There are 2 main reasons why we at PiPa gratefully accepted this invitation. One the one hand the fact that the invitation came from Paul Ung, who has now grown to be one of the most famous Philippine pigeon fanciers worldwide, partly due to the partnership formed a few years ago with Marcel Sangers, now racing under the name ‘Sangers-Ung’. The name Paul Ung is also known in the Philippines. More over this later.
The second reason why we were grateful to make this trip to the Philippines is that it is one of the countries where the pigeon sport is still firmly rising. As stated earlier, there are about 200 clubs in the Philippines at the moment. There is an average of about 50 members per club, which brings the total number of fanciers to around 10.000. The number of fanciers increases year after year and the clubs have more and more members, including a great number of young fanciers. One of the fanciers we met said: “In the west the youth prefers to sit in front of the computer, here in the Philippines that is not so usual, as a result of which the youngsters have to choose a different hobby, one of the possibilities is then the pigeon sport .”
The intention of this report is to introduce you to the pigeon sport in the Philippines: How do they race here? What are the main differences to the pigeon sport that we know in Belgium and the Netherlands? On the other hand we would also like to introduce you to the 50 year existence of the PHA organisation .
PHA - 50 years
Why is the PHA considered the “Nr. 1” under the pigeon clubs? In addition to the fact that the PHA is the oldest club in the country, it is also the club with the most prize money and the greatest number of pigeons. They have around 90 members and the prize money can, per season, of which they have 2 a year, accruing to more than 100.000 EURO .
First and foremost, 3 founders were responsible for making the PHA what it is today, namely Peter Yap, Cham Tian Seng and Cham Teng Hui, all in their 80’s. They took the initiative in 1960 to set up a real pigeon club, which at the time was unique for the Philippines. It must be said that with this initiative, not only was the basis of the PHA laid down, but for the entire Philippines pigeon sport .
Naturally there is more to it than just being “the first”. To create the image that the PHA now enjoys takes a long time. Over the last 6 years, under the chairmanship of Paul Ung, there have been many changes made within the PHA. In general, they took the path of “professionalization”. What the board of the PHA is particularly striving to achieve is the practising of 100% honest pigeon sport. Many measures have been taken for this over the last few years, one of the most prominent is the introduction of the electronic clocks, a gigantic step forward to a fairer sport. Especially when you know how far they have come. In the 60’s there weren’t even any mechanical clocks available! How did they make up the results? When a pigeon returned home they had to report the pigeon via the telephone, and the results were made up on the basis of these telephone calls. Obviously not an ideal system, but there were no other possibilities at the time. By the way there was no question of cheating at the time, because there was no money to be won in the pigeon sport then, and there was only a handful of members .
The big prize money that can now be won within the PHA has resulted in the more affluent fanciers being members of the PHA, 99% of the members are businessmen. Because if there is a lot of money to be won, there has to be a lot of money pumped into the pot .
Pigeon sport in the Philippines
The pigeon sport in the Philippines has 2 seasons. On the one hand the “South Season” which starts at the beginning of February and runs until the last Sunday of March. The “South Season” includes all the liberations south of Manilla – the capital of the Philippines and the location of the PHA. There are 7 races during this season, liberations take place every Sunday, starting at 250 km, ending at 680 Km. This is the furthest race possible, whereby they have to race over a great area of water twice, in the heat there, far above the 30 °C, a distance not to be underestimated. In addition they choose the “South Season” in the Spring because there is generally north wind during that period, which means “head wind” by more or less every race. It is not then surprising that the number of pigeons remaining after the last race of the “South Season” is usually around the 5%. Knowing that the PHA start with around 3000 pigeons, then about 150 pigeons remain after the last race. Another reason for the low number is the fact that the pigeons are always liberated, unless a typhoon has been reported, and the liberation has to take placed 1 hour within the proposed time. They can wait then a maximum of one hour before liberating, then they HAVE to be liberated .
The pigeons for the “South Season” are bred in February-March the previous year, so in principle the pigeons are yearlings when they undergo their first real tests. They have of course been trained for this. There are special rings for each season, so that breeding earlier for a certain season is not possible .
