The illustration here is titled Cock-Fighting at Manilla (1857) by Charles Wirgman for the Illustrated London News. A description of Wirgman is in our previous installment 11.3.
In 19th century Philippines, one could not avoid the ubiquity of the most popular sport: cockfighting. Men holding, training and fighting roosters are depicted in much of the art of the Philippines during this time.
Wirgman gives us a visual and a description of the cockfighting culture in this piece accompanied by his narrative. He described native Filipinos as being in “paradise” when in a cockfighting arena because of how enthusiastic and passionate they were when watching fights. Every segment of society took part, even the local priests wagered and were just as interested in the outcomes of these contests. Cockfighting events took place on Sundays and holidays, and would go on “until dusk”, with almost endless pairs of fighting roosters dueling quickly to the death one after the other. Wirgman also made note of how honest native Filipinos were at paying gambling debts after losing.
In the 2nd image above, we have a closer look at the left side of this multilevel arena. Spectators pack the audience area to capacity and include men and women. The discernible men in the foreground at ground level both wear Barong Tagalog. The man to the left wears a striped barong, with dark slacks and a putong wrapped around his head. The man crouching in the fighting pit holding the rooster wears a solid light brown work barong, white pants and a red putong around his head. He is barefoot.
In the 3rd image above, we have a closer view of the right side of the arena. The viewing area is packed with men and women, and the other man in the fighting pit is also crouched down with his rooster. He wears a striped Barong Tagalog, dark slacks and a fancy salakot on his head. Ordinary salakot are made of wood or other tree parts, but this man’s salakot is special. It appears to be made of a finished animal shell and accented with precious metals, which makes this an expensive status symbol.