Cockpits, residential palaces and Baroque churches

Cockfighting sounds pretty barbaric. Every town and village seems to have at least one breeding centre. Certainly at five in the morning, where ever you are in this country, a chorus of crowing birds greets the dawn and it sounds like that is a complete underestimate. Hundreds of roosters all sound off at each other, a bit like boxers at the weigh-in trying to outdo each other.

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These roosters are magnificent birds, full and plump and powerful. They gleam with strength and colour. They have their own shelter of slab tiles where they are tethered in the shade,  lined up in a yard with fifty or so tilted homes. They are fed up, food ways I mean but I am sure the other way as well, and watered. They peck about and strut and scream out to assert their position in the pecking order. See how I did that? Anyway, as the big day approaches I am told they are starved until they are desperate for food, razor blades are tied to the backs of their legs and they are thrown into the pit to battle it out to the death; feathers and blood and gore. It’s rowdy and raucous with men yelling their bets and encouragement.

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Every town has a cockfighting pit. These are not small structures. They are more like stadium with room for hundreds of spectators. This is the one in Manila which is named after King Slasher, king of the ring, a champion of the razor kick.

Today is a leisurely drive down the coast to the heritage city of  Vegan. On the way a pop into Marcos’s northern palace is in order and also this wonderful church built of brick and stone.

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The cornerstone was laid in 1704 by the Augustinian friars who had arrived in the 16th century. When in danger of falling down, 12 buttresses were built on each side, constructed from stone and smoothed coral. That didn’t help the protection of the local reefs.

A comfort break and a refuge from the heat and the dust of travelling is required. Sitio Remedios is just that, reinvigorating the spirit in particular. A true oasis of calm and peace on the edge of the ocean.

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I could have stayed for ever in the hammock, in the shade, listening to the silence and losing myself in the monotony and perpetual motion of surf on sand out there in the blazing sun.

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