It is of course generally youngsters who take part in these races, seeing that hardly any pigeons remain after the season, yet the pigeons which remain are allowed to take part in the further races in later seasons as “old bird”. There are separate results for the o.b. and the youngsters .
So as the name suggests, the “North Season” is liberated in a different location. Here they only liberate in a northern direction. This season runs from the middle of October to the middle of December, once again 7 races, every week. Here the pigeons are used which have been bred in January, which means that the pigeons for the “North Season” are an average of 10 months old when they are allowed to go and prove themselves .
Why don’t they just race the “South Season” twice? The main reason is that in the autumn the wind usually comes from the south, meaning that they can race once again with head wind. In addition they don’t go further than 440km in the North Season, mainly because the mountains in the North make the races more difficult. All factors together: mountains, head wind, +30 °C +, the same conditions week after week, result in fatigue races, as a result of which the end races of each season can be compared, qua difficulty, with the extreme long distance in Europe. This is the reason why the extreme long distance pedigrees do very well in the Philippines .
The basketting for both North and South Season usually takes place the day before liberation, which means 1 night in the basket. Only the last race in the North Season and the last 3 races in the South Season have 2 nights in the basket .
The big money can be earned with a sort of Ace pigeon competition per season. All the pigeons which have achieved a speed of + 700 km in all 7 races are included. It occurs regularly that there is only 1 pigeon and that pigeon alone wins 60-70.000 EURO in the PHA, sometimes there are ten pigeons and then the money is divided equally under all the 10 pigeons .
This competition ensures that the fanciers don’t consider “specialising”. There are hardly any fanciers here who focus on winning the short races (and perhaps buy sprint pigeons for this), because hardly anything can be earned from winning a race in itself, that’s why they focus of racing with extreme long distance pigeons, these may be slower in the first speed races, but that doesn’t matter too much, as long as they achieve more than 700 mpm in each race, then the big money can be won. It is also not possible to only participate in the further distances, as every pigeon which is basketted has also to have been basketted for the previous races .
Paul Ung first came into contact with the pigeons when he was 6 years old. When his mother bought three pigeons to slaughter and eat. Paul hid the pigeons and after a few days all 3 flew away. Paul’s uncle already had racing pigeons and gave Paul a few as a present and since then a love for the pigeons arose .
In 1966 when he was 23 years old, he was introduced to the PHA by another family member. At the time he was following a chemistry course at university. Then the race game started and in 1968 he imported the first pigeons from Europe, a Fabry couple .
Paul late had an impressive career whereby a.o. he built up a paint factory into the biggest paint producer of the Philippines. This company was sold at the beginning of the year 2000. In addition, he is also manager of one of the fastest growing banks in the Philippines .
All this meant that he hardly had any time to take care of the pigeons or even to see them arrive home. He employs 4 people to take care of the pigeons full-time. Paul sees himself more of a collector, with more than 1000 pigeons imported from Belgium and the Netherlands, he is undoubtedly the most valuable collection of pigeon in the Philippines, including 3 children Kleine Dirk, 3 children Amore, children Golden Lady, all from C&G Koopman, as well as extreme long distance sort from Carteus, Noel Peiren, Chris Hebberecht, Brockamp and many others .
Paul Ung was chairman of the PHA for the last 6 years, during the celebrations on the 3rd of December the chairmanship was officially handed over to Jaime Lim.
Kerby is one of the youngest members of the PHA and a good acquaintance of PiPa for several years. He has been a loyal bidder and buyer in the PiPa auctions for years .
He runs his own construction firm in the Philippines, with more than 100 employees. This means that he is also in the same situation, whereby he has to depend on loft managers to take care of his pigeons. Yet he always manages to visit the pigeons briefly once a day .
Last year Kerby was the coordinator of the auction of a round of youngsters from Jos Thoné in the Philippines. The auction was a great success, partly due to his organisation. As Kerby is already a great fan of the Thoné pigeons, he is sometimes known as the “Jos Thoné of the Philippines”. A nickname that he loves to hear .