visited Philippines on
19 – 25 July 2013; for the purpose of study the fish fighting in Philippines.
The study of fighting fish in Philippines may answers an
importance question on my research. How the fighting fish society started in
the country has no its historical background. The study found that, there
are many factors contributing to people in the modern time start to play the
fighting fish. Unlike the previous research on the other countries, they
learned the fish fighting in the rice field and already have them available
under theirs’ bamboo hut roof in the several decades. What I was trying
to do is to track down its losing historical record. But Philippines is different case, the
player parted from the mainland by her natural geography and scratched from
the cultural wrench in the imperialism era. It is exciting to learn from
them along with theirs living story which it shall turns to be the history
in the next few decades. The most interested in study Philippines’
fighting fish is, it gives a clear picture of modern fighting fish society
that has no its history rooted before.
two stages on the story of fighting fish in Philippines. The first stage
was an emergence of fish fighting in 1980, they used mostly long fin.
Another stage is just recent happened in 2008 along with the world wide
booming of Siamese fighting fish both fancy and game bred fighter kick of
by tremendously unlimited speed of computer social net work.
other countries on the mainland I have been visited Laos, Vietnam,
Cambodia, Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia. These countries have theirs
history of playing captive fighting fish over 60 years. They did develop
their own fighting fish strain up to theirs’ unique character. If the
breeders from each country did not cross breed the fighter strain as they
doing today. Ten years ago the fighter from these countries were not too
difficult to distinguished one’s fighter source from another source,
simply looking at it key feature. Some specialists can point it just by his
intuition. An exchange of stock from the major city rarely happened between
these countries because of the Indo – china war and the
transportation was not so convenient as today. So exchange stocks did by the
local collectors and the players at the border transit between these
you for the computerization age and the modern transportation that make an
exchange fighting fish stock from its source possible within 2 – 3
days, to Philippines
the seven thousands islands.
Geography and historical background
is comprised more than 7,000 islands on SEA rim. Her location is on
latitude and longitude of 13° 00 N, 122° 00 E. This island nation is
accurately surrounded by the Pacific Ocean, and many smaller bodies of Sea.
The climate within this latitude and longitude of Philippines remains very
warm and humid throughout the year. Annual amount of rainfall of this
region is heavy but varies widely. The latitude range is cover the Middle
part of Thailand to north of Malaysia and Indonesia. This humid rain zone is
suitable and best for breeding the fighting fish entire year as other
countries in SEA do.
theory on the origin of Philippines which is the most accepted, states the
Philippines was once a part of the Asian continental shelf connected to
mainland Asia by land bridges covered with ice. After the Pleistocene Age
(2,588,000 to 11,700 years ago) when the water that covered the land
bridges melted, the Philippines was separated from the landmass of Asia and
was further pushed to where it is now as time passed.
historians and scientists believe that the first inhabitants of the
Philippines islands emerged during the Pleistocene period. They stated
that, Philippines descended from different groups that came from Southeast
Asia in successive waves of migration. Each group had a distinct culture,
with its own customs and traditions. Because of the disappearance of
the land bridges, the new migrants were necessarily skilled in seafaring.
These were the Indonesians and Malays, who came later to the islands in
boats. They were engaged in farming and mining.
native people before Spanish invaded were people from the SEA main land,
Malay and Indonesian in which basic oriental culture farmer was laid. This
was why an introduced fighting fish game quickly welcomed along with the
game fowl; (Sabong or the fighting cock game is legal in the Philippines
and regulated as well. It was passed as a legal sport in
1974. Most islands have a legal stadium or outdoor arena where the men
can go on weekends to either watch, wager or fight their game-cocks).
cock and fighting fish always are common hobby in the SEA, goes along since
an ancient time. But fighting fish in Philippines seems started late. It
was because Philippines is geographical isolated by the sea and lack of
wild Betta species. Another reason, fighting fish in the past was purely
domestic hobby in which fish has very short period life span and not easy
to go with the owner, compared to the cock that sailor may have them in
delicious dish. The cock can accompany with the owner as a favorite pet and
theirs offspring as a food. Fighting fish is depended very much on the
shipping time that secures the live of the fighter. The Philippines players
can catch up the mainland fighting fish trend by the mean of social network
that recently rise and the cheap flight in the region within a few
the most interested in study Philippines fighting fish is, though
Philippines is the SEA race basically living style is simple and inclined
to the spiritual inner mind. On the other hand, materialism by their westernized
education and the Christian religious patterns shaped them follow the logic
of empirical thinking. So we have two explicit contrasting in one body, in
one way they hold the social value pro on fighting animal and another way
they are educated to decline on abusing animal as a game. For me this contrast
parallel existence is a curious cultural symbiosis.
