There’s no pastime in the Philippines that is
as popular and as old as sabong (cockfighting).
Before the Spaniards came, it was already around and well loved by Filipinos,
mostly men and young boys.
In all Philippine cities, Philippine
provinces, towns, and practically every barangay (42,000 all), cockfighting derbies and hack fights rule. It has
grown to a P50-Billion industry involving an estimated 10 million stakeholders.
This pastime is a hobby, a sporting event, and a
gambling instance all rolled into one.
Basically, the game has 2 kinds… gaffed and ungaffed. The Filipino cockfighting gaff is called ‘tari’, a very
sharp knife usually measuring two inches.
This type does not use gaff. It is
appealing because no cock will die. Usually, it is a contest between two
where betting is an option. Filipino men and boys love to watch it… I’m
one. A multiple-cock option is a rare event that cockers employ for
the fun of it. It’s called ‘karambola’ and it’s very exciting.
In a no-bet show, the cocks scuffle for as
long as the cockers allow, or when one cock runs away.
Ungaffed is also a way for cockers to
test the mettle of their cocks. A runner goes quick to the kitchen to the
delight of the cocker’s wife and their children.
On the other hand, the fast, strong and brave
cock becomes the cocker’s pet for further rearing. Some times, the wife is
irked when her cocker-husband gives more attention to the cock than her. Some
wives, though, prefer their cocker-husbands fondling their cocks rather than the
Ungaffed betting was common in Mindanao
in the 60’s and earlier. In Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi provinces in Southern Philippines,
(cockfight aficionados) call it ‘parawakan’. Some Filipino Muslim cockers have
‘parawakan’ cocks they source from Indonesia or Malaysia.
I have seen several ‘parawakan’ matches
in Southern Philippines when I
was stationed there as a Marine during the 70’s. I would say the ‘parawakan’
cocks thereat are really durable,
making matches longer.
This type employs a gaff called ‘tari’ usually
hitched on the left leg of the fighting cock. On very rare occasions, right gaffing is used with the explicit
acceptance of the contending cockers.
The gaffed type is so popular nation-wide. On
Sundays, all cockpits throughout the country are exhibiting the sports. In
Metro-Manila, it is held everyday. You just have to hop from one cockpit
to another across the metropolis.
Sabongeros are a rare breed of Filipino
men. In the real sense of the word, they are fidelistic, specially to
their wives. They don’t CHEAT in the game; they don’t CHEAT on their wives. They’re
afraid of ‘malas’ (bad luck), which they believe comes with cheating… I submit
I would venture to say that Sabongeros ‘are
the most honorable people in the Philippines’. They have a time-honored
tradition and culture of honesty and dignity. It is their character that has
accentuated the existence of sabong in Philippines history for thousands of
In the cockpit, or even in the streets or
backyards, the actors of the game pay respect to each other. A losing bettor
never fails to pay. The losing cocker, gaffer, handler, or bet barker never
The bet barkers called ‘kristo or masiador’
are a class of their own. A ‘kristo’ can memorized as much as 50 bids of bet he
has closed at different amounts.
The ‘kristo’ can memorize where the bettors
are sitting or standing. Years of practice gained him that exceptional range of
mental retention. When his bet loses, he asks his sponsor for the bet and goes
around to hand out the money to the winners. The sponsor never fails to oblige
On the other hand, the losing bettors, usually
the unanimous ones in the great crowd, never fail their obligations too.
Without moving from where they are, they just crumple peso bills (payments) and
throw them into the air towards the ‘kristo’, who is also an adept catcher.
Sabong is a Filipino national pastime that gives
you unique thrills in the company of
a special class of men. It is a hobby, a sporting event, and a gambling
instance all rolled into one. It has an enduring, unwritten rule of integrity and
The sports is a deep, great forming aspect of the
Filipino culture and tradition of respect to fellow men.
you have business savvy, remember, it is a P50-Billion industry that has
never retrogressed. It keeps on growing.
you intend to live in the Philippines, or just tour around, the game will be
there to entertain you, should you bother to watch.