Uncle Imo, younger brother of my late father, was my ardent sparring partner and critic when I was just starting in my gamecock breeding hobby.

He always made it a point that what I was doing then were, from his own point of view – all wrong.

Whether to discourage me or of plain concern, I did manage to remain stubborn with him.

Sounding a warning, he had a habit of saying, “You’re educated but I already drank more water than you.”

And the clincher: you’re not yet born but I’m already into gamecocks.

One day, my neighbor-friend Banjo gifted me a dozen of day-old hatched chicks of “Cojuangco-Lacson” bloodline a day before he left for an overseas work in Saipan.

The next morning, Uncle Imo, as if on cue, was in my backyard.

“Who gave you these?” His inquisitive eyes were looking at the direction of the newly-arrived chicks I was feeding with a branded chick booster mixed with powdered B-12 and calcium lactate tablets.

Before I could even open my mouth, Uncle Imo muttered: “What are those like urine?”

“The chicks came from our neighbor, a long-time breeder of teksas. And the yellow thing is antibiotics,” I replied.

“It’s very costly,” he protested and he continued his impromptu lecture, “Because they’re still young, save on costs by just feeding them with one-half starter mash and one-half rice bran.”

And added, “When you’re about to fight them in hacks, that’s the time you’ll give them the best feeds available,” to which I retorted, “Uncle Imo, if you’ll feed them one-half rice bran and one-half starter mash, they’ll also show you the fighting style of a one-half rice bran and one-half starter mash.”

“And one more thing,” I added, “you can no longer change the bone structure and body conformation of the gamefowl during the conditioning period. And that’s costlier than you thought.”

“And why?” His eyes were as sharp as an eagle about to pound its prey.

“Simply because the cock will not win, Uncle Imo. It’s much costlier because gamefowls will not do justice with lousy feeding,” I answered and continued, “For me, conditioning starts with the proper selection of the pair that will produce the egg. And they must come from proven bloodlines. Like begets like. If your bloodline has no history, it will never have a future.”

“So what’s the bloodline of those?” he was pointing to the scratching chicks.

“Banjo said the broodcock came from Cojuangco and the broodhen from Lacson.”

“Did you believe him? Pity the Cojuangcos and Lacsons whose names were being murdered when these running mash-fed chickens start to run!”

“Don’t raise them,” he admonished me.

“His are losing breed (meaning those from our neighbor Banjo). Come with me and I’ll give you the best,” he beckoned me.

Ralph Berman Wineglass Claret

Uncle Imo’s gamefowl farm is more than a kilometer away from the town proper, going southward traversing the old Manila railroad.

While surveying his farm, I counted about fifteen ready-to-fight cocks on cord, more than three dozens of crowing-stage stags and an equal number of pullets on the range. And there were also more than fifty chicks with the hens prowling about in the open.

“Uncle Imo, are you giving them antibiotics like I do?”

“There are only two drugs here: itakcillin and kutsilyomycin. This is a farm, not a hospital. You must do brutal culling,” his serious mien is visible again.

“You mean if your broodcock is sick, malunggay leaves and ginger be with him?”

“My nephew, there are millions of cocks out there. The best is yet to come to you,” he quipped as he put a pair of broodcock and broodhen (a full brother and sister Hatch-type) into a chicken box.

“What’s the bloodline Uncle Imo?”

“I call them Mendoza since they came from Johnny Mendoza. You can call any chicken or any breed you like and nobody will be complaining,” he let out a big laugh.

Our laughter broke the early morning stillness of the farm.

Uncle Imo passed away a couple of years ago.

I might not agree with him on most points of the cocking game. But the most sensible lesson I learned from him were his itakcillin and kutsilyomycin.

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