Sunday, September 16, 2007

Cockfighting craze hits Palau

You can easily spot the location judging on the number of cars parked near the road on Sundays. As soon as I arrived, an attendant came running and directed me to a vacant spot to squeeze in my car. I followed the direction of the shouts and cheers and came across an open cottage which was fenced and served as the fighting arena. People were oblivious to their surroundings as they concentrated on the center of the cottage.

I climbed up on a bench and stood mesmerized for a few minutes as two gamecocks engaged in a ritualized slow dance, each rooster circling nearer the other, neck feathers flaring. Suddenly, one rooster attacked and the other leapt in a defensive stance to meet the challenge. They exchange kicks in midair, going around and around the small arena.

Cockfighting, the centuries-old blood sport where two gamecocks are placed in an enclosure to fight, (for the primary purposes of gambling and entertainment) exists in Palau. Palauans and Filipinos and other nationalities can be seen trooping to the area in Ngerbeched every Sunday as a means of diversion from everyday routine.

A cockfight usually results in the death of one of the birds; sometimes death of both but this is not the case in Palau because the use of the razor-sharp steel blades (gaff) which is attached to the leg of the gamecocks which makes the fight even more deadly is not practiced. This means a fight between two roosters could last for as long as 30 minutes to one hour.

“If we use the gaff, then it won’t be long before there will be no more roosters because fights may last only for a few minutes,” one of the cockfight staff said. He emphasized that the activity is not mainly for gambling but just a leisurely pastime which is aimed to create social interaction between the Filipinos and other nationalities with the locals.
“In a place as small as Palau where there’s not much to do, this is just an entertaining diversion, unlike other countries where thousands of dollars exchange hands,” the staff said.

It’s expensive to maintain a gamecock. One can cost from $50 to $60 dollars each and you have to give a steady supply of its vitamins and and nutrient-enriched feed for fighting cocks. At the area, enterprising people put up tables and sold gamecock vitamins and supplements as well as food and drinks for the cockpit goers.

In some countries like the Philippines, cockfighting is very rampant from the biggest cockpit in the cities and towns to the smallest neighborhoods. This is a sport where the mixed participants come from high-ranking politicians down to the most ordinary citizen who can barely feed his family. Wives even get jealous with the gamecocks because these get more attention from their husbands.

Many countries ban cockfighting, but the lure of the gambling results in illegal bouts around the world, often in rural areas. Cockfighting is legal in the Philippines, Mexico and parts or all of five U.S. states - Arizona, Louisiana, Missouri, New Mexico and Oklahoma. Matches also can be found in Ireland, Colombia, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Cuba, Jamaica and Puerto Rico.

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