beginning of fighting fish in Philippines was lead back in 1980 or around
30 years ago. The fighting fish type was a long fin fighter easy to access
and cheap from local aquarium pet shop. The curiosity on using them to
fight may come from the fish’s name itself, “Siamese fighting
fish” that challenges the player to try it. At that time they also used the swinging water (Bungog) as in North Vietnam
and Republic of Dominican (DR) doing. This is one of my astonishment I
heard they given the same answer when I asked them (Vietnam Republic of
Dominican and Philippines),
why they use swinging water on the fighting game and why they did not let
them fight to last. The answer they gave the same was, they were boring to
wait and want to know the fighting result fast. Another hidden reason based
on the trick playing, when one found that his fighter attacked badly by
another fighter then he request for swinging water. Bungog or swinging
water became the tactic to stop an opponent fighter to hit his fish around
and open the dummy chance for his fighter to fight back or ran away in
worst case or vice versa. Something like shuffle the cards to find another
chance of winning the game.
beginning there are two main cities active in fish fighting using long fin,
Manila (North) and Davao (South). The aquarium shop imported the fighter
from Bangkok, Singapore and Jakarta. The player in Davao said that they get
the long fin fighter from Indonesia, since the island is closer. Some
players may breed the fighter for private using and share among their group.
They sold to the players in neighbor cities but not sold to other party in their
domestic area. They thought that an opponent may find the better stock
against them by using their fighter as a sample test.
was a year the Philippines
players used the standard short fin fighter and apply the standard rule on
theirs fighting fish club. This change can be explained by two factors.
The aquarium businessmen did import/export aquarium fish from the
mainland and introduce the real traditional fighting fish practice in the
mainland to theirs’ customer players. An introduction of fighting
fish came in the right time by replace fighting dog that was banned in Philippines.
Information sharing in social network is brush up the pioneer players to
theirs’ line of accomplishment and the complete united of SEA
fighting fish is begun.
The factors contributing the game
climate and native historical background show above, Philippines
is the most suitable for breeding the quality Siamese fighting fish. The
socially character of Philippines is also conformed to breeding fighting
fish both for show and fighting purpose.
Philippines have very strong background on
using animal fighting for gambling. Cock fighting is very popular
traditional hobby common to all islands in Philippines,
even before Spanish step in the Island. Cock
fighting is recognized as a national legal sport in 1970. But the dog
fighting was banned in 2007.
In the modern time it seems that fighting cock is
hardly to maintain. People are rush, availability of space is limited, the
cost of cock and facility management are heavy burden in the rigidity of
economy and the scared of bird flue should be one matter that people wanted
to avoid. A twelve month old cock cost $ 200 can be killed within few
second by attached lazar in the cockpit. So the fighting cock is preserved
for rich people and hardcore gamblers but not for the amateur lay people to
involve with. Fish fighting is another choice for people who love light bet
and it is not required much for space and time. It is allows for short time
hobbyist to be in and out in the weekend holiday.
The rise computerized social network
importance factor support Philippines fighting fish players is the rise of
modern fancy Betta along with the computerized social network. Many Betta
competitions are show up annually in every Betta clubs both in Western and
Asia. The various splendid colorful of Betta are spread over the social
network share to friends and welcome to all visitors. An amazing beauty of
colors and the wild instinct of the fighter showing in webpage are
provoking some people to entertain them. The list of prices do showing on
the biding website magnetizing the hobbyist moving from the watcher to be
the serious breeder.
Philippines players’ habit
ask me what is the habit of Philippines players in the leisure time I will
tell you without delay a second. The Philippines players’ habit is
same as Thais players’ habit. The favor on challenge for bet, sense
of humor, positive mind, humble and very friendly to the new comer, playful
rumor in a group and prank these are the same common set of habit of Philippines
and Thais players. The share optimistic attitude toward other people who
has the same interest is the mind thread bind the newcomer welcome in the
club. Without knowing each other by any mean of introduction they could
develop theirs’ relationship to become the real friend. They can sit
and concentrate on watching fish fighting without complain on boredom but
making joke playful around during the period of fish fighting. To making
contrast to this, I have been took few westerners and Japanese visited the
fighting ring to watch the real match. At first in email communication,
they were claimed interesting in fighting fish. I was noticed that they
paid attention and patient to watch a match only a few minutes but rather
show a sign of boredom after. In fact some of them want to go back before
the end of the match. They may just appearance interested but not from
theirs’ inner impressed.
