Cockfighting is very popular in the Philippines. Crowds that fill an auditorium the size of a high-school gymnasium show up for big events. In a sport that has changed little over the centuries, roosters with razor sharp spurs attached their ankles fight brief but bloody battles. Fences sometimes surround the arenas to protect the spectators who may bet a week's salary on a single fight, using hand signals and gestures.

It was during Magellan's voyage of discovery of the Philippines in 1521 when modern cockfighting was first witnessed and documented by Antonio Pigafetta, Magellan's chronicler, in the kingdom of Taytay. Aurora Almendral of NBC News wrote: “Cockfighting has been around for hundreds of years. When Ferdinand Magellan arrived in 1521, it was already a roaring spectacle. As such, the culture around it is deeply entrenched in Philippine life, particularly in the provinces, where cockfighting is part of the daily scrabble for income. [Source: Aurora Almendral, NBC News, August 26, 2013]

According to “”Mga sunoy", as the people in de Visayas call cocks, can be found in all parts of the world. In many tropical countries, they are very popular in the life of families in the countryside. Many families have some of them on their compound. This is not specific in the Philippines, but common for many countries in Asia and Latin America. Cock fighting ("sabong" in the Cebuano language) is in the Philippines popular as a way of gambling, but it is also seen as a national sport. In 1887, cockfighting was described as a popular activity, even more widespread than opium-smoking among Chinese! [Source:][Source:]

In his famous 1887 novel, "Noli me Tangere", the Philippine national hero, José Rizal wrote: “The place where the fights happen is called the "cockpit". The people who can afford to have some Mga sunoy, will make a lot of efforts to train the cocks in agressivity. If a cock wins, the owner earns money, just as the persons who visit the fights and put their money on the winning cock. During the fight the fighting cocks wear sharp razor blades fixed on their legs. The duel will only ends by the death or (bloody) flight of one of the cocks'. [Source: "Noli me Tangere", by José Rizal, 1887]


Cockfighting is a very old sport and very popular in various palces around the world. Described by some as an "art form" not a sport, it common in rural areas, where many people consider it wholesome, family entertainment. The cock itself is often viewed as a symbol of courage, tenacity, assuredness and masculinity. Prized cocks can sell for more than $1,000 a piece. They are valued for breeding as well as fighting.

Cockfighting predates Christ by at least 500 years. Believed to have originated in China or India, it was practiced by the ancient Greeks, Persians and Romans, who identified it with Eros, the God of Love and passed it on to medieval Europe. The sport reached the pinnacle of its popularity in France and England in the 16th, 17th and 18th century and was finally was banned in England along with other blood sports in 1849, but not before it gave us words like cocky, cocksure, cockpit and cocktail. European colonizers introduced the sport to the Caribbean, Latin America, the Philippines and Indonesia where it is still very popular today.

In a defense of cockfighting at an Oklahoma court before Americans demanding a federal cockfighting ban , Abraham Lincoln said: "As long as the Almighty permitted intelligent men, created in his image and likeness, to fight in public and kill each other while the world looks on approvingly, it's not for me to deprive the chickens of the same privilege." Louisiana is the last legal bastion of American cockfighting. In the United States, cockfighting is now illegal in all 50 states. The last state to ban it—Louisiana—did so in 2007.


Cockfights are usually held in pits about the size of a rubber backyard swimming pool. The rules vary somewhat. In some places fighting continues until one bird dies, retreats or can no longer carry on. In other places, there are rounds like boxing. If a cock's chest is pierced, sometimes the referee will allow a time out so the bird’s owner can rub the cock’s breast with water and blow gently into its mouth.

The cocks are generally outfit with 1½-inch-long, stainless steel spurs. When they are released in the cockfighting pit their neck feathers stiffen and they go after one another like hopping, twirling tornados. Fighting cocks wildly flap their wings, clinch one another, exchange jabs by spreading their wings, and punch with their spurs. Eyes are often gouged out chunks of meat are ripped out. One bird usually loses after its heart or head is punctured with blows from the victor’s spurs, and it dies, or its leg or wing is broken and can longer fight. Good fighters display their fighting spirit when they are young: attacking other birds and even their parents when they are 40 days old.

