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Spider Fighting

MANILA, Philippines - Education officials in a southern Philippine province have banned spider wrestling, a favorite children's pastime in many rural areas, to discourage students from skipping classes to catch spiders, an official said Thursday.

The ban began last week after education officials noticed that an increasing number of absences among school children were traced to the game, said Isidro Valeroso, superintendent of the Department of Education in North Cotabato province. Valeroso said spider wrestling, in which children collect spiders and have them fight to the death on a stick, also encourages children to gamble.

The spiders wrestle ferociously for a few seconds amid the cheers of children. The battle ends when the champion completely wraps the vanquished spider in a cocoon of webbing. Children often bet on the outcome. Children usually go to meadows or farms at dawn or dusk to catch spiders, sometimes skipping classes or coming in late. They usually house their best "gladiators" in matchboxes.

Many aficionados spend large amounts of time searching for the best spiders. Most of the spiders are collected from trees but some children say the best fighters are found on electric power lines. A prized fighter sells for up to 100 pesos ($2.40).

"We have to teach children that spiders are a farmer's best friend because they catch insects that destroy or damage crops," Valeroso said. "We really have to stop children from killing spiders."

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