Philippines players most of them hang around until the ring’s time
over. They are still play around and make appointment for next week. They
withdraw by group, on the way back home they chat on the thing that they can
not say in the ring, but surely not what the thing to do in tomorrow
The breeding practice
play the fighting fish around 30 years ago (1980) But those fighter were
the long fin that players got from the aquarium pet shop. Without
introduction from the knower of fighting fish game, they simply let them
fought in the round bottle few minutes and swing the bottle as Hanoi player did. This practice heap many
ply of the art of fighting fish knowledge such as fighting style, hitting
position, toughness of the meat and heart stamina. Those are the essential
quality of parents’ stock bloodlines that Philippines player overlook
them. It was implies that in that time they just buy to play and put aside
when they bored. The real impressions on the game not happened in that
period of time. They were lack knowledge of the true nature hoarded in
Siamese fighting fish.
interactive of computerized social network and the digging knowledge of
aquarium trader travelling around SEA, they came to learn the real art of fish
fighting. In 2008 the serious breeding short fin game bred fighter pinned
down in Manila and Davao. The parents stocks were imported
from Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam and Indonesia. Mostly the males were
fought in the tough ring before classified to be the parents stock as it
has been done hundred years ago in Thailand. And because of winning is a
goal, many players continues to import the top quality fighter direct from
theirs’ source in the mainland of SEA. The qualified fighters were
shared among the breeders’ group and its offspring would tested and
shared in the group. They sell the good fighter to the players outside the
city to prevent the same stock strike back as they did before. No doubt
that with this real fighting selection method, Philippines breeders got
their top quality parents stock to start with.
and Davao are the main cities breed the short fin fighter. Each city has
around 30 breeders. Each breeder own 30 tanks for private used and shared
among friends in a group or sell to the players in other city.
The breeding tank
refrigerator is a symbol represent an American living style. The
Philippines breeders also show that. A
recycle 5 - 10 cubic feet refrigerator tank is a favor of fighter
breeding tank. With square tank format and its light weight, the breeder
can place the tank on the wall corner or place on the top of any supporter.
Water hyacinth also supplied in the tank as a breeding setup standard. At
the first glance it may look smart on using recycle refrigerator tank a
ready made for breeding habitat. But it is also shows that the breeder does
not serious on breeding the quality fighter. They categorize the fighter as
regular aquarium pet fish in which it can raised in any container as long
as it can produced the offspring.
consider the tank is a house to cultivate the Siamese fighting fish to be
the good fighter. The tank is one of the most importance factors to prepare
them to be the tough fighter. The soft environmental tank serves only to
the soft fighter and the tough environment tank also serves the tough
fighter. But the fighter can not survive in the too cruel or extreme environment
tank too. The best setup tank is the balance between toughness and softness
in the tank, imitating to the real fighting fish habitat as close as
possible and let the fighter assimilating or struggle for living that build
them to be the tough fighter.
questions were asked. I think the answer already freezed
in the refrigerator tank. In fact all regions of Philippines are very
suitable for breeding the tough fighter. What they lack may be the
understanding of traditional way of life of the farmer. The time in history
may stretch people’s thought away from her origin. The questions are:
Why some fighters in the tank growing so fast and they have difference size
in the same batch. Why the fighters’ scale not as tough as their
size of 5 – 10
cubic feet tank is considering too small for raising
a batch of fighter. When breeder supplies the live mosquito larvae to feed
the fighter and he thought that an amount of larvae should enough to the
number of fry in the tank. But what happening in the tank is, the strongest
fish would consume the feed as much as it can and left the remainder larvae
to the rest. We can see that there are only 5 - 10 percent of the fish are
extraordinary large but most of the other fish in the batch are dwarf. Both
sizes of fighters are not usable in the real tough ring because an age of
big size fighter is too young where the small size fighters are deformed
from starved. The size of the tank is inevitable involved on balancing size
of the fighters in the tank. If the tank size is too big with the small
number of fish in the tank, the fighter size would be growing very fast.
