The People News, a free newspaper serving Cleveland Tennessee (TN) and Bradley County Tennessee (Tn).

Of Bradley County Tn.

APRIL  2006

                            The People News, a free newspaper serving Cleveland and Bradley County Tn.






Big Red's Guiuan Cock-A-Loreum

Bizarre, Fascinating, and Wacky World War I & ll Secrets.

by Cecil Owen

In the Philippine Island chain, Samar Island is one of the larger islands. Samar Island was next door to our little island, which was called Calicoan. But to us, it was simply called Navy 3049. A large U.S. Navy base was located there right in the middle of a dense jungle.

The Philippine jungle is a very interesting place to behold. It is beautiful yet it can also be very deadly. There is a proverb that claims the jungle is the only place that you can have mud up to your knee-cap and have dust blow into your eyes at the same time!

And there are just two seasons in the jungle, wet or dry. Of course it is always hot-hot and still hotter. It stays so hot much of the time, I have gone swimming at midnight. There are small fish that dart around you with a strip on both sides that shine in the moonlight. But as Calicoan Island is only eleven degrees north of the equator, it has to be a mite warm!

Our barracks building is one of the famous Quon-set huts. It is in a half moon shape built out of corrugated tin. Both ends are only screened to allow the breeze to blow through. It is nice with the jungle in your front and back yard. If you want a cold drink just shinny up a coconut tree and stick a straw into your coconut. The meat is also delicious eaten raw. Perhaps you would enjoy a few bananas. We

Cecil Owen

The large white building on the left
is the Guiuan Cock-a-Loreum.
(photo, Cecil Owen's private collection)

always kept a whole stalk of fresh banana hanging up in the center of our barracks.

Naturally, the bananas hanging there gave a big problem with all of the monkeys. They learned how to unlatch our screen doors very quickly. Monkeys are lazy, why should they pick bananas when we have done their work for them? But they are also little thieves,

running off with anything left lying about. These monkeys are also very, very nasty, so we learned to dodge very quickly. If a monkey steals your watch, be careful as you chase it into a corner, for it will stick the watch behind, do-do all over it

and then throw it in your face. However, for the thrill of a lifetime, try this!

It was two o'clock in the morning, I had come in after a four hour watch, I jumped in bed and slide to the other end. I had just landed in a huge pile of cold, slimy, wet, monkey do-do! And it smelled like a dead Hippopotamus that expired six months previously. This has happened to several very careless sailors but only once for sure. In most Navy bases the uniform of the day was blue dungarees and a light blue shirt, along with a white sailor hat. But in the tropic we were issued dark green dungarees and a light green shirt, with a pith helmet to shield our head from the sun and jungle. However, a sailor will always change things whenever possible.

When the officers were not around, this was our uniform: a pair of green pants made into a pair of shorts, a baseball cap, and a pair of cut down Australian boots. Therefore, the hot tropical sun turned our skin into golden bronze. It also bleached every hair on our body golden blonde. This caused the Filipino girls to chase us with much, much vigor, you almost had to beat them off with a stick.

All the young girls, and some of the housewives too, wanted a big golden blonde American G.I. Joe. And of course the Filipino men resented this very much. For the Filipinos are a smaller race of people, around five foot two inches in height. They are also dark skinned, in fact some are almost black.

Then suddenly, this all changed, as we began to catch the "Creeping Crud." This was a tropical skin disease that caused big red blotches on your body and the medicine issued by the Navy was a bright

purple! This made us look like Halloween freaks, so we lost all our girlfriends.

On the very tip of Samar, a village was located called Guiuan. This was a very important place because in the center of Guiuan was a "Cock-A-Loreum" (cock loft). This always drew a large crowd, as rooster fighting was the national sport in the Philippines. Just as American people are crazy about football and baseball, the Filipino people are crazy about rooster fights.

The roosters are bred and trained to be fighters. And to add to the excitement to the sport, two types of spurs are strapped to the feet of the birds. One is called a "Gaff", which has a long pointed end like an ice pick. The other spur is called a "slasher," with the entire bottom edge sharp like a razor blade. A rooster must fly up and spear with a gaff, much like it would do with its own spurs.

A rooster fight like this could last an hour or more. But with slashers on, a fight might be over with just one pass. These roosters are famous and are worth "mucho dinero," as the Filipinos would say. The prices range from 200 pesos to 450 pesos. In American money that is 100 to 225 dollars. And of course, mucho dinero changes hand because of all the betting going on.

One day my four Navy buddies and I decided to get in on the action. We believed we had a chance to get rich quick. Lowry McKee, Ray Hinkle, James Crawford, and Elmo Morris were their names. We all had been going to the cock fights for several weekends in a row. Every time a big red rooster would win every fight. One Saturday he won three fights in a row. He killed all three of his opponents, so we just knew that should be our rooster.

"Okay Willie, how much will you take for your mighty warrior," I asked. "Big Red not for sale," Willie said, "he is too good a bird." But we kept insisting, money is no object just name your price. Finally, after much wrangling, Big Red was now officially Navy 3149 Big Red! But it cost us 400 pesos (200 dollars), two cartons of cigarettes, two cases of Wrigley's spearmint gum, and two mattress covers.

That sure was a big price to pay for that rooster, but we expected to win it all back very soon. After all, Big Red was the big bad champion fighting rooster of the whole Philippine Islands. "Big Red will make us rich quick," Ray said. "First we need to buy it some new spurs, for only the best for ole' Red", Lowry said. I cautioned them that we should only fight Big Red once a day, that will save its strength. That way it will always be in top form.

So, on the fourth of July a special cock fighter program was held at the Cock-A-Loerum in the village of Guiuan. And at the top of the program was our Navy 3149 Big Red. The mightiest and feistiest grand champion rooster that ever lived. The rooster that had never, ever lost a single bout! What a

thrill it was for me to take Big Red out of its cage and hand it to the ring referee. He lined Big Red up with a scrawny little rooster about half Red's size. The roosters eyeballed each other and then started to circle around but they never took their eyes off each other. You never know which one will fly up in the air to start the fight. Then all of a sudden, our Big Red champion fighting rooster did the unthinkable ........ Big Red turned tail! Which means Big Red turned his back to the other rooster and ran away!

The ring referee ran over to the corner of the ring fence, he grabbed our rooster by the neck and twirled it around his head. Then he pitched our dead rooster back into the corner.

We descended upon him with much fury. I have never seen five sailors any madder than we were at that time. "Hey, you lousy "Gook," Elmo shouted "why did you kill our grand champion rooster."  Lowry screamed, "you owe us 400 pesos for killing our rooster."

When you call a native here a Gook it is a very big insult. The five of us had the referee surrounded and about fifty other natives had us surrounded. Both the Filipino Police and the Navy Shore Patrol were called in to help restore order.

The ring referee explained, "I was following our local custom here in the Philippines, when a fighting rooster turns tail, it is disposed of at once. I am very sorry, but I do not owe you anything."
So that is how our get rich scheme ended, very abruptly!