Cockfighting’s Popularity , Animal Rights and the Philippines Economy

More than 5 million roosters clash in Philippines cockpits each Manny Berbano, publisher of the Pit Games magazine and head of the Philippines’s National Gamefowl Training Center, told the Los Angeles Times. A Philippine cockfight, wrote journalist Alan Berlow, "is a bacchanalian frenzy, a chaotic yet controlled drama of sacrificial cruelty with an elaborate pecking order and a near-religious mystique, a club where men and birds perform a macho ritual in which they form a brotherhood for their passion for unrestrained cruelty."

Paul Watson wrote in the Los Angeles Times, “As cockpits across the U.S. closed, or went underground, American breeders continued to produce pedigreed game fowl, maintaining bloodlines that date to 19th century England and Ireland. Some made millions of dollars exporting fighting cocks to countries such as the Philippines and Mexico, where the sport is still legal and enormously popular. Berbano proudly paid an Alabama breeder $5,000 for a cock from a long line of champions, a thoroughbred sweater yellow legged hatch. But a new law is expected to cut off multimillion-dollar exports of American game fowl. [Source: Paul Watson, Los Angeles Times, June 16, 2007 ^/^]

“Cockfighting is so central to Philippine culture that Rolando Blanco, vice president of the country's Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, has little hope of persuading the government to stop it. "How can we fight cockfighting when our lawmakers are cock fighters and breeders?" he asked. Supporters of a ban acknowledge that fighting cocks' killer instinct is encoded in their genes, but argue that nature is more forgiving than cockfight organizers, who arm the roosters with razors and make sure they can't escape the ring. Chickens don't win much sympathy in the Philippines. "Our laws protecting animals mainly concern endangered species and bigger animals, like dogs, cats, horses, whale sharks and monkey-eating eagles," Blanco said. ^/^

“The Philippine economy benefits by more than $1 billion a year from cockfight betting, breeding farms and the business of selling feed and drugs, including steroids, that bulk up the birds for two years before their fighting instinct kicks in, Berbano estimated. A barrel-shaped former Coca-Cola executive, Berbano is Philippine cockfighting's less garish answer to Don King. He is a cockpit evangelist with a PowerPoint pitch. ^/^

“With six national TV shows devoted to the sport, Filipinos can enjoy the carnage from the comfort of their homes almost every night of the week. In the stands at the coliseum, bet-takers — called kristos after the Tagalog word for Christ — probably handled more than $400,000 in wagers in a single night during the Slasher Cup II, he said. ^/^

Cockfights in Cebu

Cockfighting is particularly popular in Cebu and the Visayas. Describing a cockfight in a rickety makeshift arena on the island of Siquijor off southern Negros, Daisann McLane wrote in the New York Times, “Bettors jumped, whooped and waved, while making intricate hand signals to the kristso, the bet takers who, famously, keep all the bets in their memory, not on paper. (I sat on my thumbs, worried that I’d scratch my head and lose my shirt)...The body language and drama of the spectators were mesmerizing, and the action moved lightning fast. When the defeated bird went down in a flurry of feathers, a hailstorm of crumpled-up peso notes descended on the ring

Reporting from Cabuyao, Laguna, Philippines, Aurora Almendral of NBC News wrote: “On a recent Sunday in the provincial city of Cabuyao, in the middle of an old arena painted turquoise and surrounded by ascending rows of wooden benches rubbed smooth from years of use, are two men, each cradling a rooster. A buzzer sounds, and the roosters are released. They head straight for each other. There’s a tousle of red wings and feathers, and suddenly, one of the roosters starts to hobble. The white one veers away and stumbles to the ground. The referee picks up both roosters by the scruffs of their necks to see if there’s still any fight left in them. [Source: Aurora Almendral, NBC News, August 26, 2013 =]

“There is another flurry of feathers, and the white one — the one that looked dead on its feet seconds ago — deals a fatal kick to the red rooster. The fight is over after 24 seconds. Borick Alcazar owns the white rooster. Winning is always good, but winning as the underdog is doubly satisfying. Alcazar grins from ear to ear. He picks up his rooster, accepts a little adulation from the crowd, and walks out of the arena. =

