Spider Fighting and Gambling in the Philippines

With the proliferation of video games and on-line gaming the quaint "blood sport" of spider (gagamba) fighting as a child's pastime is now  found mostly in rural areas and in some street corners and back alleys of city slum districts. It is also a poor man's form of gambling  but a far cry from the more popular "Sabong"(cockfighting) although some gambling bets could go as high as 50,000 pesos (1000 dollars) per fight.

Unlike the more organize spider fighting tournament (the Kumo Gassen) held annually in Kajiki,Kagoshima,Japan,spider fights commonly called "sabong sa kaka" in the Philippines are less elaborate.It consist of pitting two spiders of relatively the same size on opposite end of a stick from a "walis tingting"(a broom made from the miidribs of coconut leaves) The rules of the game are simple.The spider that falls off the stick three times loses the match. In another version the spider that has been bitten and incapacitated in the webbings of it's opponent loses.

A tragic spider hunt

Among her siblings, their youngest brother was my mother's favorite. She was more like a mother than an elder sister to him. My mother who was then working as a nurse in the capital city (circa 1940s) bought him a bicycle which he had been pestering her to buy. She had it sent from Manila to Baguio in time for his thirteenth birthday. On the early morning dawn the following day he rode his new bike out into the wooded park. An avid fan of spider fighting he saw a web atop the wooden post of a power line.They found his body next to the bike.He was electrocuted and fell to his death. It took a long time for my mother to get over her guilt and stop blaming herself for the death of my uncle "Sonny".

During my boyhood days I would join my friends in foraging for spiders among the bushes and trees. Some boys more daring than others would climb up the wooden post of electric power lines.Spiders found there were believe to be more ferocious.

Philippine fighting spiders are of a variety very similar to the European garden spider (Araneus Diadematus).Long-limbed and slendered-bodied are the prefered choice.Spiders with red mark on their backs are called "Pulahan".They are mostly found in Tamarind trees.There are also the black or brown"Tigre-tigre" or "Tiger" with stripes and an almost triangular body shape.The "Mantalan","Ituman" and the yellow spider found on horse-radish plants.Different fighting styles like fast moving, unpredictable body movements,quick acting venom, agressiveness and spiritedness are all taken into consideration when choosing spiders

We stabled them in empty matchboxes or in a specially constructed box which usually have separate cells to house several spiders. they are feed with insects but we avoid feeding them before a fight to make them more aggressive

Fights would be arrange after school or even during school hours if we could manage to play hooky.The fights were stage in hidden and out of the way places far from parental eyes.Gambling was always involve and most of our lunch money went into it. Some petty larceny was sometimes resorted to acquire the necessary stake money. A bill or two missing from a parent's wallet. Occasionally we were found out because of a tattletale schoolmate (usually a girl). Needless to say, a lot of us got to taste the leathery sting of a belt. :))

Heated arguments from hot heads sometimes occur because some boy felt he was cheated or welsh on a bet. Fistfights were not uncommon and going home with a bruised eye and soiled or torn school uniform resulted in the discovery of our illicit activities and the accompanying consequences. Although it never deteriorated to such tragic outcome as the news stories below:

Sept.03,2010 Negros Occidental, Philippines

"2 minors killed over spider-fighting bet"

Over an unpaid 5 peso bet (10 cents) a 15 year old stab to death a 13 year old boy. Upon learning of his son's death, the father sought out his son's killer and hacked him to death with a jungle bolo.

Sept 20,2010 Liloan town,northern Cebu,Philippines

"Man killed, one hurt over spider-fighting"

A spider fight in a local town ended in tragedy with one man killed and another wounded after an argument over a disputed bet.The suspect armed with a handgun fired point blank at the head of his opponent killing him instantly and wounded another as he fled the scene of the crime.

Taking bets before the spider fight

Spider fighting is now generally discourage since it affects the educational performance of children. It is also thought to be indirectly responsible for crop damage since spiders are useful in controlling insect pest population. Ordinance against the sport are now in effect in some cities where it is considered as a form of illegal gambling.

