As if the gore splattered meat market in Tomohon wasn’t enough fun, the extra curricular entertainment of cock-fighting is also available for your edification, so I put on my sports correspondent hat to check out a match for you. It is popular throughout south-east Asia and is well over a thousand years old in Indonesia, so hardly a cultural practice to be ignored. If you only watch for a few minutes in the early stages, you could be forgiven for thinking that it wasnt quite as unpleasant as you had imagined. After all, a chicken’s beak is hardly the kind of weapon to administer a swift fatal blow or disembowel an opponent. But, it is this which draws out the agony into a death by a thousand pecks.
Around fifteen minutes into the fight it came abundantly clear which cock was going to win, with one too weak to get in any retaliatory blows of any substance. His lean figured, black feathered nemesis, in true street fighter style, had chomped onto the back of his neck and was bashing his head against a low concrete wall at the base of a fence. However, each time the birds went beyond the mutually agreed, invisible boundaries of combat the owners would carry them back to the centre but no matter how much the weaker one had been struggling he would launch himself with renewed but ultimately futile vigour against his opponent. Ten minutes further on it all seemed over: the loser’s head a bloodied mess, crest in shreds, laying with the panting victor’s clawed feet on his neck, as blood dripped from a gobbet of flesh hanging from the triumphant, black cockerel’s beak. For a moment it was easy to imagine the prehistoric lineage to their dinosaur ancestors, usually obscured in their more typical setting on a plate surrounded by potatoes and veg. But, the birds were lifted back into play and for a minute the losing bird found startling reserves of energy, even landing a blow, although he soon wilted and was held in a winged head lock.
So on it went, each time the bird collapsed I thought this excruciating farce must be over, only for the ordeal to restart. Eventually the weaker one became sufficiently dazed to be incapable of responding and the match was declared over. In casual disregard for the illegality of betting on cock fights, the losing owner handed a wad of cash to the winner, who magnanimously mopped the ragged, bloody head of the losing bird. Was that a hint of sadness on the owners face as he comforted his stunned and bedraggled bird? I would have thought that all that was left to do was put it out of its misery and cook it up for supper, unless by some miracle of intensive therapy it would be capable of fighting another day. I suspect at that moment the cooking pot was looking like a better option for the bird.