Apo Island – Diving, Snorkeling and seeing Cock Fighting

Saturday 24th Dec 2016

I woke up, had some brekky and went for an 8am current dive at the site of Coconut which was really fun. Here is a map again of the Apo Island diving sites:

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Our diving group ready for a short boat ride from the dive centre (represented on the map by the red rectangle) to Coconut site.
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The Coconut dive is a gentle current dive during which we saw lots of fishes and beautiful coral like this.
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Between the 2 dives I took a break and had some smoothies and a second brekky. Then we went for a second dive on the West Rock site around 11am where we saw again lots of beautiful coral and star fish. Here are a couple of shots from then:

After that we had lunch and walked to the village nearby where there was a cock fighting going on. Cock Fighting has been around in Philippines for centuries and has been going on in the world for more than 6,000 years. Although forbidden in some countries, cock fighting is still allowed in some other countries like Cuba, Mexico, Peru, India, Indonesia, Japan and Pakistan. In Europe, the male chick is killed at birth as it can’t lay eggs, only the female chicks are kept. In Philippines, both are kept, some male are being taken special care of to make them become fighters. We turned up at the cock fighting event not knowing much about it and learnt there. I will put the pictures this time not in the order I took them but in the order in which they illustrate how cock fighting takes place.

Cutting off the comb and the wattle
‘The comb and wattles are cut off in order to meet show standards of the American Gamefowl Society and the Old English Game Club and to prevent freezing in colder climates (the standard emerged from the older practice of severing the comb, wattles, and earlobes of the bird in order to remove anatomical vulnerabilities, similar to the practice of docking a dog’s tail and ears). – Copyright Wikipedia – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cockfight

So here is a rooster not ready to fight yet or not bred to fight as it still has its comb and wattles:
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Here is one which has been groomed for a fight as its comb and wattles are cut:
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Matching the birds
The next step which can take half-an-hour of chatting is the matching of the birds. ‘Cocks possess congenital aggression toward all males of the same species.’ – Wikipedia. But they still get matched based on their body size / strengths to have even fights and also their desire to fight the other bird. The more desire, the better. Men hold their roosters in their hands, petting them and discussing.
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Then they put them face to face to see how they react. When the cock is tousling their neck feathers, it is a good sign that the fight would be good.
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Adding the blade onto the cock’s foot
The next step before the fight is adding a blade to the left foot of the cock. According to Wikipedia, this is not done in all countries in the world, in some countries like India, the fight is without blades but for the fights we saw that day on Apo Island, all cocks had a blade attached to their left foot. Choosing the right blade requires knowledge and this seem to be a whole respected job in itself hold by an important man who is maybe getting paid for this.
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It starts by opening the magic box and choosing the right blade among all these
(Photo Copyright – Paolo Onguico)
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If not in a box, blades can also be hold in this thingy this guy has in his hand:
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Zooming in, he pulls this metal bit to extract a blade from his ‘mini box’.
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Then the blade is installed on the rooster’s leg with a plastic protection.
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The bets
I think that once both roosters have been chosen, one guy in charge starts taking bets but maybe the bests are only taken once the roosters are in the arena about to fight. It seemed like the bets taken needed to equally support both roosters so that at the end of the game the person who won was winning the double which is literally the money of the looser who placed the same amount as them.

The fight
The fight takes place in the arena. Everyone gathers around it and the two men owning the roosters are holding their chickens waiting for the fight to start while the bet taker shouts and shouts until all bets are taken.
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Then the two men hold their rooster, facing each other and remove the plastic protection of the blade._DSC2601 (Medium).JPG

They hold the roosters close to each other a few times to get the birds excited.
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Then they put them on the ground and the fight starts.
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The fight is intense, quick and quite spectacular.
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Everyone around is watching the fight going on.
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They get quite excited.
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Until one bird wins, making some quite happy.
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Here was a second one I watched from a higher view point, joining my dive buddy Toni and his wife Marianna.
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It is really spectacular to watch how the birds fight, jumping in the air, using their legs to hurt the other bird.
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During this fight, the white one on the left won, leaving the black one not totally dead but in deep suffering on the ground. The people doing the fight just let him there, dying slowly. For many of us, ending the suffering of an animal by killing it quickly is something we have learnt since we are young when here it didn’t seem to be a thought that would cross their mind.
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Here is a video of another fight which finished pretty quickly:

Money to the winner
After the fight, the money is distributed to the winners. Interestingly, Paolo and his friend were betting and didn’t understand why they had lost and asked and it seems like when you bet, you don’t bet on the one which is going to win but on the one which is going to loose.
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What happens to the roosters after the fight?
We saw a pile of dead roosters. Some say that after the fights, the roosters are eaten, but the spot in which they had been piled which was quite random would make me think that they don’t eat them afterwards. As for the winners, often they have been injured so much that in reality, they die shortly afterwards too. Some say that the winners are taken care of, that their wounds are stitched so that they can fight again later. Maybe. Not sure about that one.

After watching three out of the ten fights planned for that day, we had enough and went back ‘home’ through the village. We passed the Apo Elementary School.
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Some house. There is no running water so water is kept in containers.
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Local shop.
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Grandmas chatting on a bench along ‘the main road’.
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In the afternoon, we went for a snorkel around 3-4pm in the bay. Since the typhoon Pablo of December 2012 which destroyed the reef round Kan-Uram and Sanctuary (see on the map at the top of the page), turtles started coming. Their munching area somewhere else probably got destroyed. So it is possible to just go into the water, hips level deep and snorkel gently with them which is really great. It is also lucky that not many people make it that far meaning that you can snorkel with them with only one or two other snorkelers near you. I hope it remains like this so that their munching area remains protected.

After that snorkle, we chilled upstairs and watched the sunset over the sea. Living on the East Coast of Australia means that I can see the sunrise over the sea every morning (when I wake up…) but never the sunset over the sea so it is very special for me to see this and this sunset was really beautiful.
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Series of the sun going down

After the sunset, we went for a night dive at the Chapel spot again to the Wall which was great with Wanis, Patrick (alias Paddy) the dive instructor, Dolon and Josine. We saw 2 turtles sleeping under rocks which were one above each other, like if the rocks had transformed into a hostel ahah. We also saw lots of hermit crabs, moray eels, black sea urchins, a blue spotted ray, some white and red shrimps and the fun Christmas tree worm again.

Then we had a beautiful Christmas dinner buffet. (Photo Copyright Paolo Ongluico)
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Some beautiful fish  (Photo Copyright Paolo Ongluico)
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As the village was gathering at 10pm in the bigger church they had built during the year, we joined them for the Christmas Eve Mass, along also with Timmy and Paolo.
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After listening to some of it which was in visaya language, we walked back ‘home’ and had a beer while waiting for the midnight fireworks and we saw some on the other side of the sea on Negros near Malatapay (the embarcation point). Then we went to bed.

Merry Christmas Eve to all! Next day, one more day on Apo Island, diving and exploring!

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