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Comments 42 comments

Christopher Price profile image

Christopher Price 6 years ago from Vermont, USA


This was very interesting and well written. Gabbling and games of chance just seem to be something people the world over have engaged in since prehistory. It must be in our DNA. Thanks for the photos, they really make the hub.

Sorry about your uncle. I hope your Mother came to realize the bicycle had nothing to do with his climbing the power pole or his death.


MartieCoetser profile image

MartieCoetser 6 years ago from South Africa

I can’t figure out what upset me the most – the death of Sonny, the fact that spiders are abused by boys, or the spiders themselves. I had a nightmare the other night about a spider that looks exactly like the one in the first picture. I’m not a lover of spiders. I think one ate me during one of my previous lives. Thanks for this interesting hub, voted UP.

SilentReed profile image

SilentReed 6 years ago from Philippines Author

Christopher Price ~ Life itself is a gamble. Like a game of chance we owe our existence to lady luck. That out of so many we were picked :)

SilentReed profile image

SilentReed 6 years ago from Philippines Author

MartieCoetser ~ My mom eventually got over it. That was before my time. I think ralwus' poem is the perpetrator of your nightmare ;) You shouldn't worry too much about cruelty to insects like we do the abuse of animals by some so called "Humans". They after all will have the last laugh as they feast on us. :(yuck

James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 6 years ago from Chicago

Fascinating! I had no idea that spider fighting existed. What a sport! Thank you for educating me about this. Well done!

SilentReed profile image

SilentReed 6 years ago from Philippines Author

James A Watkins ~ We also have cricket fighting but its not as popular in the Philippines conpared to China. The downside of the game is the gambling among the youth.

Nell Rose profile image

Nell Rose 6 years ago from England

Hi, SilentReed, this was fascinating, I think I saw it once on TV, but not to this extent. I never realised that it was taken so seriously. Thank you for a very entertaining and different hub, cheers nell

SilentReed profile image

SilentReed 6 years ago from Philippines Author

Nell Rose ~ Hi and thanks for dropping by. Gambling in any form seem to bring out the worst in people, especially if it has already become an addiction.

chinafood profile image

chinafood 6 years ago from china

From the Philippines and China do not want to

SilentReed profile image

SilentReed 6 years ago from Philippines Author

chinafood ~ thanks for stopping by. I take it from your comment that you are also against gambling.

jhen012 profile image

jhen012 6 years ago from iloilo

spider fighting in the Philippines is seasonal. In our region it starts about mid June and usually ends mid November.

SilentReed profile image

SilentReed 6 years ago from Philippines Author

jhen012 ~ Thank you for the input.It's nice to meet another "Kababayan".Noting your avatar,I wonder if you are an aficionado of "sabong" :)

jhen012 profile image

jhen012 6 years ago from iloilo


harrison8bal profile image

harrison8bal 6 years ago from Shanghai

that's pretty cool man

SilentReed profile image

SilentReed 6 years ago from Philippines Author

harrison8bal ~ Thanks,glad you like it

Ben Graves profile image

Ben Graves 5 years ago from Chicago, IL

Really interesting article. I never knew about this. Thanks for sharing this information. I'll have to read all your hubs. Very unique.

SilentReed profile image

SilentReed 5 years ago from Philippines Author

Ben Graves ~ Thank you for stopping by and commenting.You also have a lot of interesting hubs.Glad to be a fan.

Sally's Trove profile image

Sally's Trove 5 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania

Amazing. I had no idea. I knew about cock fights and dog fights, but never about spider fights.

The video was fascinating, but also terrifying. I like the balance you added to this sadistic practice at the end of your Hub, about how it is becoming known how important spiders are to ecosystems.

I admire spiders and go out of my way to catch and release them when I find them in my house. I wrote a Hub about that some time ago. And spiders are quite trainable, too. I trained a jumping spider to follow my laptop's cursor across the screen. Haven't written that Hub yet, but it's on my mind!

Thanks for a special view into another aspect of human / spider relationships.

SilentReed profile image

SilentReed 5 years ago from Philippines Author

Sally's Trove ~ It's the spider's territorial imperative to fight and I guess people's gambling imperative to bet on them is the reason why spider fighting exist ;) forgetting the importance spiders are in the ecology.Thanks for stopping by and I look forward to reading your hub about your trained spider.Maybe a video of it embedded in your article? :)

toddwertz profile image

toddwertz 5 years ago

Great list.

