Raising pigeons that race
- Alice H. Reyes () - August 21, 2011 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - The use of homing pigeons to send and receive messages dates back to Biblical times (Genesis 8:8-12) when Noah sent forth a pigeon from the Ark to see if the waters had abated after the great deluge.

In the 20th century, soldiers used pigeons to send vital messages to troops hundreds of miles away. During World Wars I and II, pigeons accompanied Allied troops and carried notes in capsules around their legs back home.

Today, pigeons are raised as a hobby all over the world by people from all walks of life. In America racing pigeons as a sport was introduced in the 19th century, resulting in the formation of about 550 clubs nationwide. One group, founded in 1990. The American Racing Pigeon Union, has nearly 10,000 members. Former boxing champion Mike Tyson reportedly is a pigeon racing enthusiast.

In the Philippines, there are 76 racing pigeon clubs duly registered with the SEC, one of which is the Quezon City Racing Pigeon Club (QRPC) headed by Fernan Onesa, who caught the pigeon raising and racing bug from his father.

Onesa became so obsessed with the hobby that his father was prompted to kill all his pigeons when he was in junior high. Instead of discouraging Onesa, the incident motivated him to pursue the hobby after graduation. When one of his pigeons won third place in a race from Aparri to Quezon City (which earned him a cash prize of P225,000) his father’s objections to his hobby were silenced.

In 2007, with a group of friends, Onesa organized the Quezon City Racing Pigeons Club. Its objectives were: To eradicate drug addiction among the youth through the breeding of pigeons during their leisure hours and/or spare time, thus making the youth more productive through their initiatives in pigeon-raising programs as a hobby, and to upgrade the breed of local pigeons through the importation of foreign pigeons for cross-breeding.

Onesa’s organization which had just over a hundred members at the start, has grown to 720. Its members come from Antipolo, Novaliches, Las Piñas, Bulacan and Quezon City (which has 80 percent of its members).

Raising pigeons in the Philippines helps to promote sportsmanship among its competitors. It generates income, specially for the poor with low income. It also helps the youth to have a productive hobby rather than focusing on other destructive hobbies such as drugs, alcohol, theft, and other petty crimes.

Raising pigeon is not easy. It requires dedication, perseverance and love. It also costs money which, however, can be recouped either by selling pigeons to pigeon-lovers or by racing them.

Pigeon owners have secrets, Onesa revealed, about what to give their pigeons to supplement the usual vitamins and medicines. Nothing and no one can pry those secrets from them.

How much a pigeon can be bought depends on its lineage. If it has “winning blood,” it can command a high price, as much as P150,000.

Training pigeons takes time and patience. At first, the pigeons are released around the house for them to learn where their food comes from. Three weeks later, they are taken farther away and are closely watched as they find their way home. Then they are taken farther still.

Magnetic fluid behind a pigeon’s ears and nose guides the pigeon, based on the magnetic poles. Sometimes radio waves in cable towers may confuse the pigeon’s sense of direction. Sometimes a storm may throw the pigeon off-track. Generally, however, the pigeon finds its way home.

Racing pigeons entails a training period of one to three months before the race, during which the pigeons are release in progressively greater distances.

The Quezon City Racing Pegion Club holds two races a year, one in February-March (from Naga to Tacloban) and the other in October (from Ilagan to Aparri). Already the QRPC members are preparing for the Oct. 18, 2011 event which will have two categories: young bird and open, and offers valuable prizes for the top ten winner of both categories.

Onesa nurtures the hope that through the effects of his officers, including Erwin Linghap and Emmanuel Batoon, as well as the club’s advisers Angel Calso and Ylla P. Sales, his club will attain its objectives and attract more and more of the youth to take up the hobby of raising pigeons not just for the profit that can be gained or the thrill of racing the pigeons but more importantly for the satisfaction of releasing their pigeons, watching them fly away and welcoming them safely home.

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