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Full Circle

Day 98: Zamboanga

Michael Palin - Full CircleIntrigued by the whereabouts of all the cockerels on the boat I make my first visit to a cock farm. High up in the mountains north of Zamboanga, cock farmer Boy Primalion raises some of the most sought after fighting birds in the Philippines which gives him considerable status in a country where cock-fighting is rated the Number One pastime, after basketball.

Primalion's farm is set at the end of a long, bumpy ascent where a muddy, red-earth track emerges from light jungle onto green and pleasant slopes whose summits are the first to catch the drifting clouds. These hills are alive with the sound of two and a half thousand crowing roosters and covered with orderly ranks of wooden, A-frame hutches. In each of these is a tethered cockerel, separated from his neighbour by a regulation distance of six to eight feet, which is the closest they can get without actually attacking each other. Outside their huts they cluck, pick, nod, strut, primp, preen, shake and ruffle themselves - a great army of first-time home-owners. The only drawback to this life of luxury is that they will soon have to exchange it for the din of the cockpit and the strong possibility of being pecked to death.

Against the din I talk to Boy Primalion's son, who is a courteous man with soft, fleshy features. His father set up the farm twenty-two years ago and now, with two thousand five hundred birds in residence it is, he says proudly if ungrammatically, 'one of the biggest farm in the whole world'.

I ask him what's required to produce a champion fighting cock. 'It's simple. We give them fresh mountain air, carbohydrates and the protein to develop their muscles.'

It sounds much the same as raising any kind of prize fighter. And the breeder's trophies in the family guest-house are as grand and monumental as any Lonsdale belt.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Full Circle
  • Day: 98
  • Country/sea: Philippines
  • Place: Zamboanga
  • Book page no: 140

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