Introduction

I have 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.

 

There are 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.

 

Unlike 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 countries.

 

Thank 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

Philippines 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.

 

The 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.

 

Many 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.

 

So the 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).

 

Fighting 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 hours. 

 

One of 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. 

 

The beginner

The 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.

 

In the 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. 

 

2008 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

From suitable 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.

 

Background

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

Another 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

If you 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.

 

For 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 business.

 

The breeding practice

Although Philippines 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.

 

By an 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.

 

Manila 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

If 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.

 

If we 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. 

 

Two 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 parents.

 

The 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.

 

Why the fighters’ scale is not as tough as their parents?

Most of 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. 

 

There is one breeder raise the fighter in a small earthen pond that has very high potential to produce the good quality fighter.

 

The ring

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.  

 

Fighting jar

Unlike other 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.

 

Fighting water

Unlike 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.

 

Philippines 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.

 

Water’s heat

The 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

After 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.

 

Poisoned water

This is 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 evident proof.

 

However, the fair game is applied if both party agreed on theirs’ set up rule.

 

The package  

I was 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 does.

 

Weighting

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

One 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

The 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:

 

Earn 1 point if fighter is opening the gill fully approaching to the police fighter.

Earn 1 point if a fighter hit by the police fighter and it does not run away.

Earn 2 points if a fighter hit to the police fighter and does not run away.

 

From 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

The 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.

 

Comment

The 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.

 

Acknowledgment:

I 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.                             

You come I'm so please, I'm regret when you leave.

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