Bullfighting in the Philippines 1602-2022
Bullfighting in the Philippines 1602-2022
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Bullfighting in the Philippines 1602-2022

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Bullfighting in the Philippines 1602-2022


With a foreword by Carlos Martinez Shaw
With Wenceslao E. Retana's Fiestas de toros en Filipinas 

Series: Academica Filipina +
Copyright © 2022 Gaspar A. Vibal and Vibal Foundation, Inc.
280 pages; 20.32 x 25.4 cm


Bullfighting in the Philippines 1602-2022 sheds light on the very obscure Philippine branch of a celebrated Iberian tradition that has linked Spain and the Philippines for over four centuries. It pairs the pioneering work of the Spanish writer Wenceslao E. Retana (1896) with recent academic research to demystify bullfighting as practiced in the farthest colony of Spain. Although the forty-eight years of American occupation caused the taurine art to decline eventually, it found a Philippine resurgence under the championship of Pres. Ramón Magsaysay, who, in celebrating the tenth anniversary of the republic, startlingly foregrounded the performance of a doubly marginalized figure—that of an American woman bullfighter—at the last Filipino fiesta de toros.

In attempting to paint a comparative history of bullfighting in Spain and the Philippines, the book locates the marginality of its Philippine practice within the larger context of another blood spectacle—cockfighting—that has historically impeded the wider acceptance of taurine practices. Running as a thread throughout the book is the battle over the treatment of animals, which has haunted the art of bull- as well as cockfighting from the sixteenth to the twenty-first century.

Reflecting these counter-opposed attitudes, this book documents the shifting arguments in the defense of or the indictment of bullfighting. If indeed, the taurine tradition can be considered a “cultural performance,” using the concept of cultural anthropologist Clifford Geertz, what can we make of another deep-seated Philippine tradition, that of cockfighting? If the cock- and bullfight are cultural performances, for whom and why, then, are they being performed? Can both enjoy protection as cultural patrimonies just as UNESCO had inscribed the practice of falconry as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity? Thus, the comparative study of bull and cockfighting can provide an endless source of contemplation on the mysteries of the human condition as well as its propensity for mass spectacles of bloody combat.

In wanting to address a general rather than a specialized readership, the book has trained a multidisciplinary prism on the subject, using the lenses of the fine arts, architecture, theater, literature, cultural anthropology, zooarchaeology, science, philosophy, biography, transnational zoopolitics, and comparative history. Enriched with over 200 images, a bilingual taurine glossary, a global timeline, a “Who’s Who,” and the translation of Wenceslao E. Retana’s classic Fiestas de Toros en Filipinas (1896), this book provides not only a comprehensive vade mecum of Spanish and Philippine taurine history but also an entertaining literary journey through animality and humanity.


... integrates a narrative that is not only entertaining (due to its many findings) but also convincing due to the rigor of its analysis and arguments. This is a truly essential book in the construction of a universal history of bullfighting.

—From the Foreword of Carlos Martínez Shaw
Fundación de Estudios Taurinos / Real Academia de la Historia


Conforme avanza desde tiempos prehispánicos hasta nuestros días, Gaspar Vibal va tocando asuntos conexos de enorme interés, sin dejar de lado las posturas anti-taurinas, que son tan antiguas como el propio espectáculo. En definitiva, Bullfighting in the Philippines es un libro bien documentado, bien contextualizado y lleno de curiosidades, que no está pensado únicamente para los aficionados a los toros.

—Fernando Palanco
Historiador y autor de Inquisición en Filipinas


For fanciers of historical topics obscure, unusual, neglected, and forgotten (as I am), this is a book that surprises, educates, and delights. But Gaspar Vibal’s Bullfighting in the Philippines, 1602-2022 is more than just a book for aficionados. It is a work of high scholarship: deeply researched, theoretically informed, clearly written, and excellently illustrated. 

A most exhaustive study, the book ranges through such topics as the history of bulls and horses in the Philippines, bullfighting events from the seventeenth century to the present; a who’s who of Spanish and Philippine bullfighting; bullrings in Manila and the provinces; and more. It looks at the relations between Spanish bullfighting to local forms of animal combat (like cockfighting and carabao duels), relates little-known stories like that of the female bullfighters of Iloilo, and even includes a note on the subcultural figure of the toro in the popular imagination.

Beyond documenting, Vibal offers cross-cultural reflections on the political, cultural, ethical, and philosophical issues raised by bullfighting and similar blood spectacles. This is a remarkable book that excites and reminds us that – despite the sense of many that much historical writing in the country seems a case of more of- the-same—Philippine history is a field in which there is still so much that remains to be known, discovered, richly imagined.

—Resil Mojares
National Artist of the Philippines for Literature




Foreword by Carlos Martínez Shaw vii

Preface xiv

Introduction xvii

1 Philippine Bull and Horse Stories
The Ancient Origins of Livestock and Bullfighting   3

2 Splendors of the Fiestas de Toros
The First Philippine Bullfights, c. 1602–1800      31

3 Between Modernity and Revolution
Nineteenth-Century Philippine Bullfighting     83

4 The Zoopolitics of Nation-Building
Philippine Bullfighting in the Modern Era, 1898–2022    139

1 Bullfighting Glossary    205
2 Bullfighting Timeline in the Philippines and Elsewhere   210
3 Who’s Who of Spanish and Philippine Bullfighting    215
4 Table of Philippine Bullfights, c. 1602–2022     221
5 Una Plaza de Toros, A Bullring [in Paco] (Manila, 1886)    223
6 Corrida de beneficencia, The Charity Bullfights (Manila, 1890).   225
7 Wenceslao E. Retana, La corrida y su consecuencia (Manila, 1907)      228
8 Wenceslao E. Retana, Fiestas de Toros en Filipinas (Madrid: 1896) 233

Bibliography    242
Index    255

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Hardcover: Php 1599
Softcover: Php 999


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Academica Filipina+ is an interdisciplinary series that pushes the boundaries of scholarly publishing with smart, literate, and thought-provoking works exploring the Philippine past, present, and future. Other titles in the series include Philippine Genealogy and Art History: The Luciano P. R. Santiago Reader, Púgot: Head Taking, Ritual Cannibalism, and Human Sacrifice in the Philippines, More Cebuano Than We Admit, More Hispanic Than We Admit 1 to 3, More Tsinoy Than We Admit, More American Than We Admit, More Tomboy, More Bakla Than We Admit, Sisa’s Vengeance, The World of Manila-Acapulco Galleons, Santo Niño de Cebú 1565–2015, and Salungat: A Soledad S. Reyes Reader.