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As I See It

Cockfighting is cruelty to animals

/ 09:23 PM June 16, 2011

A WHOLE family of my cousins was buried alive in Zambales by Mt. Pinatubo 20 years go, in June 1991. They lived at the foot of Mt. Pinatubo. Until now, we don’t know what happened to them. Not even their remains have been found. They just disappeared from the face of the earth. Authorities believe they were buried alive by the pyroclastic flow when the volcano erupted. Like the Romans who were buried by the ashes of Mt. Vesuvius centuries ago, perhaps their bodies would be found by archeologists centuries from now, frozen in the positions of what they were doing in the last few moments of life.

That family was really a victim of everything that could go wrong in a family. They were the children of my first cousin, the daughter of my mother’s elder sister. She married a handsome young man, an only son, from Manila. He was so handsome he became a movie actor, became a stand-in for Leopoldo Salcedo, then the King of Philippine movies, whom he resembled. They had nine children, five girls and four boys. The man’s parents bought them a big house in Malabon. He fought in the war as a guerrilla, saw action against the Japanese in Montalban. His guerrilla backpay he spent to produce a movie, which was a financial flop. He lost all his investments.

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Bad luck began to hound the family. First, one of the younger boys suddenly died while a toddler. The man was on his way home from a shooting, in coat and tie, when he got the news.

Then the husband himself suffered a stroke and was paralyzed, from which he never recovered. Jobless, he was reduced to begging on Rizal Avenue. His family took him home but he deteriorated quickly and died.

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Then the eldest daughter had a stroke herself and died at the Philippine General Hospital.

To support her brood, the wife had to take in laundry. The two older boys were taken by Boys’ Town. One of the younger boys, who had eye cancer, was taken in and raised by an orphanage in Manila. The house in Malabon was sold and the remaining family rented rooms in basements. I was then just starting a family myself, but I helped my cousin with whatever I could spare.

Then after the two older boys married and had families of their own, the oldest died of a stroke. The second oldest took his family to Zambales, where they farmed at the foot of the then dormant Mt. Pinatubo. None of the children finished school.

Then Pinatubo erupted. That farming family just disappeared. Until now, the mother and surviving siblings are hoping her son and their brother would show up someday or they would hear news that the family is living somewhere. But there is no news, not even the shadow of a son or brother finally coming home.

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The public has been outraged by a young man who posted on his Facebook account the photo of a wet puppy pegged to a clothesline. Last month, a university student was punished by a Manila court for torturing and killing a cat, then bragged about it on his online diary. Everybody should be warned that there is a law, the Animal Welfare Act, passed in 1998, that punishes cruelty to animals with imprisonment for up to two years in jail.

It also punishes dogfighting and horsefighting. But dogfighting still goes on in some areas of the Philippines (several persons are currently being tried for dogfighting in Antipolo) and horsefighting is still being held during town fiestas in some parts of Mindanao. Recently, the Commission on Animal Welfare banned the “tambucho-killing” of dogs, the method of euthanizing unwanted dogs with exhaust gases from tailpipes (tambucho) of motor vehicles. This is a very cruel way of euthanizing dogs, as the animals are asphyxiated by the smoke from the tailpipes while they are confined in a closed box. That is not euthanasia, said animal welfare groups, but cruelty to animals.

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If you ask me, cockfighting should also be outlawed. Fighting cocks, armed with razor-sharp steel spurs, are made to fight to the death. Yet the cocks have no animosity against each other except that humans make them fight to satisfy their bloodlust.

Cockfighting has been outlawed in most of the United States. Only the hillbilly counties still have them, but I am sure they would be outlawed there, too, in due time.

The fighting cocks are “bred to fight,” argues the sabungeros, of which many of our public officials are. Cockfighting is still held every weekend in many parts of the Philippines, especially in the rural areas where it is the primary form of entertainment. Almost all the municipalities have a cockpit. Cockfighting has become part of our culture and if we outlaw cockfighting, we would have a revolution from sabungeros in our hands. But cockfighting is cruelty to animals.

Bred to fight. That is the same argument they give to the fighting bulls in Spain and Mexico. Ernest Hemingway helped popularize bullfighting with his book “Death in the Afternoon,” and movies like “Blood and Sand” and “The Brave Bulls” made bullfighting glamorous.

But even the Spaniards, Mexicans and Portuguese are beginning to realize that bullfighting is cruel to the animals. Bullfighting is being outlawed in some parts of Spain and Mexico. In Portugal, there is bullfighting but the bulls are not killed.

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KAPIHAN NOTES: This coming Monday, June 20, having been declared by the President as a special non-working holiday, there will be no Kapihan sa Manila at the Diamond Hotel and no Plaridel lunch. Regular schedules resume on June 27.

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TAGS: cockfighting, columns, cruelty to animals, dogfighting, featured columns, horsefighting, opinion, Pinatubo, volcanic eruption
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