gagamboys_1

Spider fights and gagamboys

Spiders coaxed from their 'apartments'

The color of money. CLICK TO ENLARGE

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.

All eyes on the spider fight

Chaos ensues as the men announce their bet. CLICK TO ENLARGE

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.

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.

12 Comments

  1. Clarence
    May 31, 2011 @ 23:01

    Ang akong binuhatan sa dihang bata pa ‘ko.
    Hehehe. Ang 4th pic kay mura gyud og naa sa buwangan.

  2. estan
    May 31, 2011 @ 23:06

    @clarence, mura jud ug buwang sa manok. 🙂

  3. iskolares
    May 31, 2011 @ 23:23

    karelate pd ko ani clads hehe

  4. Chris
    June 1, 2011 @ 16:20

    Spider-fights? Now I’ve heard of everything. I wonder how the humble Aussie funnel web would fare?

  5. estan
    June 1, 2011 @ 16:44

    @chris, yes, spider fights. kind of intriguing. what about aussie funnel webs?

  6. edmaration
    June 4, 2011 @ 19:05

    => I just came accross with this blog and I like this post. I still don’t have my list on my blogroll and I am 90% convinced to add this as the first. hehe..

  7. Nonoy
    June 4, 2011 @ 23:13

    hehe; I used to play with spiders as a kid. We call this in Davao, damang; and its called kaka in Cebu.:-)

  8. estan
    June 4, 2011 @ 23:18

    @nonoy, medyo sikat na around the country 🙂

  9. EDMARATION
    June 5, 2011 @ 13:22

    => We also play this in Ilocos sir estan When we were young, my younger brothers spend the whole day looking for the wildest gagamba. They feed them with milk and give them the best cage. But now, I rarely see children playing this. Its good to know that in Manila, it is still common, but in a gambling basis. hehe. children now choose to play computers.

  10. pinaytraveljunkie
    June 6, 2011 @ 6:43

    This post made me miss my uncles who were so into spider fights when they were kids!

  11. bertN
    June 7, 2011 @ 6:16

    I used to keep spiders in match boxes for this kind of spider fights all in the spirit of fun. No gambling….well, maybe a little. I didn’t know this is illegal now. Anything to keep the cops busy and employed LOL.

  12. Grace
    June 13, 2011 @ 2:46

    So lucky! I was looking for this when I was back there and all I could manage was a youtube video. As always awesome photos.

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