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Lair of Breeders

Note: “Lair of Breeders” was originally published at Poshpost.com. Re-published with permission. Original story here complete with photos: Lair of Breeders.

Aside from sugar and the Masskara Festival, there is another industry that Negros Occidental is known for—the breeding of fighting cocks. All over the country, Negros is known to be the lair of the best breeders in the country.

I have traveled the country from Tuguegarao to General Santos City in search for the best breeders of the country when my partner and I were tasked to interview and photograph the most famous game fowl breeders in the land. The company that hired us chose the men who have made a name for themselves not only for their production and their winnings, but also for their credibility in the pit, in their dealings, and their personal lives. These breeders are then called and branded, “Ang Maginoong Magmamanok.”

Although the company would have wanted all the regions represented, it was impossible. Seventy percent of the breeders we interviewed are all Negrosanons.

We visited their farms from Northern to Southern Negros. We had the opportunity to visit the best farms in the province that featured either one or more of these features—impressive infrastructure, functional yet stylish set ups, expansive landscapes, verdant plantations to provide ample oxygen to the fighting cocks, and thousands of game birds from chicks to stags to bull stags to full grown battle crosses! And oh lest you think otherwise, the ladies (I’m talking about the hens) also have their own special places.

I can never forget the first few breeders that we interviewed—Rafael “Nene” Abello of Isabela, Ampil Brothers in La Carlota, Juancho Aguirre of La Carlota, Emmanuel “Mame” Lacson of Bacolod City, Renato “Otic” Geroso of Alangilan and Mambucal, Murcia, Bob Cuenca of Ma-ao, Bago City, Freddie Yulo of Hinigran, Danilo Hinlo of Victorias, Lance dela Torre of Talisay, and Itoy Sison of Bacolod City. The rest became a blur to me as the company started sending us to other places. We had the job that many men around the country would die for! We were ladies and were given the opportunity to meet these breeding big guns and visit their farms! Cool!

Breeder wannabes and cockers from everywhere would come and visit Negros on a regular basis just to buy fighting cocks. Financiers from other cities and countries would tandem with Negros breeders and join in local and international derbies. We are that famous for the breeding of the best fighting cocks in the land!

This is such a big industry that my photographer-friend who was my partner in these endeavors thought of holding a Breeders Tour around Negros and I was given the chance to go along with them. She chose several of the most famous farms that were going to be the stop for the tour. Many cockers, upcoming breeders, and those who were just curious as to the breeding system here in Negros joined the tour.

The tour of Negros Breeders was the tour of fancy of cocking aficionados from other places. They were given hotel accommodations and brought around in tour vans. At the Negros farms, the owners themselves did a guided tour of their breeding areas, explaining their system along the way. They also unselfishly shared their techniques and other information pertaining to breeding. The breeders treated the participants to sumptuous lunch buffets in the farm! It was fun to partake of a great lunch (that sometimes featured lechon) amidst the beautiful landscapes of game farms while the fighting cocks were crowing on the side.

By the end of the day, the participants bought so many birds from the breeders so everyone was happy.

Sadly, the pharmaceutical company that hired us had to lay low of their support for the game fowl industry because of an international law against cockfighting. They were an international company so even though cockfighting is a much accepted game here in the Philippines, they were affected in other countries. Needless to say, they stopped sending us around 2005. Oh well, what can I say, it was a good 7 years – from 1998 to 2004 – that we had traveled the country to visit the premier game farms not only in Negros but also around the country.

After the stint with the company, cockfighting publishers would commission us to interview breeders to be featured in their magazines. And up until now, even though my friend is already in the United States, I still continue to do profiling of breeders here in Negros.

My most recent talk was again with Otic Geroso of Alangilan, Bacolod City, Manny Delleva of Talisay City, Beboy Javellana of Bago City, and Peter “Anggok” Montesa of Alangilan, Bacolod City.

I am very privileged to meet these people. I have learned a lot from them, not only in breeding, but also in life. Through my journeys, I have met some of the richest and most influential people in the industry. One thing I really learned from them is building your credibility so that people trust you. In the cockpit, there are no receipts, but cockers honor their bets.