“Cockfights in the Philippines are held year-round, though Sundays are the best day to go. Many towns and cities throughout the Philippines (including Manila) have cockpits. In Cabuyao, Laguna, there are cockfights at the Cabuyao Coliseum every day except for Monday. In general, fights start in the morning, about 9 a.m. and last to the early afternoon. The best way to find out when and where a cockfight is being held is to ask a local — tricycle drivers, street hawkers or security guards are likely to know.” =

Cockfight Surgeon

Aurora Almendral of NBC News wrote: “Outside, Alcazar lays his rooster onto the lap of a man with bloody hands sitting next to a box of needles and string. He’s the arena’s surgeon, and he rifles through the feathers searching for injuries. The rooster is docile, stunned with pain. There’s a small puncture wound at the thigh. He plucks off the surrounding feathers to reveal a hole and the bumpy yellowish skin around it. The surgeon pulls a long curved needle and black thread through the skin, closes it up, knots it off, and moves on to the three-inch long gash at the chicken’s thick breast. He cleans that off with cotton balls and tacks it shut with a crude cross stitch. [Source: Aurora Almendral, NBC News, August 26, 2013 =]

"This job is all based on reputation,” the chicken surgeon says as he calmly trims the loose ends of the suture. He practiced on his own chickens for a couple of years, before working his way up to charging for it. Steady hands, a strong stomach and a reliable stitch means he’s got enough clients now that he’s at the arena five days a week, sewing up six to ten chickens a day. The chicken surgeon charges 200 pesos — about $4.50 in U.S. currency — for each chicken he stitches up. There's no charge if the animal dies. A dead rooster gets sent five feet away to the butcher, who de-feathers it, guts it, and puts it in a plastic bag, ready to be stewed. =

“Alcazar’s rooster comes to, however, and he gently lays it in a box punctured with holes. It’s a winning cock now, and he’ll feed it a choice diet of hard boiled eggs and carrots, give it vitamin and antibiotic shots, and in three or five months, it’ll be ready for the ring again — a wiser fighter from having survived.” =

Cockfight Betting and Money in the Philippines

Aurora Almendral of NBC News wrote: “Back in the arena, it’s intermission and the spectators are throwing coins and bills into the ring. It’s a collection for a fellow sabongero (cockfighter) who’s sick at the hospital and needs his bills paid. Cockfights are also held for funerals, where a percentage of the money that changes hands is given to the family of the dead. Burial is so expensive in the Philippines that some people can only afford to rent a coffin for the duration of a wake. [Source: Aurora Almendral, NBC News, August 26, 2013 =]

“As a group picks up the coins up from the sand, another round of cockfighting starts heating up. The arena fills with the determined yelling of small-time bookies, called kristos. They flash complicated hand signals across the room, making bets large and small. Some of them work for bosses, others just for themselves, but all of them are doing it for the extra cash. Teody sits on the last row of the arena, his flip-flopped feet propped up on the wooden bench in front of him. He works as a driver, and doesn't have money to bet today after a rough week. He’s here for the fun, to chat with the guys, to have a few laughs. He's hoping a friend wins so hopefully he can have a beer and eat one of the losing roosters. =

“Asked about his biggest win, he sighs with nostalgia: “It was a long time ago. 12,000 pesos. “I bought a washing machine,” he recalled. “And I kept a little for beer.” Twelve thousand pesos, about $280, is a huge win for a guy like Teody. It’s more than what he makes in a month. And, he points out, it’s more than what a person makes in a month working in Saudi Arabia. In any given year, millions of Filipinos work in Saudi Arabia as drivers, nurses, mechanics, waiters — and, as the country ramps up to host the 2022 World Cup, construction workers. =

“A lot of the guys in the arena, Teody says, look at the life of a Filipino overseas worker in Saudi Arabia — the strict rules, the low pay, and the constant stream of news reporting horrific treatment — and decide they’re better off showing up at the cockpit. Alcazar, the lucky winner, doesn't hesitate when asked why he fights cocks: “Hanap buhay lang,” he said — I’m just making a living.” =

