Malilong: Cockfighting

Frank Malilong
·3 min read

TWO weeks ago, the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases (IATF) announced that they were lifting the ban on cockfighting in places that are under Modified General Community Quarantine provided that the mayors agree to the reopening of the cockpits in their respective jurisdictions.

Anticipating a resurgence of illegal cockfighting from those who could not wait for the issuance of the IATF guidelines and the mayor’s permit, the Philippine National Police ordered a crackdown against all forms of illegal gambling, especially cockfighting. Ten days later, a young police officer was dead, slashed in the leg by a fighting cock’s razor-sharp blade during a raid on a tigbakay joint.

Cockfighting is taboo in most parts of the globe and the death of Lt. Christian Bolok, the police chief of a remote town in Northern Samar was seen as another argument for absolutely banning the activity. News outlets like the CNN, BBC, Associated Press and the Agence France Presse did not just see a human interest story but a tool for an advocacy. Even the US celebrity gossip website TMZ.com, ran a story on the deadly raid, with an expected slant. “Cockfighting raid turns deadly,” its headline said, “rooster attacks and kills police officer.”

In fact, there was no such attack. The gaff hit the victim on the leg as he was confiscating the bird, the CNN reported, quoting police sources. He died from hemorrhage because the blade hit his femoral artery. “I have a heavy heart as we lost a brother who sacrificed his own life in the name of service,” his superior, Northern Samar Provincial Police Director Arnel Apud, moaned.

Bolok was not the first person to die from a cock’s blade inside the arena. And he is not going to be the last. The country’s favorite sport, after basketball, is a dangerous one but that has not diminished its allure to a large segment of the country’s population. In fact, the IATF allowed the resumption of cockfighting upon the request of a Cebuano party-list congressman who is also a known bigtime cockfight aficionado.

Cockfighting is also big business. An Australian travel blog even claimed that cockfighting in the Philippines is a billion dollar industry. The author was most probably exaggerating but the money exchanged in cockpits especially during derbies is definitely not peanuts either. Thus, after having been driven out of business by the pandemic for eight months, cockpit operators must be drooling over the thought of finally being able to recoup their losses.

That will happen soon with the IATF greenlighting their return to business. Here in Cebu City, for example, I just read that the City Game Fowl Commission headed by Councilor Raymond Garcia has already come up with guidelines that operators must comply with or enforce once they resume operations. The rules are intended to prevent cockfights from becoming Covid-19 super-spreaders.

I am sure the operators will say yes, they will comply with the regulations. I have serious doubts though, given the nature of the cockfight and the other activities in the cockpit, that they will be able to keep every promise they made.

The wearing of masks by every person in the cockpit is easy to enforce. Physical distancing will not be a problem; neither will the provision of soap, alcohol and other disinfectants and the installation of posters on how to prevent the spread of the virus.

But no shouting of bets and betting only in tickets, not cash? Come on. The buwangan is not a buwangan without a masyador. And once the two bladed cocks square off in the ring, it is impossible to suppress a scream. If we do not trust the mask to prevent possibly coronavirus-carrying droplets from streaming out of a bettor’s mouth, we should just tape his mouth.

Let’s do away with unrealistic restrictions. Let us instead continue to educate the people that they would be safer if they stayed in their homes instead of going to the cockpit. The operators will not be happy but who says they can have everything during a pandemic?