From our national hero’s hometown in Rizal, Laguna is where a future cockfighting aficionado was born. (In his novel Noli Me Tangere, Jose Rizal wrote on Chapter 46 a detailed scenario in the Philippine cockpit arena entitled The Cockpit.) Currently residing in New Jersey, USA and has been working in the Reinsurance industry for the past 20 plus years in a German-owned company based in Princeton, Vency A. Maranan, a degree holder in Economics from San Beda College and who has worked briefly in Banking and Pharmaceutical industries, found another calling: the passion and love for chickens. “My fascination with rooster began when I was 17, when Gerry “Barok” Sumague gave me a 3-month old cockerel,” Vency recalls.
‘Reject’ turned ‘ring general’
Unaware of the difference between a healthy and a sick bird then, he gladly accepted an ailing fowl and thanked his friend “Barok” for the gift. “This ‘reject’ recovered fully and became a three-time winner, twice with minor wounds and once with nary a scratch. He was a grounder and never engaged his opponents in the air. He would simply wait for the perfect opportunity to hit the other bird when it landed on the ground. He was the smartest and most elusive bird I had seen. Had there been fastest kill contests then, he could have won the award twice. Unfortunately, my friend Barok, could not produce a similar cock as he did not know neither his father nor his mother and the cock was not a good producer,” he muses.
Currently, his ‘ring of generals’ would include his Kelsos, Hatches, Whitehackles, Greys, Clarets, Blacks, Doms, Golds and various types of Roundheads. “I like these breeds for their overall skills and natural abilities for the Philippine slasher,” he wittingly says.
Cream of the crop
Vency takes breeding a hobby, from potentiality to actuality: “Breeding interests me the most as it gives me the opportunity to experiment on different mating. I picture in my mind what the chicks would look like from various mating, when they are young, and how they would perform when they get older. Breeding also gives me the satisfaction of being able to dictate to nature what type of chickens will live and roam the earth. However, it is the raising of chicks that I found to be the most enjoyable as I can see them growing fast from a day old until they are ranged.”
For him, winning against big-name cockers is the most exhilarating part of the sport especially when chicken talks do not seem to end after every fight. “However, the most discouraging to me is to lose a prized brood fowl since acquiring it requires a lot of hard work, patience and investment,” he laments.
His unique breeding style is what makes his ‘ring of generals’ indeed the cream of the crop. He employs a logical screening process in selecting battle fowls to breed and of acquiring breeding materials that work best for him, he shares: “Cockers and breeders should select fowls that they like based on their own standards and criteria, after all, they will be the owners of the chickens. I normally have lengthy discussions with a breeder on what he recommends for Philippine LK from his breeds. Once I made my decision on what breed to acquire, I let the breeder choose for me. I consciously avoid telling the breeder all the physical characteristics that I desire for a bird, because a breed that have all those traits do not exist. I trust the breeder to select the best that he can spare me. It also never occurs to me that I can do a better job of selecting fowls better than the breeder himself since he knows his fowls better than anybody else.”
“As for battle fowls, I produce them from the breeding materials I obtained locally and here in the States. I do like birds that are “ring generals”, those that control how the match will be fought, whether on the air or on the ground and those adjust to their opponents’ style and quickness,” he adds.
Sabong as a means to an end
Sabong is a privileged place where different people around the globe meet sharing to each one their pride, passion and prestige. Vency shares and reflects on his experiences in the cockfighting world, especially on friendship: “Sabong has been good to me. The sport has given me opportunities to meet wonderful people. Some of them have become my good friends.”
The highly esteemed Capt. Joe de Sagun is a cocker/breeder that he admires and respects not only for his accomplishments in the sport but also for his conduct in and out of the cocking arena. “His superb breeding skills are evident in the battle fowls he produces. His kindness is felt by most people he dealt with,” Vency proudly says.
“Jerry Lawrence of Pleasanton, Texas is a breeder I considered my dearest friend. He has helped me a lot. I trust, respect and love this guy. He is a brother that I never had. Doyle Watson of Leoma, Tennessee, is a very good friend with an unimpeachable honesty and integrity. He is someone I wish I could be around with. Mr. Celso Evangelista is a man of his word and treats everyone with respect and as his equal. He has been very nice and kind to me,” he reveals.
“There are others that I can’t thank enough for being generous to me by sharing their high quality breeding materials. Among them are; Joey “Wildfoot” Melendres, from whom I got my Golds, this breed has won the most for me; Lee “Kogmohon’ Castillo, where my Lemon 84 came from, he helped me when I was a newbie in breeding; and Noel Dimatulac of Carson Farm, he shared with me his Carl Davis roundheads, his best breed undoubtedly,” he continues.
“Aside from the aforementioned, I have friends here that I got to know through the internet like Erwin Manzano of Washington, DC. Arcadio Lipana of Maryland, Cecil Dizon of Florida, Rene Umali of Virginia, Levy Ventillo and Oliver Balutan of New York, Dr. Arnold Moral and Teddy Villuga of New Jersey and many more,” he adds.
This reflects that Sabong is a means to an end. It opens doors to meet new acquaintances and opportunity to learn from other cockers and breeders about battle fowls and breeding styles. It is a means to gain everlasting friendship. “Cockers are usually good to be one’s friends and birds are good means to make friends. Do not let a bird destroy a friendship, use it to make a lasting friendship. Realize that no matter how good your birds are, there are thousands of birds better than yours,” he reiterates.
Living, Loving and Learning
Vency shares his personal philosophy when it comes to cockfighting: “For those who intend to enter the sport, one must have a strong passion for it and love for chickens. There will be ups and downs, highs and lows, successes and failures. It is only when one has a strong feeling for the sport and chickens that he will endure the disappointments that are part of this hobby and enjoy the satisfactions that this pastime brings.”
“Treat Sabong as an entertainment, never as a gambling,” Vency advises.
“In Sabong let your chickens do the talking. Sabong is something that brings friends and family together. Don’t let others destroy it,” he says.
It is but ironical that from the land of the free and home of the brave, “the sport is dying because cockers and breeders fail to defend it. Americans are willing to give up their lives to defend freedom, but are not putting up a good fight to protect their right to engage in this sport,” he laments.
Vency hopes that Pit Games continues to be the vehicle that enlightens about the goodness of Sabong and the people that support, practice and live it. “I am humbled to be in this magazine as there are many who are more deserving of this honor. It will not surprise me to see this magazine gets better every year with articles that are more educational for Sabong enthusiasts. I would love to see someday, more articles previously published in American magazines about American legends of the sport, memorable events and famous breeds,” he humbly wishes.
*This article was originally published in Pit Games Magazine Issue No. 41.