But if the fry in the tank are too crowd in the small tank the breeder has
to share sufficient feed all over the tank so even the smallest and weakest
one can easily access the feed attached on theirs corner.
fighters’ scale is not as tough as their parents?
the tanks I observed are placed in the shelter or under the mass shade of
the tree. This environment set up seems to be good for raise the aquarium
fish but not the tough fighter. Strong sunlight and temperature changed on day
and night are the factors to build the tough fighter both heart and scale.
The hard living in the tank delay physical growth but strengthen the meat
and stamina habit of the fighter. Live feeder is an essential to cultivate
an aggressive fighter. The pellet or artificial feeder shows the protein
and other mineral essence may convince the breeder to apply to his fighter.
But the digest system of the true nature of the wild fighter is not
designed for it. So the nutrition value is worthless. Carnivorous creature
need row meat and taking by hunt to bite and chew.
is one breeder raise the fighter in a
small earthen pond that has very high potential to produce the good
Philippines fighting fish ring reflect well
on the strong background of fighting cock. They have the weighting system
same as the fighting fish ring in other countries and adding fighting cock
practice to the fighting fish ring, for example, the large size of the jar
as the large size of cockpit and introducing the fighters to know each
other a few minutes before fight.
countries that provided the standard fighting jar. In Thailand using square glass where Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Hong Kong and Cambodia using 4 - 5 liters round glass.
But in Philippines
there is no standard fighting jar. The size of fighting jar is tailored by
the ring master. It can be 10 – 20 liters of water.
The largest aquarium glass using as a ring I saw is something 12*10*16
inches. It calls the dead ring
because of the ring master use the very large square glass for fighting. If
a fighter is not tough enough it is hardly remain survive. And because of
big glass ring a fighter has to use a lot of energy to run around. The jantur training method is applied.
Jantur training method is a method of training the fighter to be the
physical and heart tough. The jantur glass is 3 inches width by 60 inches height. The
trainer put a fighter in Jantur glass 3 - 4 days for a fighter swimming up
and down. The fighter is gets depression from staying in the dictate alley
narrow space. It has to rush to taking breath from the water surface. The
purpose to setup this training situation is to teach a fighter to have
tough heart and prolonging on breathing. (Jantur is a name of an angry boy
in Indonesian folklore. That he got the lesson from his bad temper. He has
no way to go and falling into the poverty of life). Some extreme trainer
use heavy swirling water along
with the jantur training to harden their fighter.
others fighting fish rings I have seen in many countries. Those ring masters
prepared the jars in advance more than the number of the matches in that
day. The jars are rowed on the top of stand. The players simply choose the
jar near by theirs’ favorite seats. In Thailand the ring master would
pour water from the sealed drinkable water tank to a fighting jar per demand
of the match, this is to prevent alleged water poisoning.
fighting fish ring is using same water for many matches in a day. I
personally do not agree on using repetition water. For me the water in the
fighting fish jar have to use only one time. The problem may increase by
the number of repeating used water by three assumptions.
temperature of new water is relatively closed to the temperature of the
water the player carries his fighter in. When the water in the fighting jar
is used from morning to afternoon its temperature would increasingly by the
sun heat. So the fighter matches in afternoon would be weakening by an
immediate temperature changed. Higher temperature of water also affected to
the oxygen in the water that the previous matches already consumed. The
wound of fish would break and spread easier in higher temperature than the
lower temperature water.
Stinky fish smell
the first match the fighters would remain
the mucus, broken scale and blood in the water. When the second
match pour into the fighting jar. The fighters may get confused and try to
search an opponent by the mean of smell that spread all over the jar. What
I observed from my direct experienced was, in the beginning one or two
fighters sway around the jar with
anxiously finding the alien entity until when one fighter came closed to
another fighter with aggressive approach. So a fighter came to realize the
real enemy. There was at least one match I saw, one fighter simply ran
around and pay no attention to fight no matter his opponent came closer and
calling for fight. After 10 minutes both fighters simply ran around the jar
careless to another. Both were deceived by smell. A match was given up.
the worse case that can easily happen in using water more than one time.
