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Full Circle

Day 99: Zamboanga

Zamboanga, Philippines 
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Boy Primalion's cock farm outside Zamboanga.
Michael Palin - Full CircleSunday in Zamboanga. A hot, sticky, airless day which feels as though it's sickening for something. Throughout the night my air-conditioning unit rattles, wheezes and shudders like a dying man.

Boy Primalion has invited us to see his cocks in action today at the Galleria de Zamboanga. Two middle-aged ladies sit demurely behind a wrought iron Spanish style grille selling tickets for what is billed as a Five-Cock Derby (which means each owner can enter five cocks). Total prize money of 450 million pesos (over ten million pounds) is on offer.

The gallery is of wooden construction and built on three levels around a sand-covered arena, the same size as a boxing ring (why are boxing rings called rings when they're always square?). This is lit from above by a rig of fluorescent strip lights. There is a tremendous din issuing from around it which I assume to be a fight in progress. In fact it's the much more animated business of pre-fight betting. The fighting cocks are presented and then thrust at each other so that aficionados can judge their chances from the way they spar up. Then a prolonged process of laying money goes on led by bookies called Cristos, because of the way they spread their arms wide as they invite bets. Sign language is used to denote the amount of the bet and nothing is ever written down.
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  • Series: Full Circle
  • Day: 99
  • Country/sea: Philippines
  • Place: Zamboanga
  • Book page no: 141

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