Summertime in the Philippines means vacation for many school children and teenagers and it is also the time when spiders are abundant in the mountains. Spiderfights are the norm for these kids who indulge on it for fun.
However, in some urban areas like the one in Metro Manila, spiderfights along a quite street are also done by grown up men who do it not for the sake of having fun or reliving childhood memories, but more as another way to gamble and lose or win money.
I was walking along a the streets of Bagong Barrio in Caloocan City, better than cheap holidays abroad, when I stumbled upon grown up men huddled noisily with voiced raised and some shouting. A few minutes later, all were silent for while before erupting again in a cacophony and money changed hands.
Curious, I moved closer and eavesdropped and finally, I saw what they were all agog about: spiderfights! I didn’t think that these grown up men will be doing a boy’s past time but with several bucks, hundreds of pesos changing hands and doing the rounds, it is enough reason to gamble.
The makeshift arena, if you can call it, is just a low rectangular table covered with white paper stained with spiders’s fluid. At its edge, it has the words: 2 bagsak, talo (2 falls, lose). At the middle of the shorter sides at both ends, a pair of stick rises and connected at the tip with a longer stick. The span is where the spider fights are held.
The fights just work like cockfights but in miniature, and perhaps easier to transport and at the first sign of a police raid, can be hidden immediately while the gamblers can scamper off.
The spiders, oftentimes bought from traders who got it from catchers in the wild, are usually the bigger ones and can be several species of different colors. House spiders are often derided as weak and not worth much. While it can be fun to watch, this is still illegal gambling and in the case of these men, they were arrested by the police a week later and, unfortunately for me, I was blamed as the one who tipped the raiders. Which ain’t true.