World Slasher Cup II, the World's Biggest Cockfighting Event

Reporting from Quezon City, outside Manila, Paul Watson wrote in the Los Angeles Times, “In the center ring where Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier pummeled each other through 14 rounds of the "Thrilla in Manila" more than three decades ago, another world-championship blood fest was in full swing. The deftest moves and deepest cuts drew shouts of "Fight back!" and "Peck! Peck!" from spectators hanging on every move, illuminated larger than life on the electronic scoreboard's color video display. Most had fists full of cash wagered on the outcome. [Source: Paul Watson, Los Angeles Times, June 16, 2007 ^/^]

“One after another, the fights raged deep into the night. Several were over in seconds. None lasted longer than 10 minutes. Most losers ended up dead on the ring's hard-packed dirt floor. Many winners were barely breathing as their handlers carried them off in the white glare of ceiling lights. To popular tunes such as the Beatles' "Let It Be," cleanup crews swept the ring and sprinkled it with a watering can for the next bout. ^/^

“Welcome to the World Slasher Cup II, where the really lethal roosters are separated from the mere chickens. Billed as the world's biggest cockfighting event, the derby's $55,500 purse and prestigious title drew numerous foreign entries last month, from Japan, Germany and several U.S. states, including Alabama, California, Nevada and Pennsylvania. For three nights, hundreds of game fowl competing on eight-cock teams with names such as God of War, Air Assault, Deep Impact and Your Future clashed in a series of bouts at the Araneta Coliseum. In flapping blurs of feathers, grit and blood, they pecked and gashed with 3-inch razors strapped to their legs.^/^

“It is big-ticket entertainment, a high-stakes slaughter that animal rights activists call barbaric. But in the raucous crowd of several thousand, cockers wondered what's wrong with fighting chickens when humans beating each other senseless in boxing rings are worthy of million-dollar purses and Olympic medals. Millionaire developer Jorge Araneta, the coliseum's owner and a stately dean of Philippine cockfighting, was ringside at the "Thrilla in Manila" in 1975 and had a team of cocks in this year's World Slasher Cup. To him, Ali and Frazier inflicted the cruelest cuts, not the fighting chickens, which only did what comes naturally. "This is a better proxy than human beings beating each other's brains out," Araneta said, after one of his birds dispatched its opponent in a few minutes. "I pleaded with Ali to give it up after that fight." ^/^

Cockfighting at World Slasher Cup II

Paul Watson wrote in the Los Angeles Times, ““Here in Araneta Coliseum, the arena that has held some of the Philippines' marquee events, including a Mass by Pope John Paul II, rich and poor roared and winced at the clattering flurry of attacks, and hushed as a winning rooster pondered its final move. In the wings, gaffers tied blades called tari to roosters' legs; the softer spurs they were born to attack with had been trimmed to rounded nubbins to make way for the steel blades tempered to killer strength with alloys such as titanium and cobalt. Each new competitor, also shorn of its red comb and wattle, was cradled like a fragile child in its handler's arms on the walk to the cockpit from a gloomy hallway. A large, wooden statue of a crucified Christ decorated with fragrant jasmine garlands stood watch at one end.[Source: Paul Watson, Los Angeles Times, June 16, 2007 ^/^]

“Sparring roosters, known as heaters, pecked at the fighting cocks to get them riled up, as handlers restrained them by their tail plumes and bettors and kristos waved and hollered at each other like frantic floor traders during a stock market meltdown. In the final seconds before the starting buzzer, a male nurse dressed in white swabbed the hackles of each fighter to test for any dirty tricks, such as feathers laced with cyanide. Then the cocks' tari were unsheathed, and a cockpit technician wiped each blade with gauze soaked in rubbing alcohol.^/^

“Primed for blood, the roosters were released from either side of two center lines. Some crowed as the crowd bellowed. Others went straight for the kill, flapping above their opponents, wildly stabbing at anything they could strike with their blades. When the fighters lay panting in the dirt, the referee, or sentenciador, gently picked both up by the hackle feathers at arm's length, and gently brought them to head-to-head, waiting for one to make the regulation two pecks needed for an outright victory. In the few bouts in which neither rooster had the strength, or will, left for that, the sentenciador declared a draw. And the bettors moaned. ^/^

