Two cocks strut the dust, scratching their marks in circles, tied to short stakes. Dual owners crouch, clutching their birds that dot, dot dash each other. One, beak dipped in gold, another’s wattle shivers. From a red velvet lined case, tari are polished with a white cloth as if laying royal cutlery. Gaffs wound like a yo-yo to the left leg—the reaper our man Rogelio calls out. Sa pula, sa puti cry the Kristos arms crucified reeling off odds from memory. They burst into flames and behind the bars, notes are counted out like tossed feathers - a winner fans himself. Notes Sabong—Filipino (Tagalog) term for Cockfight. Tari—Blade tied to the cock’s spur. Gaff—Binding for the tari. Sa pula, sa puti—For the Red Rooster, For the White Rooster. Kristo—The man who calls the bets, from memory. His name derives from the posture of extended arms resembling Christ nailed on the cross.

Karl Riordan