Sunday, July 3News That Matters

The weird vocabulary of the cockfighting world

I was introduced to cockfighting as early as 5 years old when my father was still working as a gaffer during his early to late 40s. I know all local terms related to cockfighting but not the Tagalog or English translation until after I graduated college.

My first language is Hiligaynon and I was born and raised in Bacolod, the home of the finest gamefowls in the Philippines and also the home of authentic inasal. Cockfighting was never my personal career even though my big clan treats cockfighting like a religion.

3 pieces of cockfighting gaffs, tari (Tagalog), bulang (Hiligaynon/Ilonggo) – image credit Valladolid

I’ve been living here in Batangas for 21 years and I never entered or watched any cockfight here in Luzon. I was busy working 8-5 daily for more than 15 years. Sabong never crossed my mind until 2014.

I opened a car repair shop here in Lipa City and I had to hire one of my childhood friends from Bacolod to attend my shop and to take care of daily chores like cooking and taking care of the orderliness of the environment. My friend was a highly experienced gamefowl handler and trainer and had been working on several farms in Bacolod for more than 15 years. He brought 2 gamecocks and asked me if he can have them inside the shop and I said “no problem”.

To make the story short, the 2 birds caught the attention of most of our customers who are jeepney drivers, and since the cockpit is just 3 blocks away from my shop, they always ask Jose (my friend) if he wanted to join the game, and he always said no because for him the birds lack conditioning and were not ready. After 3 weeks, he accepted the offer and the first bird won unscratched. After one more week, it won again and suffered a very small cut. The second one won too and suffered cuts but was not life-threatening. Months later, one of the two birds succumbed to death after 3 days of suffering a major laceration that damaged its heart. That was his 6th and final win. The other one got paralyzed after its 8th win and was given to one of our customers who has a big gamefarm in Lipa. He used the bird as ganador (brood cock) and euthanized it after 2 more years when the bird can no longer walk.

The reason why I am telling this is that we consider those two fighting cocks members of our family. The winning streaks were just phenomenal and it struck me because both never lost and live their lives to the fullest. Although both died later, they never died inside the cockpit.

Now go back to the original topic – the vocabulary used in cockfighting.

As I mentioned above, I know all Hiligaynon/Ilonggo terms about cockfighting but not in Tagalog and English until recently. There are several words that I thought were invented by early Filipino sabungeros as these words are not understandable by many Americans.

Some of these words are actually weird and do not make any sense if you do not mention cockfight.

For example, the word “gaff”, we all know what gaff is. It’s a tool used by anglers and has nothing to do with cockfighting unless we say “rooster gaff”. Another term is “gaffer”, a person who attaches the gaff to the legs of teh gamecock. A gaffer in the normal world is a film crew who works in the film production industry. I have no idea how cockers invented this term. I don’t know if Americans use this also but this is very common here in the Philippines. As you noticed, I mentioned the word “cocker”. This is a very weird tern that could be misunderstood if we are not talking about cockfighting. A cocker is an enthusiast of cockfighting. Why not “cockfighter”, “cock player” (worse) LOL, or any other term?

Another term is “brood cock”. I am 100% sure that this word is invented by Filipinos as 3 of my American friends who raise free-range chickens don’t know anything about this word. Of course brood cock or broodcock is a rooster of winning bloodline use for breeding with its female partner called “brood hen”. I’ve been hearing this term since I was young but I couldn’t believe most Americans didn’t know about it. I’m sure it’s like CR instead of toilet/restroom. Only Filipinos understand what CR is LOL.

Some translation (English, Tagalog, and Hiligaynon/Ilonggo)

Cockfight – sabong (Tagalog), bulang (Hiligaynon)
Gamefowl, gamecock, fighting cock, battle cock – manok na panabong (Tagalog) or Texas (teksas), inongbulang (Hiligaynon)
Cocker – mananabong (formal) or sabungero (informal) (Tagalog), manugbulang (Hiligaynon)
Gaff – tari (Tagalog), bulang (Hiligaynon) with different pronunciation
Brood cock – ganador (Tagalog and Hiligaynon)
Gaffer – tagatari (tagalog), manogtakod bulang, or labahero (Hiligaynon)
Favorite – liyamada or llamado, meron (tagalog), agaw (Hiligaynon)
Underdog – dehado, wala (Tagalog), biya (Hiligaynon)
Win/won – panalo (Tagalog), daug or daog (Hiligaynon)
Lost – talo (Tagalog), pierde or pyerde (Hiligaynon)

Did you learn something? 🙂

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