Cockfighting is deeply ingrained in Filipino culture. Sabong, as it is known in Tagalog, is a national pastime that knows no social distinctions. Not a sport of the faint-hearted, it pits two roosters of comparable weight that fight each other until one is killed or turns tail and flees.

The bout is usually brief and bloody.Razor-sharp spurs called tari are attached to thebirds’legs. Withneck feathers ruffled, the birds dance around each other, testing each other’s strength.

There’s a swish of blades and swirl of feathers, roars rise from the gallery, and in a few minutes its all over. If both birds are still alive after ten minutes of skirmishing the bout is declared a draw. Sometimes special matches call carambolas are also held, where five or more birds are placed in the arena at the same time to fight it out until only one remains.

Special fights, called derbies, have purses ranging from US$10,000 to US$170,000 (EURO 10,000 to EURO 170,000) or (Phil Peso 500,000 to Phil Peso 8,500,000)

Every cockfighter has his own method of training his birds, some claiming to use secret formulas and special diets. It is even said that gamecocks eat better than most people (sometimes including their owners’ children. Gamecocks are imported or bought from local breeders in Cavite, Negros, Leyte and Iloilo.

There are various cockfighting associations, the most exclusive of which is the Philippine Cockers Club and over one thousand cockpits, or galleras in the country. They vary in size and sophistication, but the basic design is the same consisting of the pit proper surrounded by a grill or fence where the game cocks fight, and around that the tiers of benches. Ringside seats are the most expensive.

Cockfights take place in Metro Manila almost every day. In Cebu there are cockfights at least three times a week. Elsewhere, cockfights are held on Sunday and public holidays. You can tell there’s a cockfight on when a small red flag is fluttering from a slim bamboo pole outside the sabungan or gallera. If this escapes you, the "hubbub in the direction of the cockpit" in the words of Filipino journalist and editor E. Aguilar Cruz, will certainly alert you. "The roar of the fans is as unmistakable as that of a baseball stadium when a player clouts a homerun."

Cockfighting, like horse racing, has specialist bookies and touts. Bets can go as high as 1,000,000 pesos and are paid immediately after each fight. It is said that houses, land titles, jewelry and car registrations have been wagered at cockfights and gaming tables.

The big derbies are usually held at the Araneta Coliseum in Quezon City the San Juan cockpit and Pasay City in Metro Manila. They are also featured during town fiestas.

Tourists who wish to see a cockfight should check the newspapers for the stag derbies. It is advisable to go with a guide or someone knowledgeable about the game who can explain the intricacies of betting. Bets are indicated by a series of hand signals, such as wiggling a thumb or the wagging of a hand.

The position of the palm- whether up, vertical, or down, means that bets are in the tens, hundreds or thousand of pesos. The man who calls the bets without the use of a computer or written slips, is the kristo so-called because his posture of extended arms resembles Christ nailed to the cross. You can either bet on the cock that is favored to win (llamado) or the less popular on (dejado).

You get more if the dejado wins, depending on the odds, which start at ten per cent and go up to 50 percent, or even as high as 100 percent if the favorite is pitted against a lesser-known rooster. You normally tip the kristo ten per cent of your winnings: nothing if you lose.

Where to get these fine knifes?

Here you can order them right away in Germany