“No, I did not know that 2017 is the year of the rooster,” Paquit Aglinao says in Filipino. “But I have three roosters: a lemon, a grey, and a talisayin (grayishgreen). I have them for breeding purposes only. It’s more of a hobby and not for gambling,” the forty-one year old native of Capiz explains.

“In the province we have farm animals: carabaos, cows, goats, chickens, and ducks. Here in Manila, all I have are my roosters. The barangay chairman won’t even allow us to have pet pigs,” he laughs.

Paquit is cooking kalderetang baka in a makeshift kitchen along a narrow alley of Intramuros. As he stirs the chopped carrots, red bell pepper, and potatoes in a steaming wok, he shares, “It’s the baptism of my youngest niece at San Agustin Church and my wife and my daughter Sophie are there, so I have to do the cooking for the baptismal party.”

The pitter-patter of the morning rain wets his roosters strutting at the street corner. The roosters are slightly drenched but seem to be enjoying the drizzle.

The former janitor of Knights of Columbus now works as a delivery man for a shipping company. He also drives one of the ubiquitous “padyak” (bikes with sidecars for passengers) one sees in Intramuros. Like a rooster which is said to be the epitome of fidelity and punctuality, Paquit has been happily married for ten years and boasts that he has never been late for work—understandably, for his office in Intramuros is just a stone’s throw away from his home.

He says, “I enjoy waking up every day and feeding them at seven in the morning and at four in the afternoon. I give them mixed feeds, corn, and monggo, also vitamins.”

“Sometimes, they become aggressive and peck at me. But still they are my lovable pets,” he shrugs.

Interestingly, studies have shown that roosters are in the intelligence range of dogs, and even young chicks exhibit traits that make them smarter than human toddlers in many ways. They are good in sorting out complex problems based on the relative size and shape of an object.

In Chinese culture, another symbolic ability of a rooster is exorcising evil spirits. But for Paquit, his pet roosters lift up his spirits every time they crow at the crack of dawn.

For a rooster lover it’s something to crow about.

This story appeared in Animal Scene’s February 2017 issue.