This was the scene I saw in the cockfight arena I went to in the Philippines. I was there in March 2013 for my grandpa’s funeral. Before the funeral, my dad had asked me what I had wanted to do in the remaining time we had there. My brain pondered the question. It took me a few minutes, but I finally knew what I wanted to do–watch a cockfight.
My dad said he’d ask my uncle. My uncle said he’d take us to one the day after the funeral. I wondered what a cockfight would be like. I imagined a rural area with a pit, or a poor community in the city where the chickens would duel each other freely. What I got was quite different from what I had expected.
I woke up Saturday morning. I ate breakfast, took a shower and got dressed. My uncle drove us in his van to the cockfighting arena, which was a tall, white building with a banner that read, “Texas Cockfight Arena.” The parking lot was littered with motorcycles, vans and run-down cars. I saw that there were two entrances, VIP and normal. I wondered if the VIP entrance was any different from the normal one, but I was wrong; they were the same. On a wall was a poster with pictures of cheaters, who weren’t allowed back into the arena. They cheated by rigging the fights, not paying and other means. In the area outside of the cockpit itself, there was a food stall and a place where the cockfighters could prepare their roosters. I then walked into the arena.
It was a crowded, smoke-filled hall with a hexagon-shaped pit in the middle, which pit was lined with glass to prevent the roosters from getting out. The chickens had blades tied to their talons. This was so the chickens could kill each other easier. Their owners then pushed them toward each other. Roosters are aggressive and territorial, so doing this causes them to attack each other. (Sometimes this didn’t work; I saw one fight where the gamecocks refused to fight each other.) The chickens dueled until one was killed, ran away, or was too injured to fight. The one left standing was declared the winner.
Before the roosters fought, a man called a kristo took bets. The patrons in the arena chanted in an explosive roar across the room. The kristo kept tabs of all the bets by memory, which I thought was a hard task. After the duel, patrons threw their money to the person they lost to, or got money thrown at them. This was a strange sight, because money was flying everywhere. I thought it was intriguing.
Watching the fights was an interesting experience for me. As I watched the cocks fight, I was intrigued by how their owners yelled at them to fight harder, somehow hoping that their words would pay off. I watched as the chickens stabbed and lunged at each other with their talons, until one fell down or ran away. Seeing this did not make me feel disgusted, or sick, but left me intrigued and hoping for one of the gamecocks to get the better of the other.
I watched about five fights before I got tired of the smoke and pollution inside the arena. I have to say that cockfighting is a sport I would like to see again except in different conditions.
Paolo Pimentel is an incoming freshman at Castro Valley High School in the Bay Area. He’s ridden a carabao in Bulacan, faced off with tigers at Subic’s Zoobic Park and checked out Manila’s gigantic malls. He loves baseball and has shot bulls-eyes with a compound bow.