A Filipino filmmaker related the lives of Filipino men to those of gamecocks — on the edge of poverty, the men fight for money, land, women, beliefs. Like gamecocks, they live short lives: day to day, peck to scratch.
Impoverished Filipino men and gamecocks' lives intersect in the cockfighting pits, the gambling at which is a billion-dollar industry in the Philippines.
Filipinos will bet on any damn thing. They'll bet on sensible things — like businesses in neighborhoods that need them — and irrational things — like casino games of independent trials. My dad did both — unfortunately, he did a lot more of the second.
The lure of money won — more desirable than money earned — draws Filipinos like fish, especially in their climate where it's hard to earn it. I'll tell you two stories of racial stereotyping:
1) A Chinese fellow told me and another Chinese fellow that Chinese were the craziest gambling people anywhere, anytime, anyhow. I said: "Filipinos kick their asses." And before the first guy could start arguing his case, the other Chinese guy says: "He's right."
2) Chess master Rudy Hernandez — I liked that slick-dressed pinoy chess master, who used to tell me before our games: "Let's go fast. I have a date later." I approached Rudy and two other friends: Tom Dorsch and Jim Eade, also chess masters, couple of great white guys. Rudy was animated and laughing, slapping his thigh with his story about a gambler friend. I join the conversation with fake disbelief: "A Filipino who likes to gamble? No shit?".
I still love this as one of my all-time good lines. Jim and Tom cracked up at a well-timed bit of fake irony, and because we're all digging how much Rudy is into this story that you could tell about any of us. I'm a big-time gambler, right? I documented every season of WNBA handicapping, winning every year (too little to make up for unpleasantly altering the way I watched basketball games).
Back to the topic of Filipinos betting billions of dollars on cockfighting: Doesn't surprise me a bit that we'd gamble so heavily on birds like white guys gamble on ponies. It's government-approved free money *and* watching sports.
What does surprise me is that among the non-diseased bettors, some of them must really dig the cockfighting action, like white guys dig football. Maybe it's like the childhood urge you get to put two bugs in a jar, but never growing out of it.
Here's how I found the video in the first place: I learned tonight that I've always been wrong about the meaning of the University of South Carolina mascots, the Gamecocks. I always thought a gamecock was something you shot for food, like a game hen (so I also learned that "game hen" is just a kind of chicken), and why would you want to name your teams prey instead of predator? So I Googled that, and learned that the term "gamecocks" refers to those congenitally vicious roosters.
Watching the video, I thought "wow, the real meaning of gamecock is even ickier than my misconception — why would you name your team *this*?".