Malatapay, Negros Oriental, Philippines
Roosters in most cockfights in the Philippines are equipped with extra razor-sharp blades strapped to their legs—an extra talon, which depending on how you look at it, either speeds or at least intensifies the match.
It’s not at all uncommon, even in urban areas, to see chickens in people’s yards. We wake to the noise of the neighborhood roosters. And in my daily wanderings in the past months, I’d noticed many roosters that were tethered by a rope and stake or kept under a wire cage in yards. Joseph pointed out these were the fighting roosters, the ropes or cages were required to keep the roosters from attacking and killing each other.
But we hadn’t been to the cockfights. And, honestly, I wasn’t really too insistent about going. Cockfighting is one Filipino activity that sort of pushes the boundaries of my cultural interests, so to speak. It’s always sounded rather gruesome to me. Just as, in the year 2015, we don't go to large public arenas to watch one lion kill another, I don't have a lot of interest in seeing one rooster kill another. And it's not even the killing itself that I find disturbing. I get that in nature animals kill other animals. I grew up on a farm and have no problem watching animals being killed and butchered for human consumption. But there's just something lurid about humans assembling to watch roosters fight until one kills the other. As a form of entertainment.
Eventually, the handlers, having kept the leg ropes on the roosters, pulled the fighters back safely into their arms. This was only practice, a cockfight scrimmage. These roosters weren’t even suited up for game day with their extra razor talons.
In Manila a couple weeks ago, we were walking in the neighborhood where Joseph grew up. We came upon what we quickly realized had been a makeshift cockfight ring. We saw two men seated, one stitching the neck or wing of a bloody rooster. “He won!” the stitcher told me, smiling proudly over his wounded warrior. The loser, Joseph pointed out, was butchered and eaten like most of chicken-dom.
It's up to you: should I witness a cockfight before I leave the Philippines? The masses will decide.