Sabong or Cockfighting is an old-age blood sport that started even before the time of Christ. It was a favorite spectator sport in India, Persia, China and other eastern countries during the ancient times. In 1521, modern cockfighting was first documented in Taytay, a municipality in the province of Palawan, Philippines by Magellan’s chronicler, Antonio Pigafetta. It was said that Filipino migrants brought cockfighting in Hawaii.

Although the game is banned or regulated in many countries, it remains a popular pastime in the Philippines where both legal and illegal cockfights are rampant. Legal cockfights are scheduled weekly while tupada or illegal fights are held in secluded areas to avoid police raids.


In the game of sabong, two owners place their gamecock in the ring or cockpit. Bets are placed while the cocks fight each other to their deaths. In the Philippines, two types of knife or gaffe are used. Single-edged blades are used in major derbies; double-edged blades can also be used depending on the agreement between owners. The standard duration for a legal fight is 10 minutes in which a win or a draw is declared by the referee.

Several World Slasher Cup derbies, dubbed as the Olympics of Cockfighting, were held in the country at Smart Araneta Coliseum, Quezon City.

Sabong Terminology

Derby – legal cockfighting events wherein cocks are paired according to weight. May also refer to the championship determined by the entry with the highest number of points.

Ulutan – (hackfight) ordinary fights between gamecocks; may also pertain to illegal combat

Rueda – another term for the cockpit

Asensista – financier or capitalist

Cazador – the one who lists the bet

Kristo – the bet taker

Parada – (center bet) the bet placed on management’s favorite

Contra-Barata – changing of bets from llamado to dejado and vise versa

Kulitan – while betting takes place, cocks are allowed to peck on each other’s head to maintain the level of aggressiveness

Dejado – (underdog) the cock with lesser bet

Llamado – (favorite) the cock with bigger center or initial bet

Meron – assigned spot in the arena for the cock with bigger initial bet

Wala – assigned spot for the cock with lesser initial bet

Ganadores – gamecocks with most wins

Sentenciador – (referee) licensed person who oversees the cockfight and determines the winner

Soltada – term for every match

Soltador – also known as handler

Travesia – those who are involved in cockfighting with no gamecocks of their own

Nangangayao – (withdrawing cock) gamecock that’s showing visible signs of refusal

Jokers – (reserved) cocks provided by promoters

Betting Hand Signs

The kristos take bets from the crowd by just memorizing it using their own mnemonics and, because of the distance and deafening noise in the arena, rely on hand signs to communicate.

Upward Fingers – may mean 10 pesos for each finger in small arenas and during hackfights. It may mean 10,000 to 100,000-peso bet in major derbies.

Downward Fingers – each finger is equivalent to Php1,000 bet. So, 5 fingers = Php5,000 bet.

Sideward Fingers – each finger is equivalent to Php100.