Cockfighting may be associated with gambling for those who are not privy to this game, but for the breeders that I met, the breeding of fighting cocks is a science. They have a system of doing things and all their data are recorded religiously and meticulously. And all the breeders that I met do not bet much on their birds, they join derbies for marketing purposes. They would rather do breeding and do business. They are breeders, not cockers.

I am so thankful for the experiences I have had because of my travels. I am up for another interview next month, after the round of stag derbies this time of the year.

 

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Manny Delleva: NGBA 2009 8-Stag Derby Solo Champion

manny delleva

Forever in shorts pants, Manny poses in front of his neatly arranged corded cocks in Brgy. Campuestohan, Talisay City, Negros Occidental.

HIS BUSINESS IS BREEDING

Manny Delleva of Talisay City, Negros Occidental considers himself an animal lover from the time of his birth. He likes any and every animal and would painstakingly take care of one if it is in his possession. He would protect any animal if the need arises. He is also a gardening enthusiast that when he got to college, he took up Agriculture at the Central Philippine University in Iloilo City, which he finished in 1986.

Since Iloilo is not his hometown, Manny stayed in a boarding house within a compound. While there, he raised some rabbits, love birds, Chinese chickens, and other fancy animals. Despite the lack in financial resources, he would really save up some of his allowance just so he could buy pets and take care of them. If it were not for economic impediment, he would have become a veterinarian.

After college, he landed a job as a sales agent for a veterinary company where he got to cover Negros Island, and some areas in Zamboanga and Palawan. He not only intended to support himself and his family with his job, but his earnings also went to the taking care of his animals. Soon after, he started his own farm.

BIG SCALE BREEDING

As a professional, Manny had his residence in Bacolod City. He started seriously breeding game fowls because at that time he already had the means, such as a vehicle and budget for the maintenance of the farm operations. He was able to acquire a 4-hectare land, but they did not use it for a game farm because it was hilly. Instead, he and his farm manager Rodolfo Belvez sought and found a 2-hectare farm land in Brgy. Concepcion, Talisay, City where their first batch was born. Luck was probably on their side because their buena mano entry took the runner up spot in the 7-Stag Candelaria Derby in Iloilo City in 1989. During that time, their production was only around 100 heads.

Several years later, Manny was able to acquire another 13-hectare lot in Brgy. Campuestohan also in Talisay City. He set up the farm so that it not only became a game farm but an integrated farm growing other animals, crops, and fruits. Eventually, he stopped working after 14 years in the agri-vet industry in order to concentrate on farming.

carabaos in the farm

These carabaos do some of the menial jobs at the farm.

INTEGRATED FARMING
Manny has his main farm in Brgy. Campuestohan, Talisay City, with parts of it encompassing a neighboring area in another municipality called Murcia, also in Negros Occidental. All in all, the entire land area is roughly around 40 hectares.

On the Campuestohan side are the breeding and rearing of game fowls, sheep, goats, carabaos, and the nursery for lacatan bananas. Along the ridge of the Caliban River separating the two towns, Manny grows bamboo because of the growing need for its wood inside the farm.

On the other side, which could be accessed from Campuestohan through a 300-meter skyline drawn by a carabao, Manny grows fruit trees like durian, mangosteen, mangoes, long kong, and bananas. There are also some chickens fielded there.

Aside from these farms, Manny has a rice and corn farm both in Taloc, Bago City and in Himamaylan City (both in southern Negros Occidental). Their production is mostly for the consumption of his employees in the farm, which number to 15 regular employees and three other helpers. He also maintains a piggery in Brgy. Mansilingan, Bacolod City, where he grows tomatoes and mangoes. What helps regulate the cost of his breeding operations is his poultry supply store, where he is single proprietor.

