12 / ABRIL/ 2010
My name is Deddeda and I am a freelance photographer based in Victoria, BC. My work is primarily photojournalism, editorial, travel, and documentary photography for publications such as the New York Times, Maclean’s, Canadian Geographic, Globe and Mail, Canadian Living, Canadian Press news wire service, and a myriad of other magazines and newspapers.
I started my photography career after having an epiphany that I didn’t actually want to be a spy for CSIS (Canadian Security Intelligence Service).
DUMAGUETE, PHILIPPINES – Spectators shout out to wager bets in the stadium stands during a cockfighting session at the Dumaguete Cockpit, in Dumaguete, Negros Island, Philippines. (Photo by DEDDEDA)
Yup, I went to the University of Calgary, got myself a Social Science degree with a Concentration in Criminology. I really wanted to travel before jumping headfirst into an intense career of spying on people, so I skipped out on my convocation to move to New Zealand. Then I moved to Australia. Six months of traveling turned into two years of traveling.
Suddenly, I was 25 years old, living in a camper van, working in a vineyard, and surfing everyday, and I no longer had clear vision of what I wanted to do with my life. It was then that I decided that I’d rather travel and take photos for a living, than work as a “surveillant” for CSIS.
So, it was back to school for me. I graduated from the Western Academy of Photography in Victoria, with a professional diploma in Photojournalism and Journalism. I immediately worked staff jobs as a photographer for the Medicine Hat News and Victoria Times Colonist, before freelancing full-time.
Freelancing has enabled me the freedom to travel.
This week’s blog is about my recent 10-week trip to the Philippines in January, February, and March 2010.
I traveled to the Philippines with my partner, Sean White. The trip was primarily to meet his mother’s side of the family, who mostly all live on the island of Negros, as well as to escape the Canadian winter for fun tropical island adventures, and to shoot stock travel photos.
DUMAGUETE, PHILIPPINES – Silence falls upon the crowd as they watch two roosters fight with three inch blades strapped to their legs, during a cockfighting session at the Dumaguete Cockpit, in Dumaguete, Negros Island, Philippines. (Photo by DEDDEDA)
My SNAPSHOT of the PHILIPPINES
There are 7011 tropical islands in the Philippines. I visited 12 of them. There are lots and lots of people in the Philippines, roughly 96 million of them, and they almost all speak English. The country is predominantly Christian, in particular, Catholic, with the exception of a Muslim minority.
Filipinos love to eat culinary dishes like crispy pata (deep fried pork knuckles), chicharon (deep fried pork fat), and balut (a boiled duck egg that contains a partially developed embryo, sometimes complete with little wee baby feathers and a tender beak – yummy), making it a challenging place to be if you are a vegetarian, which I am. However, in my opinion, the Philippines do have the best mangos in the world, and there’s always plenty of rice.
I learned that the most famous person in the Philippines is world welterweight boxing champion, Manny Pacquiao, who endorses everything from Head and Shoulders anti-dandruff shampoo to San Miguel beer, on Filipino television.
DUMAGUETE, PHILIPPINES – Front row spectators watch two roosters fight with three inch blades strapped to their legs, during a cockfighting session at the Dumaguete Cockpit, in Dumaguete, Negros Island, Philippines. (Photo by DEDDEDA)
I was fortunate to watch the pay-per-view Pacquiao vs Clottey fight in a quaint, little bamboo beach bar while in the Philippines. When Pacquiao fights, the entire country stops to watch. He’s the talk of the country, their pride and shining joy.
The second most famous person in the Philippines, just in case you were wondering, is Arnel Pineda, the new lead singer for the band, Journey, who I had never heard of before landing on Filipino soil, but certainly heard over and over, and over and over, all over the country.
The Philippines seems to be stuck in some sort of 80’s love-song time warp. Hits from the 80’s blare out from taxis, buses, malls, restaurants, and of course, karaoke machines. Everyone knows all the words and sings along, no matter where they are. One thing is certain, Filipinos know how to have fun; and they love to sing!
DUMAGUETE, PHILIPPINES – Two roosters fight each other during a cockfighting session at the Dumaguete Cockpit, in Dumaguete, Negros Island, Philippines. Each bird wears a three-inch razor-sharp blade tied to one of its leg. They fight to the death. (Photo by DEDDEDA)
Canadians love hockey, Filipinos love cockfights.
Cockfighting is the Filipino national sport.
Can you call gambling a sport?
I prefer to call the birds “roosters”, and the fights “rooster fights”, but this didn’t sit well with the locals. They just gave me strange, puzzled looks or laughed politely. No one ever referred to male chickens as roosters.
So, cocks they are.
FYI: I still have a hard time saying, “cocks” out loud in public.
I couldn’t even guess how many hundreds of thousands of cocks I saw in the Philippines. They were everywhere: in the rural areas, on mountainsides, in backyards, along the highways, in the middle of cities, in people’s homes, on basketball courts, and even on the bus.
DUMAGUETE, PHILIPPINES – A pit assistant encourages two roosters to keep fighting during a cockfighting session at the Dumaguete Cockpit, in Dumaguete, Negros Island, Philippines. (Photo by DEDDEDA)
Here’s the lowdown on cockfighting:
The fights occur in some type of stadium, and usually happen at night. The stadium is filled with men, cigarette smoke, and the smell of beer.
Two cocks are held up and displayed to the crowd in the middle of the “ring” or “cockpit”. Bets are made on the projected outcome of the match by shouting and waving of arms. Money is counted and passed around.
Each bird has a razor sharp blade that is three inches long, strapped to one of its legs, usually the left leg. A hush falls over the crowd as the two roosters begin to fight each other. The fight is quick and bloody. They fight to the death of one animal.
The winner is whisked away “backstage” to have its injuries sewed up by surgeons, if there is the slim chance it might survive.
The loser becomes dinner.
DUMAGUETE, PHILIPPINES – A winning rooster is picked up by a pit assistant during a cockfighting session at the Dumaguete Cockpit, in Dumaguete, Negros Island, Philippines. Each cock wears a three-inch blade tied to one of its ankles and the animals fight to the death. (Photo by DEDDEDA)
I’d been told that going to a cockfight is quite the authentic Filipino cultural experience, so one night I decided to attend a cockfight in the Dumaguete Cockpit, on the island of Negros. Of course, I took my camera along to see if I could a few shots of the action.
I paid my entrance fee and walked into the stadium with my camera. No hassles about taking photos. How refreshing! In fact, several people made room for me to shoot and even offered me their exclusive seats for a better view. It was super dark inside; I shot almost everything at 3200 ISO with my Canon 5D Mark II.
DUMAGUETE, PHILIPPINES – The feathers are swept up after a cockfighting session at the Dumaguete Cockpit, in Dumaguete, Negros Island, Philippines. (Photo by DEDDEDA)
I’d have to say that cockfighting is primarily a man’s sport. There were only two other women in the stadium, and one was selling drinks. I was the only foreign woman in sight, so I attracted a fair bit of curious attention when I initially walked in and started shooting. After a few fights, all focus was back on the gambling and the cocks, and I shot my heart out. Until my heart couldn’t take the bloodshed any longer.