The Filipino Rooster in Sabong

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Remember how Dan Brown described Manila as the “gates of hell” in his novel, Inferno? Former MMDA Chairman Francis Tolentino reacted to this by defending the capital.

But we didn’t know that the former mayor of Tagaytay City who recently came short in the senatorial race would also defend the cockfighting world.

In 1996, he wrote to Gabriel Garcia Marquez in reaction to “Love in the Time of Cholera” where it says,

Less than ten years before, he had assaulted one of the maids behind the main staircase in the house, dressed and standing as she was, and in less time than a Filipino rooster he had left her in a family way (Marquez, 1985).

Tolentino in his letter wrote:

I’m a fan, but I’m very disappointed. I was enjoying your latest novel, “Love in the Time of Cholera” when suddenly I could not continue reading.

In fact, I found myself unable to breathe.

That’s because I was shocked by your portrayal of a revered symbol of my homeland — the Filipino rooster.

While I am aware that yours is a work of fiction, I am greatly disappointed by your inaccurate portrait of our beloved rooster.

I am displeased by how you have used the Filipino rooster as a symbol of debauchery, of the deviousness and depravity of one of your characters.

I was totally disgusted Gabo (I hope you don’t mind if I call you that.) You are one of the most respected literary figures in the world, the artist who made magical realism truly magical, a revered Nobel Prize winner and an admired advocate of social justice and global peace.

But why, Gabo, why? Why would you insult the Filipinos in this way?

What have Filipino roosters ever done to you? Have you ever even met a Filipino rooster or a sabungero? Have you ever been to a sabong, ever felt the energy and passion of people watching one?

I want you to know, senor, that the Filipino rooster is an honorable creature, a source of pride for us Filipinos.

He is a fierce warrior. He never backs away from a fight. He marches fearlessly into battle, undaunted by the most overwhelming challenges.

When the sabungero releases him inside the ring, he springs into action, quickly assuming a fighting stance as he prepares to do battle. Even when wounded, he doesn’t stop fighting. He would continue pecking, clawing, slamming his powerful wings against the enemy.

He never backs down, Senor Garcia Marquez. Never!

And yet in your novel, there is the Filipino rooster portrayed so unfairly, cruelly misrepresented as an oversexed, lustful, sexually deviant monster, a creature with neither honor nor dignity.

Why, Gabo, why?

Why would you deride such an enduring symbol of the Filipino spirit?

Our faith in God binds us as a nation, and we believe that the Filipino rooster is more than capable of exemplifying good character and courage. Truly, the Filipino rooster is a beloved creature from heaven.

I hope this letter enlightens you, and may it guide you the next time you write about us or one of our animals.

Sincerely,

Mayor Francis Tolentino, Tagaytay

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