Dink Fair Gray

This Dink Fair Gray was among the winning entry during the NGBA Derby

BREEDING OF GAME FOWLS
As an agriculture graduate, Manny knows the basics in raising both plants and animals. But he continually keeps abreast with the latest trends and technologies by attending seminars and symposia, as well as by travelling around the country and abroad. He keeps an open mind on what works and what doesn’t in other farms. He also said that he values the advice of his friends who are many years his senior because he knows that they have already learned a lot based on their experiences.

In the breeding of game fowls, as with the rest of his crops, Manny puts utmost importance to health. He tries to keep his breeding as close to nature as possible. His barns where the chicks are housed in the range area are made of bamboo grown within the area. The range area is allowed to rest for about 6 months before another batch of chicks is fielded. The shelters for his corded cocks are merely kakawati (madre de cacao) trees that were grown and pruned especially for that purpose.

Manny also makes sure that his game birds get the proper nutrition balance. They also get the appropriate vaccination and other preventive measures. He also ensures that bio-security is in place, such as the prohibition of his people from going to other farms as much as possible to avoid contamination of diseases.

Manny maintains manicured lawns, which get a trimming every 15 days. He reveals that the fighting cocks get uncomfortable when the grasses are growing tall around them. He adds that the chickens need to be comfortable in order for them to grow healthy. Additionally, the neat farm that Manny keeps is part of the presentation whenever he would entertain clients and prospects.

Dink Fair Sweater Cross

A Dink Fair Sweater Cross -- another winner

COCKFIGHTING (financiers)
Manny does not consider himself as a cocker but rather a businessman or commercial breeder. He is not one to join derbies often. And even if he does, he is seldom seen in the arena. And aside from the pot money, the only other thing that Manny spends his money on is the minimum bet. He is very careful with the risks that he takes that he does not splurge his money on side bets. If the bet is more than the minimum, then that is definitely not his money going around.

Such is principle about handling finances that his breeding is most for business. Although he is already producing about 2,500 heads per season, almost half of this already has a sure buyer, and that is his biggest financier, Benigno “Boy” de Roca of the Boy Litson fame. As financier, Boy gets the first choice among Manny’s production every year.

THE WINNING BATTLE
This year is Manny’s year to win the solo championship to the 8-Stag Derby by the Negros Gamefowl Breeders Association (NGBA). Last year, he did get the runner up spot in the 8-Stag MassKara Derby of the Game Fowl Breeders Association of Negros (GF-BAN), but as Manny puts it, “Having a championship trophy is so much better.”

Manny tells that they only fielded one entry during the NGBA eliminations and called in M & D Farm. But since it lost a couple of fights, they thought of withdrawing that entry and entered another. This time, it was called M&D & Yuri.

The championship day fell on the 3rd birthday of Yuri, Manny’s only child, and three fights were scheduled for his entry. While a children’s party was going on at their residence, his farm manager called him twice to inform them of their two wins. They already had 7 wins and they were the only ones who had the best bet chance of running away with a perfect score.

As Manny is not one who would go to cockpits during derbies, it was already during the last fight that he decided to go. When the guests at the party went home, Manny bid his family goodbye and went to the cockpit in Bacolod City. He had a good feeling about their entry.

Needless to say, M and D and Yuri won the last fight and bagged the solo championship for Manny. It was a victory for the whole team, but mainly it was made very memorable because of the connection of the entry to his beloved son Yuri.

FUTURE PLANS
Manny is more a businessman than anything. So although he is considering increasing his production next year, he is still thinking twice about plunging into further investment for the game farm. He says that it is not always that the breeding quality is maintained so he wants to level his risks.

However, Manny tells that what is definitely coming to the farm next year is a mechanized skyline, as opposed to the carabao-driven means of transporting his crops across the river.

Manny Delleva is the picture of a man who has achieved his vision and dreams at a young age of 43. He is very much contented with his life and he is very thankful to all the blessings that have come his way. He has a lovely family and he has found great profit both emotionally and financially from the animals and plants that he had loved and taken care of from since he was young.

But in spite of everything, Manny has kept his feet firmly planted on the ground, never forgetting his roots while continually flying high.

corded cocks at manny delleva's farm

Fighting cocks in the sloping cord area at Manny’s farm.

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