Monday, August 30, 2010

GM Leovigildo “Beldong” A. Torres: Old Timer Arnisador from Brgy. Ma-ao by: James U. Sy Jr.

Grandmaster Leovigildo “Beldong” A. Torres of Ma-ao strikes a classic Arnis pose (James U. Sy Jr./CMAS Photo).

Negros is home to countless arnisadors, each one having their own colorful life and contribution to the development and evolution of the indigenous Filipino Martial Arts (FMA) of Arnis/Eskrima in the island. Many of them have passed on and their memories only live in the oral accounts that remain with us today. This article is a biographical piece on one of the few surviving old timers from an era when Arnis was “played” with no protective armor/gear.

was born to Jacinto Seredon Torres, a farmer, and Josefa Yulo Abuyen, a housewife, on July 26, 1926 in Bo. Ma-ao, Bago City, Negros Occidental as the seventh of ten siblings. His other siblings (in this order) werer MNariano, Rosario Torres-Ovario, Edmundo, Thelma Torres-Lo, Guillermo, Rebecca Torres-Alonsagay, Esther Torres-Cruz, Hernani, and Leda Sol.

“Beldong” started his studies of Arnis under Beging Barrera in 1939 when he was 13. His main purpose in studying was for personal protection. Barrera was teaching Arnis in Ma-ao so he stops by Torres’ place twice a week and teaches him too. Barrera taught Torres for free.

From Barrera, Torres learned Espada y Daga “Sword and Dagger,” which was composed of 12 strikes and 12 defenses. Torres also studied Filipino “Judo” or kinamot as a minor subject and supplement to his weapons repertoire. They used lanite sticks during training. His training lasted for a year.

Torres graduated from the Ma-ao Elementary school but was not able to go to high school because World War II erupted.

Just like other arnisadors, Torres went on to pit his skills with other eskrimadors, either in muestrations “demonstration exchanges” or hampang “plays,” to gain more experience. He had crossed sticks with the likes of Ader, Saber Grandmaster Maeng Alvarez, Junior Cañet, Guarra Style Modern Arnis Founder/Grandmaster Estanislao “Eslao” T. Guarra, Oido de Caburata Grandmaster Abraham T. Gubaton, Juan, Fencing Grandmaster Homero Sian, Lapu-Lapu Viñas Arnis Founder/Grandmaster Jose “Joe” Viñas, and other whom GM Torres could no longer remember.

The exchanges and plays between different arnisadors was an important ingredient in the development and evolution of the local Filipino Martial Arts (FMA) of Arnis/Eskrima as the effectivity of various methods are tested, new counters are developed, and cross pollination of techniques are imminent. Styles that were effective in one locality were constantly tested in other places that had their own prominent style(s).

Of the arnisadors he had crossed sticks with, GM Torres is most in awe with the speed and skill of GM Sian. According to him, GM Sian would gather different arnisadors from bago, Silay, and other places up north and spar with them.

GM Torres was employed as the in charge for the fire truck in the mercado since 1954 up to his retirement in 1985. It was in 1957 when he started teaching Arnis to a select few people, about 6 of them members of the fire team.

GM Torres married Quiteria Treoles Tuvilla (1936-1986) and had thirteen children with her, namely Angelita Torres-Gutierrez, Jocelyn Torres-Tindero, Guillermo, Nelsie Torres-Rodrigo, Leovigildo Jr., Rosemarie Torres-Lavarro, Armelito, Leo, Leonil, Jimmy, Lemuel, Leah Torres-Arsoa, and Leocildo.

Today at 84, GM Torres is battling cancer and is being cared for by his family.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Abelardo Jagocoy Sr.: An Arnis Old Timer by: James U. Sy Jr.

Grandmaster Abelardo Jagocoy Sr. (right) demonstrates his technique to his grandson, Grandmaster Felix A. Guinabo (James U. Sy Jr./CMAS photo).

The research by the Conceptual Martial Arts Society (CMAS), Inc. in the past few years showed that many old timer arnisadors of Negros Occidental had already passed away. Nevertheless, the CMAS Documentation Team had successfully recorded the lives of several of those who are still with us, with the hopes that the new generation will take an interest in our own indigenous Filipino Martial Art (FMA) of Arnis/Eskrima and maybe, maybe, learn it from the old men who had immersed themselves in the life long practice of this Filipino martial tradition.