“At 4 a.m. on the final night, the 2007 World Slasher Cup was finally clinched, with a record of seven wins and a draw, by the eighth rooster entered by Wilson Ong, a Philippine businessman. His cock died soon after pecking the limp, bleeding final challenger twice. Handler Alfred Pangilinan, 36, cradled the dead winner in his arms for the long trip home to Guagua, a town 50 miles north of Manila. There, on the edge of the training farm, in a graveyard of champions, Pangilinan dug a deep hole and buried the bird.” ^/^

American Cocks and Cockfighters in the Philippines

Paul Watson wrote in the Los Angeles Times, “As cockpits across the U.S. closed, or went underground, American breeders continued to produce pedigreed game fowl, maintaining bloodlines that date to 19th century England and Ireland. Some made millions of dollars exporting fighting cocks to countries such as the Philippines and Mexico, where the sport is still legal and enormously popular. Berbano proudly paid an Alabama breeder $5,000 for a cock from a long line of champions, a thoroughbred sweater yellow legged hatch. But a new law is expected to cut off multimillion-dollar exports of American game fowl. [Source: Paul Watson, Los Angeles Times, June 16, 2007 ^/^]

In May 2007, “President Bush signed legislation that makes it a felony to transport across state lines, or to export, dogs and chickens used in fights. The penalty is up to three years in jail and a fine of as much as $250,000. The Humane Society of the United States says that will help prevent American breeders from exporting fighting animals and "puts increased pressure on the airlines to stop shipping roosters to cockfighting hot spots."^/^

“Johnnie Phillips was one of at least 17 Americans with roosters in the competition for this year's Slasher Cup. Bald, and with powerful, tattooed forearms, the retired AT&T worker learned to love cockfighting from his father while growing up on a farm in Alabama. Phillips, 61, says he doesn't get why governments would ban fighting cocks from doing what comes naturally, when they aren't much good for anything else — especially eating. "They get 3 months old and they're like chewing leather," he said. ^/^

“As animal rights activists won more state bans on cockfighting, staying ahead of the law became part of the sport for die-hard fans like Phillips. He was arrested on a misdemeanor charge with about 65 other people when more than a dozen police raided an Ohio cockpit in 1972. "It was a Saturday night and they brought the county school bus out there to take us to the courthouse," he recalled. Phillips got out of the local lockup by posting a $50 bond, and after paying the fine, he got a $15 refund. ^/^

“Some states are tougher on cockfighting these days, but it's still only a misdemeanor offense in 16 states, mainly in the South and West. Phillips bred game fowl on a 33-acre farm until he sold it five years ago. He has won his share of derbies, but never enough to make a living from the shrinking fight circuit. He's afraid the new ban on exports will kill off centuries-old bloodlines. "If you don't fight chickens, they go downhill," he said. "To keep 'em good, you've gotta fight 'em and recognize the good ones." ^/^

Koreans Arrested for Dog Fighting Operation in Philippines

Dog fights are carried out in the Philippines but not by Filipinos, it appears, but by by South Koreans. In December 2011, according to Filipino news, six Korean nationals were arrested in the Philippines for their part in a huge dog fighting operation. Part of the operation involved filming the dog fights for live online streaming into South Korea through a gambling site. [Source: Korea, Animal Rights Advocate, December 4, 2011]

ANC and ABSCBN News in the Philippines reported: “Authorities arrested six Korean nationals in Indang, Cavite for running a dog fighting ring. Police had been monitoring the operation for several days. The dog fights had been going on for more than a month now. Through the help of a tipster, police were able to arrest the Koreans and their 17 Filipino workers. Cases are now being prepared against them. Cavite Police Director Supt. Romeo Baleros said, "We can’t yet identify the operators who will be charged." Offenders of the Republic Act 8485 or the Animal Welfare Act face a minimum sentence of six months to two years imprisonment or a fine of one thousand to five thousand pesos or both.

