St. Peter could have tagged along with Alyansa Sabungero the day it filed for party list accreditation recently at the Commission on Elections (COMELEC)—and his presence wouldn't stop doubters from bitching. What the cock are they crowing about? Well, political pundits belittle the political organization's motive for one, declaring even that the group's just out to make a mockery of the party-list system. Foul! So says Nid Anima of the Alyansa Sabungero when he, together with ally Rolando Luzong of Bantay Sabong, sits down with fhm.com.ph recently for one old-fashioned grilling...
What is Alyansa Sabungero?
Nid Anima: Alyansa Sabungero is a party list organization that seeks to help the marginalized components of sabong—the kristo, mananari, sentenciador, the cock surgeon, the magbabalihibo ng manok the backyard game cock breeders. They earn very little, sometimes they earn nothing. The public only see the moneyed people in sabong like the Aranetas and the Cojuangcos. We're getting a lot of heat when we registered for party list accreditation. I'm very angry that some political figures have made a mockery of Alyansa Sabungero.
Why do you think Alyansa Sabungero qualifies as a party list rep?
Nid: The fact that it is fighting for the marginalized components of sabong, that's all. I don't have to be a basurero to fight for the rights of the basurero. You need to have intelligence to be able to formulate laws for the marginalized.
How long have you been planning this?
Nid: I have been waiting for someone to put up a party list for sabungeros since the introduction of the party list system in Congress. I didn't want to do it myself at first. But I told myself that if no group would establish one after the 2007 elections, I'd organize one myself in time for the next election.
And how is Bantay Sabong connected to Alyansa Sabungero?
Rolando Luzong: Nid and I have been friends for a long time. Bantay Sabong guards the sport of sabong against campaigns being done by animal rights activist here like PETA and the Humane Society. PETA is very active now. They rally everywhere. At first, we were just observiing them. But when they did a demonstration in front of the Araneta Coliseum while the World Slasher Cup in 2008 was being held, that was when we finally understood they were out to stop sabong.
What is the common agenda of these groups?
Rolando: Bantay Sabong and Alyansa Sabungero essentially fight for the same thing: Promote the continuation of sabong and protect the marginalzied sector of sabong There are easily a million breadwinners that rely on sabong and we want to protect their livelihood. In addition to the kristos, the sentenciadors, there are thousands of farm hands that rely on sabong.
What's your take on animal cruelty?
Rolando: You cannot classify cockfighting as animal cruelty because it's the roosters' instinct to fight each other. The chickens we eat have it worse. Do people know how the chickens we eat are butchered? Inaangat yan sabay-sabay, gigilitan sila, tapos habang buhay pa, ilulubog yan sa kumukulong tubig. Our roosters live like kings. They travel in air-conditioned vehicles. Game fowl feeds are even more expensive than rice. Kung hindi namin sila inaalagaan, kung anu-ano na lang ang kakainin nila. We provide them with the best. And what better way is there to die than having the chance to defend yourself?
Nid: Walang pakialam ang mga manok sa relasyon. Mag-ama o magkapatid man sila, mag-aaway yan. But the death of the rooster in sabong is clinical. It doesn't go through suffering. Left to themselves, the roosters fight because they love and enjoy fighting.
Are you really out to make a mockery of the party-list system?
Nid: There is nothing wrong about our filing for accreditation because it is a legitimate right given by the party-list law. That's a lot of bull saying that the entry of Alyansa will only bastardize the party-list system.
Aside from helping the marginalized sector of sabong, what are Alyansa Sabungero's other major goals?
Rolando: Once Alyansa gets the nod and gets into Congress, we want to pass a law that will declare sabong as a cultural heritage. This will give sabong the solid protection it needs from being abolished in the future by any other law or executive order. That's the protection we want because we don't want to end up like the American cockers who just let PETA and the Humane Society outlaw cockfighting. Ayaw namin magtulug-tulugan. In this age of information, those organizations can hasten the abolition of sabong here faster than they did in America. What they're doing now is sowing misinformation in the minds of the youth that cockers are cruel and that cockfighting is bad. What's bad is the gambling part.
But gambling is inherent to cockfighting.
Rolando: Gambling to cockfighting is just like bagoong to manggang hilaw. They go together, but we want to differentiate between a cocker and a gambler. Ang sugarol doesn't need to breed roosters to gamble. A true cocker takes care of his rooster, gives everything to make it healthy, and prepares the rooster for the fight. A cocker must not be miscontrued that he's cruel. The rooster is just an extension of the cocker. Humans are competitive. So imbis na mga tao ang nakikipaglaban, yung mga rooster ang pinapanood nilang mag-compete. Bakit sa mga Universal Fighting Championships, nagkakaduguan din, tao pa yun?
How do you propose to make society see your industry in a more positive light?
Nid: By explaining to them what sabong is all about. Right now, there's a movie about sabong called Ang Sabungero, that's coming out soon. Watch it, and you'll be educated about sabong.
Rolando: The bad perception about sabong started in the American regime. The Americans did everything to get the Filipinos away from sabong. They introduced baseball. They came up with textbooks that depict sabong in a bad way. Kaya diyan namumulat ang mga tao ngayon.Pero bakit ang mga casino, sponsored pa talaga ng government. Yan talaga gambling. Sabong is one of the biggest employers in the country, but it doesn't receive any support from the government.
Do you think Alyansa Sabungero will get accredited in the end?
Rolando: We leave it up to the Lord.
Nid: My fingers are crossed. Naturally, we're very hopeful. I'm a chronic optimist.