One of these old timers is Abelardo Baga Jagocoy Sr. At age 79, he made his first public demonstration together with his grandson, Grandmaster Felix A. Guinabo, during the 1st GSMASDA-Arjuka-CMAS Arnis Expo last August 1, 2010 at Gaisano City Bacolod Supermall in Bacolod City at the invitation of the Conceptual Martial Arts Society (CMAS), Inc. of Founders/Masters James U. Sy Jr. and Narciso “Hansy” L. Alojado. The event attracted more than 60 arnisadors/eskrimadors from Bacolod City, Bago City, Iloilo City, Murcia, and Pennsylvania, USA representing not less than 19 systems of Western Visayan Arnis/Eskrima.

Abelardo Baga Jagocoy was born to Gervacio Claridad Jagocoy of Sum-ag and Herenia Baga of Bohol on March 31, 1931 in Cansilayan, Murcia. He was the youngest among six siblings which included (in this order) Jose, Perfecto, Marianing, Maming Jagocoy-Cadigal, Petra, and him.

Jagocoy had relatives who were arnisadors, among them Francisco Salanap and Buenaventura “Tora” Salanap. Jagocoy started his studies of Arnis in 1950 under Grandmaster Federico “Peding” Abendan, a student of Grandmaster Abraham T. Gubaton, who is in turn a student of the Founder of Oido de Caburata, the late Grandmaster Antonio “Toñing” Tolosa of Minoyan, and his student, Grandmaster Jose D. Aguilar.

According to Jagocoy, GM Abendan taught him the short stick and called his art Oido. GM Abendan founded the long stickfighting art of Backhand but only did so after studying Oido under GM Gubaton. GM Abendan did not charge Jagocoy for the lessons because they were neighbors and relatives.

The art taught to Jagocoy must have been an earlier version of Oido de Caburata since GM Tolosa was continuously evolving his system up to the 1960’s. Oido de Caburata was founded in 1936.

The next teacher of Jagocoy was Jose “Joe” Mamar, who taught him the two handed stick. According to Jagocoy, Mamar was a student of GM Aguilar. It is not clear whether the long stick art taught to him was Backhand or methodo but it could not have been Original Filipino Tapado since it was only founded by the late Grandmaster Romeo “Nono” C. Mamar in 1960.

Jagocoy later exchanged ideas with other eskrimadors to gain more experience. He never taught because his purpose in studying Arnis was only for self protection. After years of silence, he started teaching his grandson, Grandmaster Felix A. Guinabo, the Founder of Trese Grabes Piga-Piga System.

Jagocoy was among those recognized and honored as Grandmaster of Arnis by the Conceptual Martial Arts Society (CMAS), Inc. and Gaisano City Bacolod Supermall during the Arnis Expo since he holds the link to an earlier version of Oido which helps show how the art had developed through the years when viewed side by side with the Oido that is practiced today.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Arnis Expo @ Gaisano Showcased Different Systems/Styles Part II: The Legacy Continues by: James U. Sy Jr.

The father and son tandem of Jerry P. Divinagracia (right) and Jio C. Divinagracia represented the Bago City-based Oido de Caburata Arnis Group (ODCA) during the 1st GSMASDA-Arjuka-CMAS Arnis Expo last August 1, 2010 at Gaisano Bacolod Supermall, Bacolod City.

Arnis Philippines Bacolod/Negros Occidental Commissioner Danilo “Danny” L. Cardinal and Grandmaster Felix A. Guinabo (2nd and 3rd from left) giving out the awards during the closing ceremonies of the 1st GSMASDA-Arjuka-CMAS Arnis Expo last August 1, 2010 at Gaisano Bacolod Supermall, Bacolod City.

The exhibition of the Guinabo Arnis and Combat Sports (GACS) started with Grandmaster Abelardo Jagocoy Sr., 81, performing the Oido he learned from Grandmaster Federico “Peding” Abendan and Joe Mamar with his grandson Grandmaster Felix A. Guinabo giving the attacks. Then GM Guinabo and Senior Instructor Joselito Guzon showed different aspects of GM Guinabo’s Trese Grabes Piga-Piga System.

Grandmaster Sotero Tario of Bago City, 79, demonstrated his own style, Oido Fencing, with a solo free form. Oido Fencing derives its power strikes from Oido de Caburata and adds to its repertoire thrusting techniques from Negrensanon Saber/Foil

The Bacolod Negros Arnis Federation International, (BNAFI), Inc. of Grandmaster Hortencio “Horten” M. Navales was represented by his sons Masters Prince and Cane Navales. The duo demonstrated abecedario, Balintawak, Batangueña, sinawali, Espada y Daga, and empty hands vs weapons.

