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Backyard cockfight in Valladolid


An impromptu game by the roadside.

The Cuyo Loop In October of 2006, I visited the remote islands of Cuyo and Culion in Palawan for a photography assignment and passed Negros and Iloilo in transit. This is my account of that journey.

This is the 3rd of a series. While wandering around Valladolid in Negros Occidental, a stone’s throw away from the colonial era church, I chanced upon two men in their backyard holding their fighting cocks readying these for a short game to test their birds’ ferociousness. Well, it was just a fun sport and I think with my camera on-hand, they were more than happy to “show off”.


One of the cocks being readied. No blood and gore here.

Cockfighting is an age old pastime in the country that was very popular even during the Spanish colonial period. In most provincial towns and even cities, it is not unusual to find domed “arenas” specifically for this kind of sport. Usually held on weekends, one might chance upon a crowded venue where, depending on the kind of town, might be filled with vehicles ranging from motorcycles, tricycles, jeepneys to cars. During major derbies, millions of pesos are at stake.


Where is the kristo?

Before the game, bets are collected by the kristo (Christ). I’m not sure why he is called as such but these guys really have great and sharp memory as he is able to remember who bet and how much. No writing via pen and ink.


Just a short game to test the ferocity of their birds.

Just like in most towns in the country, raising fighting cocks is really big business. Aficionados can be anyone’s neighbor with his backyard coop to the really serious ones where one side of a hill, usually in elevated areas where it is cool, can be covered with these birds neatly spaced in rows and columns. In Negros, Mambucal in Murcia is one place where one can find such farms.


Cockfighting is such a popular pastime in the provinces that it is common to see schedules like this. La Carlota, Negros Occidental

For our Valladolid cockfighters, it’s just a short exercise to assess their bird’s readiness for the big day at the town arena. It can be bloody and gory, with really sharp pointed blades strapped on one of the cock’s feet. Winners get to have the carcass while for the losers, its time to raise another for a future fight.

Estan Cabigas is freelance photographer, blogger and writer based in Makati City, the Philippines. A true blue Cebuano, he makes stunning images and meaningful photo stories. His work has been published in local and international publications including National Geographic Magazine, Geo (Germany), Sunday Times Magazine (London) and other publications.

He is also a peripatetic traveler and has traveled to all 81 Philippines provinces.

I’m open for work, collaborations and inquiries, including hotel, restaurant and site features and reviews.

8 Comments

  1. lawstude
    May 22, 2008 @ 14:06

    in my province of nueva ecija, specifically in my barangay, cock fighting is a common sight. in fact there is always a tupada in our neighborhood. great captures estan.

  2. Allan Barredo
    May 26, 2008 @ 11:08

    they call these bet collectors “kristo” because they always have their arms spread wide while calling for bets from all directions 🙂

  3. estan
    May 26, 2008 @ 15:17

    allan, thank you for that information.

  4. donG hO
    May 30, 2008 @ 8:32

    this men love their cocks so much and they treat it like a family member. you well captured moments estan.

  5. Ferdz
    May 31, 2008 @ 9:53

    Well captured (as always) cockfight in action. I noticed also most barrios have mini collesiums to stage fights.

    Salamat pala sa pagbisita. Saw your name at the guest book. 😀

  6. G
    April 21, 2009 @ 13:22

    hello..thanks for featuring Valladolid….i miss my hometown………..

  7. » Death in the arena, cockfighting in Cebu | Langyaw: Sojourns and Off-the-Beaten Path Travels
    June 22, 2011 @ 9:36

    […] always been curious what happens inside. While I’m familiar with the tigbakay, impromptu cockfighting sessions which are illegal and made in some open place in the barangay, […]

  8. JR Riel
    August 6, 2013 @ 0:22

    Great account, Estan! Very interesting to read about this unique part of Filipino culture. Not sure if I can handle all the blood and gore that comes along with it, but fascinating to read about nonetheless.

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