On the tiny island of Boracay, in the Western Visayas region of the Philippines, most travelers come for the white beaches and crystal-clear blue water. At the far northern tip of the island, away from the sunbathers, souvenir stalls and restaurants lining the famous tourist filled White Beach is the small village of Yapak. Every Sunday, men gather at the local cockpit to participate in what some call the world’s oldest spectator sport. Cockfighting in the Philippine dates back at least hundreds of years and was first documented by Antonio Pigafetta, Magellan’s chronicler, during his voyage of discovery in 1521.

 

“In the Philippines, the 6,000-year­-old sport of cockfighting has been transformed into a fully ­legal billion-dollar industry. Known locally as sabong, it takes place in 2,500 dedicated stadiums across the country and kills an estimated 30 million roosters a year.” –Vice

 

Cockfighting in the Philippines

 

Cockfighting in the Philippines

Cockfighting, locally termed Sabong, is a popular pastime in the Philippines where both illegal and legal cockfights occur. Legal cockfights are held in cockpits every week, whilst illegal ones called tupada or tigbakay, are held in secluded cockpits where authorities cannot raid them. In both types, knives or gaffs are used. Sabong is judged by a referee calledsentensyador or koyme, whose verdict is final and not subject to any appeal. Bets are usually taken by the kristo, so named because of his outstretched hands when calling out wagers from the audience and skillfully doing so purely from memory.

A kirsto settling accounts after the fight

 

Cockfighting in the Philippines

The culture around cockfighting is deeply entrenched in Philippine life, particularly in the provinces, where cockfighting represents a way to earn a little extra income for many participants- sometimes more than they are able to earn in their regular jobs. For many kristos and those who bet on the matches, it’s a way to tempt fate and hope for a big win. For others, it’s just a way to relieve stress and hang out with friends on a Sunday morning.

A man collects the loosing rooster which has been badly injured

  • All images taken January 2015 in Yapak village, Borcay Island, Aklan Province, Western Visayas, Philippines

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