Cock Fight

I spent much of my time in the Philippines working on a photo story about cock fighting. It is a huge part of the culture… almost like baseball or basketball here. The way that the owner’s of the manok (rooster) raised the animals with such care and love and then threw them out in a ring to die was a really interesting dichotomy. Many of the owners explained that they often go hungry so that they can feed the manok.

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Major competitors always live in very rural areas where it is quiet. They think that peace and quiet for the manok during their upbringing is crucial in raising a winning cock.

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There are markets where you can go by manok either for fighting or eating.

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Some owners have huge farms with hundreds of manok while other just have a few in their yard tied to sticks.

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The roosters are trained for months before they get into a ring to fight.

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When practicing they are given some kind of small gloves or pads over their spurs.

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Vitamins are injected just beside their heart once a week. This is always done at night because the medicine makes the manok hotter.

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When the day of the fight comes, the first step is to find matches. Big circles are made outside of the ring and competitors make rounds eying up other roosters trying to find a good match. Once a few challenges are made and excepted, they get ready to fight.

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For the fight, a sharp metal blade is tied onto the spur. This is actually much more human the Muslim Filipino version of cock fighting which does not involve a blade. The fights go on for hours and carry to the next day in some cases.

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The most exciting part of the fight night is the betting. The whole arena comes to life. The spectators resemble howler monkeys as they try to find a bet. The idea is to find someone who wants to bet the same amount of money as you on the opposite manok.

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Different hand signals indicate the amount of money you are trying to bet. Whatever number of fingers you have held up if you point them up it means x10, sideways means x100 and down means x1000. This is one of the ways to find someone in a crowd that’s betting the same amount as you. It gets confusing though because a lot of people just wave their hands frantically.

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Along with the hand signal the better yells either the amount of money they want to bet or the rooster they want to bet on. At the beginning the judge decides which rooster is “Inilog” and which is “Biya” Inilog is the favorite and gets higher odds.

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The betting only lasts about two minutes so it is very frantic.

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In the start of each fight the manok get free pecks at each other to get them riled up.

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The fights last anywhere from 10 seconds to 5 minutes.

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The losers are sold to be eaten.

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After all of the matches that were arranged outside are through (usually just two or three) the dust settles and the crowd moves back outside to watch another round of match making.

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At each Cock Pit (arena) there is a doctor on duty to care for the winner. The wounds are cleaned and they are sewn back up so they can fight another day.

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An ex-pro boxer and cock fight enthusiast borrows money to karaoke sappy love songs at a bar after losing all of his money (800 pisos) at the cock pit earlier that afternoon.

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During fiesta, a different bread of cock fight emerges. This is called “Tari-Tari” These fights are held outside of the cock pit and are illegal. Cockfighting is legal in the Philippines, but only when it’s done inside a cockpit.

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These sometimes take place on the sidewalk or in a back yard, and sometimes they are in small fenced in arenas such as this.

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The events of the rest of the night after the cock pit are very much determined by if it was a winning night or a losing night. This is Opow, he is the better and best friend of Al Romanillos (a small time, but passionate competitor). A few nights before this he won all of the bets that he made and the whole family and all of their friends partied all night until the money was gone. Many of the guys were still drunk and stumbling through the streets at noon the next day. On this night however, he lost every bet, including one on Al’s manok. They planned on fighting two roosters, but took the pattern of bad luck as an omen to quit. The ride home was quiet as was the rest of the night.

The last two weeks of Vietnam were as great as the first two. It the perfect vacation within our vacation.


During a stroll through one of the back roads in Dalat, this man saw us walking and yelled for us to come down and take a shot of rice wine with him.


Kristen and I spent the better part of a day trying to find “Chicken Village” which was something that looked cool in our guide book, but it proved to be very elusive. Turns out Bryan tried to find it when he was in Dalat a few years ago and couldn’t track it down either. We found this community of rice farmers instead.


This process is called ‘rice threshing’. The machine removes the grain from the stalks and the shells from the grains.


Bryan and I have been arguing for a long time about which of these two photos is better. I like the one above and he likes this one. For the blog… you get both.


Those are the bags of rice behind her ready to go.


Another farm right down the street.


All of the graveyards were at hilltops and made for good treks on the moto.


At one of the Buddhist pagodas this guy showed us around a bit and creeped Kristen out.


We hung out with this farmer and his wife for a while. There was no verbal communication (language barrier) but it was a cool interaction none the less.


Tilling on terraces is fucking sketchy!


He explained that one time before while he was trying to get the tiller over this little bridge it toppled off and fell down the hill.


When he was tilling near the edge of this hillside he would swing it around and let his weight go completely off the side of the cliff using the weight of the tiller to keep him up. It was about a fifty food drop off under him.


After we left Vietnam we spent two more weeks in the Philippines working on a story that we will be going back to finish. Then back to the States for fresh crisp air and hot showers.

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