“The actual dog fighting was caught on cellphone video. The operation was organized with cameras spread throughout the venue, which were then fed to a control booth. Police believe the fights were used in an online gambling site and streamed live through the Internet to South Korea. Dog fighting is illegal both in South Korea and the Philippines. In a statement, Philippine Animal Welfare Society Director Anna Cabrera said, "We at PAWS are happy for the success of the operations because we know that the police, in coordination with animal welfare groups, are serious in tracking down dog fighting syndicates." She said PAWS receives five to seven reports of animal cruelty in a day. She noted several violators have already been apprehended and have faced charges including the "cat serial killer," people behind the animal crush videos, and another who hung his puppy on a clothesline. [Ibid]

Korea, Animal Rights Advocate reported: Sadly, the demand for blood sports and associated gambling is being supported by uncaring people here in South Korea. Also, it is a shame Korean police are not as vigilant in protecting dogs against various abuses in Korea. The Philippines, in contrast, seems way ahead, and not only has its government outlawed dog meat, but its police are serious about enforcing the animal welfare laws. [Source: Korea, Animal Rights Advocate, December 4, 2011]

According to Charles Wartenberg, the president of the Animal Kingdom Foundation (AKF): The Philippine National police (PNP) together with an AKF investigator raided which must be described as a breeding / fighting place for Pit Bull Terriers, this took place in the town of Cavite, about 20 miles south of Manila. The total count of Pit Bulls is 243, some already have injuries from fighting, our vets are on site and are treating or putting down the badly injured, however this is proving to be very difficult and very dangerous, these dogs have all been bred and trained to fight.

“This place was being used for online gambling, with streaming videos and on line betting, cameras were set up around the dog fighting pit, it would appear (but we are not sure) that people were not allowed inside to watch the fighting. However with this number of dogs we are looking at the possibility of supplying dogs to other parts of the Philippines, or is it even a Korean syndicate working in the Philippines? Once again we will investigate this.

“Due to the extreme seriousness of all this I have decided to put our guards at the rescue centre on full alert, checking everyone before allowing them into the centre, Oh Yes our guards are armed, which is normal in the Philippines. Clearly as you might well imagine this is something way outside the normal, we have in the past tried to investigate dog fighting, and have had to back off because of the danger involved. Further this is the biggest catchment of dogs we have ever had to deal with, and is putting a huge strain on our staff and resources. At the same time this is a huge blow against the dog fighting brigade, and a true success for Animal Welfare.”

Philippine Police Rescue Pitbulls From Dog Fights

In March 2012, police raided a dogfighting facility in a town south of Manila and rescued around 300 pitbulls, many with ripped ears and tongues, police and veterinarian officials said. Associated Press reported: “Officers arrested two South Korean men suspected of operating the facility and four Filipino security guards during the raid on a 2-hectare (5-acre) compound in San Pablo township in Laguna province, said Renante Galang of the national police criminal investigation group. The raid followed two weeks' surveillance. [Source: Associated Press, March 31, 2012]

Galang said officers confiscated high definition cameras and computers used for an illegal online gambling game where players place bets on dogs they see in livestreamed videos. He said the two Koreans were arrested in December in a similar facility in nearby Cavite province where 256 dogs were found. He said the pair were out on bail. Anna Cabrera, program director for the Philippine Animal Welfare Society, said the dogs — pure-bred pitbulls and mixed breeds of the dogs that are known for their strength — all suffered wounds and were in very poor health. They had to euthanize at least 23 on site, she said. Veterinarian Wilford Almora said the dogs have scars from fights and many have ripped ears and tongues. Most of the bite wounds were on the forehead, ears and snout, he said. Metal fuel drums served as individual shelters for the dogs which were held by heavy steel chains, Cabrera said. The penalty if convicted of animal cruelty is a maximum two years' imprisonment.

A few days later, Associated Press reported: “Veterinarians and animal welfare workers euthanized at least nine pit bulls rescued from a dogfighting ring in the Philippines because there are no facilities to rehabilitate them and prevent them from again being used in underground arenas. The plan is to put down dozens of the roughly 300 dogs rescued in separate raids in Laguna province south of Manlia, said Anna Cabrera of the Philippine Animal Welfare Society. Seventeen had been put to sleep a day after the raids. Some of the dogs rescued Friday have been saved from a similar facility in nearby Cavite province in December, Cabrera said. She said the dogs were "recycled" — adopted by people who sold them back to the suspects to continue fighting. [Source: Associated Press, April 3, 2012 ~~]

