Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Friday Night Cockfights in Ronda.

The Ronda Cockfights

One Friday while in Barili we went to the Ronda cockfights.

My nephew Don-Don (who is preparing to take the Philippino bar exam) was slated to fight three birds. I have always wanted to see this and finally got my chance.

We loaded up and arrived roughly at 3:00pm on Friday and the fights were already going on. My other nephew Augustine (not the same as Augustus) was experienced in these matters as his father was fond of cockfighting in his younger days. So he hung next to me and clued me in on what was going on.

The Process

The birds were weighed in, their blades chosen and affixed to their legs (one blade per bird), and the blades sheathed. The bird owners then assembled their bets and presented them to the house. The bird with the larger bet was tagged mayroon (has) and the lesser bet was tagged wala (without). The funny thing was mayroon and wala are Tagalog words and the crowd here spoke Bisayan so when the crowd would bet they would use the Bisayan equivalent to designate their bets. There were guys scattered through the crowd who would write the contracts and those who would purchase. The writers would yell the contract out and find the buyers. As time went on the contracts would change in order to attract the bets, no writing just yelling at and over each other, it was amazing everyone could keep things straight.

While this was going on the bird owners would be in the pit with their bird and perhaps another rooster. They would then put the other rooster into the face of the fighting bird to get the fighter into a fighting mood. I am not certain how much help it was as most of the birds after being released to the fight would just peck around for corn and grit until one bird or the other noticed its opponent.

The judge would then remove the sheaths from the roosters, the owners would meet up in the middle and let each bird see the other and step back and release their bird. Only one or two birds remembered the other bird and went straight to the fight. Most often the birds would peck and scratch for food and grit. Usually in under a minute one bird or the other (or both simultaneously) would notice each other and go at it.

A Flurry of Feathers

As you can see from the photo when they went at it, it was a flurry of feathers. One bird would attempt to jump over the other and as it came down would kick at its opponent. Usually after about one minute of this one bird would be on its way to the stewpot (these birds have tough stringy meat, they make great stew or soup). The judge would pick up both birds and if they both pecked at each other the fight continued. Eventually one bird would be dead and the other in some state between death and life. Most often a winner would be declared but in two instances (at least, and one of them involved Don-Don's first fight) the judge would declare a tie.

Don-Don's first bird was about to win when the opponent's bird gave a kick that buried its blade into the head of Don-Don's bird and both birds died about at the same time. The judge declared a tie and we got our bets back (I put down 500 pesos about $10). The second fight was a clear loss for Don-Don and the third fight was a clear win. I doubled my bet on the second fight (1000 pesos about $20) and lost that, and the third fight I won P1,0000 minus 10% grease so I ended up losing P100 ($2.00) on the night, plus the money I was out on beer.

The Wisdom of the Crowd

One thing I noted that amazed me. Being a complete neophyte to the sport I had no idea on how to pick out a winner from a loser. I paid particular attention to the betting when Don-Don's birds were fighting. The first fight, Augustine told me the betting was split evenly on Don-Don's bird and the opponent. Well, that was a tie, the crowd was correct. The second fight, the betting was mostly on the opponent's bird and Don-Don's bird lost, the crowd was correct again. The third fight, the crowd bet most heavily on Don-Don's bird and again the crowd was correct, Don-Don's bird won. In fact, Augustine bet most heavily on the second bird (the clear loser) but only did so because he thought it was the third bird that was going to fight second, that is he picked out Don-Don's winner as a winner. But of course, he spent his childhood caring for his Father's fighting birds so he had the knowledge and experience to know what a winning bird looked like.