Sabungeros nationwide flocked to The Philippine Poultry Show and Fiestag 2017 at the SMX Convention Center at the SM Mall of Asia in Pasay City where they were main attractions.
The three-day show, one of the biggest events of the game fowl industry, rolled off amid the declaration by government authorities of avian flu outbreak in some poultry farms in San Luis, Pampanga.
The declaration made by no less than Agriculture Secretary MannyPiñol, in the presence of Pampanga Governor Lilia Pineda and Vice Governor Dennis Pineda, was not meant though to coincide with the opening day (August 11) of the Fiestag 2017, but it somehow jolted the poultry and game fowl industries which for long had enjoyed steady growth sans the disease which for the past months had hit poultry farms in Asia and Europe. The jolt was felt like the 6.3 tremor that hit Luzon with epicenter near Nasugbu, Batangas.
“I am sad to make the declaration, but we have to do it so the avian flu would be contained and will not spread to other farms and endanger humans as well,” Secretary Piñol stressed in a conference in San Fernando, Pampanga. Secretary Piñol and Bureau of Animal Industry experts identified the avian influenza that hit Pampanga farms as Type A Subtype H5.
Many “sabungeros” ignored the avian flu outbreak and even the earthquake and possible aftershocks as they continued to flock to the Fiestag from opening day, a clear indication that their love for game fowl and the sports could transcend beyond the outbreak and even a big earthquake.
The SMX Convention Center was in fiesta atmosphere on opening day of the Fiestag and the days that followed.
I arrived at around 10 a.m. and a long queue of game fowl enthusiasts has already lined up around the convention center to buy their tickets.
Inside the hall, I could smell the aroma of food, feeds, and fowl.
I could hear the crowing of roosters, loud music being played by the exhibitors at their designated booths, and laughters similar to that of long lost friends seeing each other again after decades.
I could feel the excitement of everyone, the freedom of “sabungeros” to enjoy their passion for the sport, and for me, who has been in the industry for more than five years now, I could say that, “I belong here.”
How humanizing it is to see game fowl aficionados gather under one roof, brush shoulders with each other, and talk about chickens.
Sabungeros attend expos, festivals, and shows like Fiestag because they want to give the best to their chickens.
They care for these creatures like how they care for their children.
They manage to put food on the table because of game fowl.
But it is so sad how animal welfare groups judge a sabungero’s way of harvesting his produce.
The bias of most animal welfare groups is that they take this very large “ethical treatment of animals” yardstick, and stick it straight up to a sabungero’s butt.
The ever-growing game fowl industry might be facing another challenge — the avian flu outbreak — but the resiliency of Filipino “sabungeros” has stood the test of time. For centuries, that has been the way of life of “sabungeros,” and it will remain that way for many more years, centuries more perhaps.
United we stand, divided we fall.