“Two of the suspects arrested last week had been apprehended in the December raid but had posted bail, police Chief Inspector Renante Galang said. The dogs had been kept in metal fuel drums and tied to heavy steel chains inside a 2-hectare (5-acre) coffee plantation surrounded by a fence made of corrugated tin in San Pablo city in Laguna. Police recovered 30 dogs from an arena in the nearby town of Calauan where they were about to fight, Almora said. ~~

“The eight suspects face charges of illegal gambling and cruelty to animals. The San Pablo city prosecutor has not yet completed a preliminary investigation to determine if evidence is strong enough for a court case. In the meantime, Galang said police will turn them over to immigration officials. If convicted of illegal gambling, they face a maximum of 12 years in prison. The charge of animal cruelty carries a penalty of up to two years, but no one has served time in the Philippines for the crime. A student recently found guilty of killing a cat received a few months of community service. Dogfighting is not common in the Philippines and the fights were broadcast mostly outside the country.” ~~

A few months later, Alya B. Honasan wrote in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, “The perpetrators, Korean nationals who were found guilty of illegal gambling, animal abuse and sanitation violations, were the same people behind an earlier operation, busted on Dec. 2, 2011, in Indang, Cavite. Since then, several of the Laguna animals have succumbed to wounds and infections from injuries sustained from the fights, as well as illnesses due to unsanitary conditions and neglect. The dogs were heavily chained to steel drums, their only shelter from heat and rain. Not all the dogs were fighters; many females, in fact, were kept to breed, or worse, to be “bait dogs” on which the more aggressive animals honed their attack skills. Many of the animals bear the scars from such encounters. “But you have to understand, a characteristic of pit bulls as a breed is that they really want to please,” noted Maria Parsons. “So if you train them to fight, they will do it for you, until they die.” [Source: Alya B. Honasan, Philippine Daily Inquirer, October 2nd, 2012 ]

Rehabilitating the Rescued Pitbulls

Six months after they were rescued, some of the survivors of dog fighting raids were undergoing rehabilitation. Alya B. Honasan wrote in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, ““These dogs have been through much pain. You can’t counter pain with pain.” That was dog behavior consultant and “dog coach” Francis Cleofas talking, as he lovingly stroked the head of a gorgeous, sunshine-colored pit bull named Goldie. From her healthy countenance, gentle face and happy demeanor, and the way she relished being handled, one would never have guessed that Goldie is one of the remaining 171 surviving Laguna pit bulls—dogs once considered fierce, dangerous fighting machines. It took months of care and hard work by volunteers, but today, according to Cleofas and the animal welfare organization Compassion and Responsibility for Animals (CARA), a dozen of these dogs, including Goldie, are ready to be adopted. [Source: Alya B. Honasan, Philippine Daily Inquirer, October 2nd, 2012 ]

“Through the work of two animal welfare organizations, CARA and Island Rescue Organization (IRO), the dogs were finally relocated to a new site in Batangas, away from the scene of their suffering, and they now live in clean, comfortable cages with tarpaulin covers, shaded by trees. Volunteers, seven full-time employed caretakers, and veterinarians from Batangas and Manila have transformed many of the dogs from frightened, filthy and wounded creatures into the healthy-looking and well-mannered animals they have become today.

“The sanctuary of the Laguna pit bulls is run by Cleofas, Parsons. The atmosphere was positive as Cleofas invited the visitors to go around and see the dogs, distributed over three different areas—a sick bay, a section for the adoptables and the general area where majority of the dogs are kept. An advocate of “force-free training” who would rather go for positive reinforcement than punishment, Cleofas briefed the people on how to approach the dogs, and guests were requested to sign a waiver stating their understanding of the procedure. Still, the dogs stole everybody’s hearts. In the sick bay, the animals were recuperating nicely and looked to be in great shape. The adoptables section was easily the most popular, with dogs like Goldie, the calm, teddy bear-like Alfonso, and the playful Mona Lisa competing for attention, with the latter constantly angling to be petted.

Image Sources:

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Philippines Department of Tourism, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, and various books, websites and other publications.

Last updated June 2015

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