When one player uses the same jar in his second match. So the poison in his
first match is sitting in the jar already. But his fighter in the second
match is getting acquainted with the substance already, since it is kept in
that special water at home. This is just my private pre-think without any
the fair game is applied if both party agreed on theirs’ set up rule.
interested on using the container carry the fighter. It is 200 cc small round plastic vial same
as plastic vial using in Cambodian and Malaysian players. This round vial
is very suitable for side view match and top view match. It is also saves
space if placed them in the vertical stack. On the move, a player just array the bottle in the metal frame box and hand carry with a very
comfortable manner. However, the matching is based on the weighting system
so there is no need for standard matching bottle as Thais’ player
Philippines fighting fish ring also use
weighting system operating by middleman and wit by the fighter’s
owner as other countries using the weighting system do, except Thai
fighting ring. To prevent the soft wind brow disturb the weighting cup, the
digital weight placed in the transparent
plastic box. The plastic plate is
closed once drop a fighter in the weighting cup. The weight of the
fighter is written on the sticker attached on one side of small round vial.
The owners place their fighters showing the weight on the shelf waiting for challenge. When the
challenger find an appropriate weight he may re – match again either
side view match or top view match. If a challenger suspect on the weight
written on the bottle he may request to re – weight that fighter
again if an owner of the fighter agree.
Introducing the fighters
interesting I did not see from other fighting ring is, the Philippines
players introducing the fighter a few minutes before they let them fight as
they do the same in fighting cock. Fighters are temporary parted by a transparency plate divided the fighting
glass into two parts. They rush to challenge another fighter like an arrow
driven from its bow once a player drops his fighter into the glass. Both display a few minutes to make sure that
they are ready for the battle, then one player remove the plate off and the
fighters throw themselves into the battle field.
The winning and losing rule
setup time for fighting is 4 hours as Malaysian ring. The ring master
registers time in his book when the match started. If the fighting time was
ended without one of the fighters runs away. Each fighter will tested by
the police fighter to earn the point. The winner is declared by the one who
gain higher point but if they have the same point then draw. The point value
to earn show below:
point if fighter is opening the gill fully approaching to the police
point if a fighter hit by the police fighter and it does not run away.
points if a fighter hit to the police fighter and does not run away.
the size of fighting glass, the long period of fighting and the earning
point winning condition, we can see that only the real tough fighter can
remain the winner. This is an implication on jantur training method
purposes to make fighter tough enough to stand until the end of the game.
Betting and fee
first stake put in before fight and betting open freely depending on the
challengers agreed. It can add any time in the fighting period. A ring
master jot down each bet in his book and collecting the bet and repay to
the winner when the game come to an end. Judge act as a middleman is a good
thing; it can prevent some players cheating, raising serious arguing or
some players do not obey the rule. All these annoyance can happen anytime
in the betting game. Ten percent of both sides bet will be shorten for the
fighting ring fee. In some occasion the ring master may requite the players
with simple delicious buffet lunch.
Philippines fighting fish story is a good paradigm to give a picture of how
the story of fighting fish started in the modern time, in the country has
no background in fighting wild Betta before. The pioneer players were those
who live in the urban or even metro area. They are hierarchical office
worker class working in time schedule, rather than the suburban or the
farmer living style as I have described in other countries that have more
free time. Over 400 years in the history of Philippines was the story
of struggling for independent from the western colonial occupation. And no
doubt that in such a long period of ruled, the western culture has overlay
the Philippines’ SEA culture which is basically farmer rice grower
society. The western living style is just a fashion coat wrapping on the
real SEA’s body and mind. As we can see other countries clothing
style, Chinese, African and Indian etc. But the core spirit of people is
still there, though was disturbed very little by the western living style
and the thinking format. An introduction of fighting fish to the Philippines
players is like putting the native plant seed to its fertilized home soil.
An increasing in number of collectors in fighting fish both fancy and game
bred is a recall the basic culture of SEA.
would like to express my gratitude and thankful to brothers Mr. Glenn E.
Chu and Mr. Garry E. Chu, they were so kind and generous to offer me to
stay in theirs house and show me around the Davao city, without them I do
not have this article. Not less to Mr. Vincent C. Baclaan and Mr. Rhoderick Serra for
the delicious Philippines seafood at a visited night, ensure me the
Philippines cuisine preserved SEA’s style. They serve unlimited rice
on demand with no extra charge!!! . Also an impressed time to Mr. Christian
Hao the ring master and the friendly fighting fish club members we were
shared the fun with delicious buffet and the exciting match. Thank you to
Mr. Gerald Prodon who took care of me when I was in Manila. He shows me
around the city and the Philippines History Museum that gain me more
understanding Philippines people. Last but most importance, thank you to
the members of fighting fish club in Davao to allow me to visit their farm,
their information were make up the solid matter of this article.