Republished with Permission from
“Bamboo Ridge: Celebrating 30 Years of Local Literature” (Spring 2007)
“Aisose! Putagenamo,” Benny De Coscos cussed his son while Junior was holding a fighting rooster. Benny was doing a bit of stitching on his champion fighter.
What happened? I wondered and walked across the street to their side.
“Junior never hold my rooster good and I wen poke the needle in my hand,” Benny said.
Benny’s champion rooster sustained a slash the day before while fighting a challenger somewhere in Waimänalo. The cut was on the right breast and was deep and required suturing to prevent infection.
“What happen to the other rooster?” I asked.
“My bird was real lucky yesterday. I thought he was going die,” Benny started.
“How come he was lucky? I thought the chicken was a good fighter,” I asked.
“Yea, my rooster, he good fighter, but he was lucky anyway. The other chicken was little bit more big, but I wen take my chance for my bird to fight him. I wen think that if we win, I going get rich.”
“But how come he was lucky to win?” I pressed Benny for an explanation.
“Dad, tell Papa how our chicken won,” Junior interceded.
“Okay, okay. I tell you the whole story. The place in Waimänalo where we fight chicken no have a pit, but the chicken fight on top of a stage about two feet high.”
“Why like that?” I asked.
“So that everybody can see the fight. Otherwise, only the guys in front can see what happens,” Benny said, and continued. “Well, anyway, the first time the chicken went for each other, you know how they fly high with the legs in front and the knife tied to the leg — the other bird wen cut my bird here . . . “ he pointed to the slash on the breast.
“I wen think my bird was going to lose, but the next time they went for each other, the other bird was near the edge of the stage, and when he wen fly up and came down, he miss the stage and wen land on the ground. The bird wen get up and was flying up to the stage.
“That is when my bird wen get lucky, and he was smart, too. When the other rooster wen fly up and was near the top of the stage, the head was just showing when my bird wen fly up and slash the neck, and the blood wen fly all over the place. My bird wen cut the main blood vessel. The rooster wen die right away,” Benny proudly retold the event.
“But . . . “ Benny paused, “my bird was weak from the cut on his breast . . . and the only way my bird can win was to peck the other bird. The other bird was dead, and mine was still alive, but the judge not going to say who the winner was until the one still alive can peck the other bird. Anyway, the rule is that the owner of the dead chicken suppose to pick up his dead bird and give the winning bird the chance to peck his bird. I had to wait five minutes before my bird wen find the strength to peck the dead bird. I tell you, that five minutes was the longest five-minute wait for me. But, at last, my bird wen peck the dead bird and the judge said that my bird wen win the contest. I wen win plenty money.”
Curious, I asked Benny if they were ever bothered by the police raiding their chicken fights. Benny almost braggingly replied, “We pay for protection, and we never get into trouble with the police. And, anyway, the guy that boss this place have his friends watch the road and if somebody they never see before drive up the road, they get on the cell phone and let the boss know right away. That way we stop the fighting and take the knife off from the chicken leg.”
“You know, Benny, when I was small kid and live in the plantation camp, the Filipinos fight chicken every Sunday in the volleyball court. Sometime us kids see the detective walk through the Japanese camp. When we see that, we run to the Filipino camp, and they stop everything. The policemen never catch anybody. The Filipinos use to buy soda water for us when we help them.”
“So you see chicken fight, too?” Benny asked.
“When I was small kid in Wainaku Mill Camp,” I replied, and continued, “other Filipinos came from other camps in the plantation and brought their fighting chicken. Wainaku Camp II, Amaulu, Piihonua and even the Filipinos from Papaikou, Pepeekeo and Onomea use to come to our mill camp to fight their chicken.
“The men that ran the chicken-fight was smart, too. They hung the volleyball net over the court to make believe that all the guys came to watch a volleyball game. They never fool anybody.
“Another thing I remember was that Naguwa-san from the Japanese camp use to make knives that was tied to the chicken leg. Naguwa-san used worn out flat files and had the file annealed so that he could shape and make the knives. Many Filipinos bought the knives from Naguwa-san because his knives were very sharp.
“By the way, Benny, the winner get to take the dead chicken home to make adobo, right?” I asked.
“No, we cannot eat the chicken because get steroid, and the meat is contaminated,” Benny said. “We just bury the dead chicken,” he added.
“I know the winner use to take the dead chicken and make adobo and eat the chicken when I was living in Wainaku,” I said.
“It is in my blood, after all, this is a cultural thing, and I am not a Filipino if I don’t like to fight chicken,” Benny said.
Benny raises four to six roosters at any time. He gets his fighters from a friend in Waimänalo. His fighters are well fed and get their steroid injections regularly.
Fully aware that cock fighting is illegal and a person can be charged with a cruelty to an animal offense, Benny and his peers are careful that outsiders never witness their events.
“I don’t know why this cockfighting is bad. We take care the birds, we feed them the best chicken feed, and this is what us Filipinos do best. We no bother anybody and we no make trouble for anybody,” Benny defended his passion and felt discriminated against.
“Anyway, we never give anybody trouble. We only fight chicken among ourselves and we bet only with each other. This is almost like people playing poker and playing to win with money, and this thing called social gambling is not a crime? I don’t understand.”
As his rationale continued, “Everybody not suppose to bother us with their ideas. The Humane Society thinks we bad people, but we not bad people. People think we not civilize because we use knife and have them killed. I don’t understand. This thing is in our blood. Our culture. Anyway, we not going change in another thousand years.
“And the state government, they make law that we cannot send for fighting rooster from the mainland, but you think this goin stop us?
“One thing for sure, Albano, Bunda, Cayetano, Cachola and all the guys from Kalihi, Ewa and Waimänalo better not make law that going to stop us from raising chicken. They make law that the rooster cannot cock-o-do-da-do five o’clock in the morning because they going wake the city folks.
“Good thing the roosters, they don’t know how to read.”
After retiring from the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard, Moriso Teraoka enrolled at Kapi‘olani Community College and became a reporter/photographer for the school’s newspaper, Kapi‘o. He earned his associate’s degree in food service in 1989. While at KCC, he started the school’s cactus and succulent garden and, later, an herb garden, which is used by students in KCC’s culinary arts program. Teraoka, who is 95, served in the 100th Infantry Battalion/442nd Regimental Combat Team in World War II.