Battling Boracay’s Beaten Path…with a Cock-Fight!

Sarah Kloke

Sarah is on a worldwide hunt for the perfect brunch. In an attempt to track down a haunt with unlimited coffee refills and the perfect hangover cure, she has spent the last two and a half years traveling and working in Asia. Unable to find that breakfast haven, she has been given no choice but to continue to travel the world. She also works as an intern at Vagabundo Magazine and documents her own travel stories (burnt pancakes and all) at Where's My Toothbrush?

Battling Boracay's Beaten Path...with a Cock-Fight!

The idea of “getting off the beaten track” is defunct.

It’s over. It’s done. Let’s just move on.

To the dismay of those set on unpopular routes of travel, that entire “beaten track” has actually been turned into road. And “that road” has now become paved. And “that paved road” is currently accessible by eight different van companies offering cheap shuttling services and the luxury of seat belts and air conditioning.

Ultimately, the beaten track should be forgotten altogether. Because regardless of why you’re visiting a destination, it was probably this dreaded path which helped get you there in the first place.

Beach in Boracay

Rivaling places like Sihanoukville or Riley Beach, the island of Boracay in the Philippines is filled with Alex Garland aspirants. They want to discover a solitary space of soft sand and saltwater. Unfortunately for them, so does everyone else.

Boracay is an island which continues to rank quite high on most non-standardized Top 10 Beaches in Anywhere in Particular lists. Naturally, this kind of praise garners the attention of other travelers. Dirt bag backpackers. Korean honeymooners. Expats seeking some relief from whichever events defined them as an “expat” in the first place. They’re all there, combing the beachfront for a spot of sand not yet swathed with lawn chairs, massage tables, or groups of tourists taking mid-jump action shots.

Boracay Beachfront

In this sort of situation, it’s difficult to ignore the fact that your travel experience is undoubtedly being duplicated by the table of twenty-somethings at the adjacent bar. But knowing where to look, or instead, knowing where not to look, just might help create the impression that you are in fact, doing something completely original and unique.

Now, it should be noted that following any of my recommendations should come with a disclaimer which reads more like a Miranda Warning than actual travel advice. But this has actually proven to be quite successful in the past.

The advice I can offer is this:

Do the opposite of every traveler you hate.

It can sometimes be remarkably easy to hate on other travelers. But these feelings of negativity hold no bearings in Boracay, so it is best to just remove yourself (and them) from the situation.

When I spot a traveler whom I believe, on all accounts, to be traveling completely contrary to my own methods, I monitor them for all of one second. I note the direction they’re walking and I go the other way.

Walk away!

Yes, this could very well end in the corner bathroom stall of a city’s main bus terminal. But that just means the possibility of a duplicated travel experience is all the less likely.

With this plan of simply walking in the opposite direction of a traveler I would probably despise, I was introduced to the sport of Filipino cock-fighting.


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Now, watching a cock-fight in Boracay is more than just simply watching a cock-fight in Boracay. Instead, it’s the kind of event where the patrons, the cock-fight watchers, actually rival the main activity for entertainment value. The locals don’t just serve as a distraction. They end up stealing the spotlight.

The match begins as expected (assuming you have accurate expectations of a Filipino cock-fight). Chickens are brought into a railed octagon. They’re nervous and apprehensive. The spurs on their ankles, and the heightened decibel of local Filipino men, only serve as the setting and soundtrack for their funeral.

Cock-fight in Boracay

As soon as the cocks start to circle each other, the local men become enthusiastically angry.  Or at least they’re feeling something which seems strikingly similar to anger. They’re yelling at each other. They’re yelling at the bored host with the faulty microphone. They’re yelling at those silly expats sitting in the unlabeled reserved seats.

The yelling is actually a combination of gambling and gusto. But it doesn’t seem to be organized by a bookie, let alone orthodox recording methods like a pen or paper. The host is either memorizing or ignoring the bets and drops the microphone to indicate the start of the fight.

Surprisingly, the actual matches are not that enjoyable. A chicken goes limp. Single feathers float slowly in the air. I want to reference that scene in Forrest Gump, but I’m quite confident no one has any interest in Tom Hanks at this point.

Cock-fight in Boracay

These fights happen every Sunday. Unsurprisingly, when you’re flailing your arms in the air and spewing saliva at anyone willing to make eye contact, a natural community begins to develop.  As the matches end for the day, those that have lost in the chalked octagon are now barbequed and served to all attendees. The dynamic between winners and losers, with handshakes and hearty hugs, becomes just as fascinating as the rest of the afternoon.

It is not a tourist attraction nor is it meant to be. To the locals, it’s difficult to understand why a tourist is even in attendance.  It’s the equivalent of someone picking Lewiston, Maine as the ultimate travel destination, and then watching a college football game inside an Applebee’s at the mall food court.

Of course Boracay is particularly famous for the whiteness of their sand and the turquoise of their waters. But here in the stadium, there is no indication of superlative beaches.

Turquoise Waters of Boracay

Instead, it’s an unrestricted local scene which goes beyond the Best Of lists or the Korean honeymooners’ slideshow. It’s an unduplicated travel experience which is still completely attainable.

You just have to be willing to do the opposite to get there.


READ NEXT: On Re-Entry and Reverse Culture Shock: Returning to the United States After 13 Months in Asia

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