihood to cockfighting and the gamefowl industry.
There are those who are directly employed : the gamefowl breeders; handlers; gaffers; cockpit owners (there are more than 2,000 cockpits nationwide); cockpit operators; derby promoters; cockpit workers; poultry supply store owners and their employees; bet-takers; vendors inside and outside the cockpits; feed millers and gamefowl vetmed producers; manufacturers of cords, knives, boxes, folding pens, gloves, carrying cases, feeding cups, scabbards, pens and a host of paraphernalia used in fighting, breeding and raising gamebirds. There are minions of them.
Thousands more are benefited by way of employment in allied industries that provides products and services to cockfighting and gamefowl breeding such as those that work in gamefowl feeds and vetmed companies; in restaurants and other establishments around the cockpits; in the airlines that carry hundreds of gamebirds back and forth across the islands; in the respective local government units like Bacolod City that earns so much from fees and taxes out of rooster sales and shipments.
There are no less than half-a-million breadwinners directly owing their livelihood from cockfighting and gamefowl breeding with just as much indirectly earning or benefited.
Today, the sport of cockfighting and the gamefowl breeding industry is estimated to be at P50 billion.