Sunday, 25 March 2012

Slow backward – The sabungan in Parang, by Alfredo P Hernandez

1) Sabungan sa Parang … In the early 50s, a cockpit was set up in the heart of Parang under the canopy of coconut trees, just a few meters away from the seashore. This one replaced the first arena that operated on the outskirts of Mambulao, at a place notoriously known as “Kurbada” or “Biglang-liko” along the road to Larap. It was the town’s “prostitution zone”. About 500 meters away was the equally-notorious “saloon” or in present lingo, beerhouse with “baylarinas” (dancers). Cockfights were held every Saturday and Sunday and there was no lack of patrons or “sabungeros” coming to this place from all over the province. With the cock games also came other forms of small-time gambling games such as “beto-beto”, card games and “pula-dayon” (two pingpong balls dancing on red and white squares). Over time, many people, particularly housewives became addicted to the “pula-dayon”, including my mother, who betted from five centavos to as high as one peso. Most of the time, my mother came home looking upset as she lost some money to “pula-dayon”, and my father would give her a dressing down for wasting hard-earned money from the iron mines in Larap.

2) New cockfight arena … After a time, the “sabungan” folded up, on order of the municipal mayor, who received lots of complaints from residents in Parang whose breadwinners lost “kinsenas” wages to the cockfight bets. Only to be resurrected in Calero nearly one year after the one in Parang was shut down. The new cockpit arena was allowed to operate since it was isolated from the community in Calero. It was set up on a wide area that used to be banana plantation, but still along the road to Larap. As they say, fast money from gambling would always attract gamblers and the Calero cockpit was no exception. It drew the same size of crowd - cockfight enthusiasts -- as that of the Parang arena. And the whole place would rock with shouting and maddening applause after a game was done, indicating that big money changed hands.

3) Weekend sideline … When the Calero cockpit arena was being planned, father got wind of the news that the operators were inviting people wanting to put up food stalls (carinderia) around the arena to feed gamblers. My parents grabbed this opportunity and on one weekend, father and two carpenters built our stalls with nipa roofing and wood dining tables and benches. When the cockpit opened up a month later, our small place was among those that served food and snacks to cockfight patrons. Mother knew how to cook a lot of “ulam” from “dinuguan” to “tinuto” (Bicol la-ing) to “arroz caldo”. We usually offered at least eight dishes including “hot cake” (pan cake”) which I cooked myself. In between games, we would have many diners, making my parents pleased as it meant more income after a day’s hard work. Our small business went on until I finished Grade six.

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