SilentReed profile image

SilentReed 5 years ago from Philippines Author

Toddwertz ~ Thanks for dropping by.

PADDYBOY60 profile image

PADDYBOY60 5 years ago from Centreville Michigan

Ahhhh---- Spiders? I'm outta here! Just kidding. There are tons of amazing facts about spiders. Thanks for sharing.

SilentReed profile image

SilentReed 5 years ago from Philippines Author

PADDYBOY60 ~ Thank you for dropping by. I recall the spider fighting days of my youth.They're harmless...more harm was cause in the fistfights among us boys when someone welshed on his bet :))

Admiral_Joraxx profile image

Admiral_Joraxx 5 years ago from Philippines

Hey SilentReed! I have also played these stuffs when I was a kid. They're wonderful! You know, just as a sort of kiddy real life fighting entertainment, from catching to fighting everything is exciting and adventure filled. I just feel too bad for the two boys whose playing with this had caused them their lives. Great post! 1 vote up!

SilentReed profile image

SilentReed 5 years ago from Philippines Author

Admiral_Joraxx ~ Nowadays kids go to the internet arena for their virtual fighting and gambling :). Thank you for your comment and vote.

leroy64 profile image

leroy64 5 years ago from Dallas, Texas (Oak Cliff)

This was a fascinating article. I had never heard of spider fights before reading this. Thank you for this glimpse of the Philippines.

SilentReed profile image

SilentReed 5 years ago from Philippines Author

leroy64 ~ Some find spiders "yucky". But I have many happy memories of my spider fighting youth. I'm glad to be able to share them with you. Thanks for dropping by.:)

KUREI 5 years ago


SilentReed profile image

SilentReed 4 years ago from Philippines Author

KUREI~ Thank you for dropping by. I hope this article was of some help in your thesis.

Heinrich a. picar 4 years ago

Spider fighting is very fun but don't hold spiders that are dangerous. I love spider fighting because it is very chip to buy spiders like 10 pesos. i love it so much!

SilentReed profile image

SilentReed 4 years ago from Philippines Author

Heinrich a. picar ~ Spider fighting can be addictive. Playing truant during my youth with fellow classmates just to stage spider fights in some hidden places away from the eyes of parents and teachers:)) I still recall those moments with nostalgia. Thank you for your comments.

Steve Breeder 4 years ago

Yeah, I still play and breed spiders at home. I just freed a bunch of them from an egg in our backyard cause they're great mosquito catchers. It's also easy and cheaper to raise than roosters for fight. enjoy!

SilentReed profile image

SilentReed 4 years ago from Philippines Author

Steve Breeder ~ Hi! In my younger days I too enjoyed spider fighting...we never considered the consequences. It's heartening to read that you are also concern about the environment. Spiders play an important role in the eco-system and we should do our share in protecting it. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

carl gabriell v lorenzo 4 years ago

oh i like spiders

gabokami789 4 years ago

some spiders are dangerous they will fight if they missed the fight spider will bite your finger

Angela Brummer profile image

Angela Brummer 4 years ago from Lincoln, Nebraska

Wow who would have thought this happended. LOL Great article.

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ignugent17 4 years ago

Yes I remember my brothers doing this before. They would look for their spiders and put it in a matchbox. Thanks SilentReed.

SilentReed profile image

SilentReed 4 years ago from Philippines Author

Angela Brummer ~ Thanks for dropping by. Glad you enjoyed the hub.

SilentReed profile image

SilentReed 4 years ago from Philippines Author

ignugent17 ~ Did you also accompany your brothers when they went searching for spiders? I remember we had a tomboy who enjoyed spider fighting and would accompany us in looking for spiders.

dada 4 years ago

gusto ko rin yan

lol 4 years ago

pano lakas gamba

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happyhobby 3 years ago

most spiders that are used in this type of gambling/fighting are black or grays.

But in philippines, there are also colorful and weird looking spiders

I saw one that looks like a donald duck(animated character) head in http://mindnetworks.blogspot.com/2013/10/spiders-o...

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