1st Generation Inheritor/Grandmaster Benefredo “Bebing” Mamar Lobrido, 60, President of the Bago City-based Original Filipino Tapado Long Stick Fighting Association, demonstrated the higher floating direct hitting techniques of his late uncle Grandmaster Romeo “Nono” C. Mamar’s Original Filipino Tapado with Master Joeffrey S. Deriada of the Conceptual Martial Arts Society (CMAS), Inc. feeding the attacks.

Pastor Romeo N. Gumban, 56, representing the Philippine Integrated Martial Arts Academy-Filipino Tang Soo Do Association (PIMAA-FTSDA), Inc. of Grandmaster Elmer V. Montoyo, demonstrated his combative system of Dumog with roots from Antique. Pastor Gumban, with the help of Founder/Masters James U. Sy Jr. of Conceptual Martial Arts Society (CMAS), Inc., showed defenses against grabs, locks, takedowns, punches, and kicks using leverage throws, body locks, and jointlocks.

The Bago City-based Oido de Caburata Arnis Group (ODCA) came in full force with Patriarch Grandmaster Abraham T. Gubaton, 82, Chief Instructor Grandmaster Sabas T. Gubaton, 72, Masters Jonathan Gubaton and Jose “Joe” Salanap, Mary Camille and Joshelle Gubaton, and father and son Jerry P. and Jio C. Divinagracia. The Divinagracias demonstrated the basics of Oido de Caburata Arnis.

Host Guarra Style Modern Arnis of P/Sgt. (Ret.) Grandmaster Estanislao “Eslao” T. Guarra and Arjuka-Malingin of Grandmaster Isaac “Saac T. Guarra started their exhibition with Real Dennis Guarra, 8 years old, and Richard Guarra, 10 years old, doing the Arjuka-style sinawali. Filton O. Bernadas, Nevelie Flores, John Rey C. Montes, and Ceasar Ian G. Poral demonstrated the 6 stages fundamental with empty hand disarming then proceeded to two-man interactive counter-for-counter form combining strikes, locks, and throws.

Founder/Master Roy R. Flores Sr. and Senior Instructor Jussel Torres of Tribu Hangaway Philippines (THP) performed their own version of the crisscross patterns of the doble baston as well as disarmings.

Host Conceptual Martial Arts Society (CMAS), Inc. of Founders/Masters James U. Sy Jr. and Narciso “Hansy” L. Alojado demonstrated the integrated fundamentals of the Conceptual Arnis System which is a fusion of several Negrosanon systems of Arnis/Eskrima. Master Sy and Manunuon Giovanni S. Mendoza of Pennsylvania showed defensive footwork with the hands tied/sticking, basic parries and defenses and counter strikes, and disarms. Dr. Master Raymund A. Maguad, PTRP, of Murcia and Montano Mondia performed the different ofensa, defense, pangagaw, lubad, and trangkada.

ARNIS PHILS. TOURNAMENT. The Tournament section of the 1st GSMASDA-Arjuka-CMAS Arnis Expo served as a practicum for official-trainees from Arjuka-Malingin and Guarra Style Modern Arnis, who participated in the Arnis Philippines Referee and Judges Officiating Echo Seminar last July 3-4, 2010 and the follow up review last July 18, 2010, both in Bago City, as well as a tune up for the upcoming 2nd UDTA Mayor Evelio “Bing” Leonardia Arnis Cup to be held by the Universal Defensive Tactics Academy (UDTA) of Founder/Chairman Abraham “Abe” Ganzon Jr. on October 2-3, 2010, also at Gaisano City Bacolod Supermall.

Four bouts were contested under the supervision of Arnis Philippines Bacolod/Negros Occidental Commissioner Grandmaster Danilo “Danny” l. Cardinal.

All competitors were from the KaliSilat Arnis Association (KAA) of GM Cardinal except for one. Referee/Judges from Arjuka-Malingin/GSMASDA were Jonar “Open” D. Guarra, Ceasar Ian G. Poral, Windy Lou G. Poral, and Louie A. Terante.

Kei A. Gracias over Kyrle Patrick Gile. Jason Jocson over King joseph Cabiles of Tribu Hangaway. Gorge Estoque over Darwin Dajao. Jefe Pasco over Eugene Pilar.

Arnis Expo @ Gaisano Showcased Different Systems/Styles Part I: Western Visayan Arnis at Its Best by: James U. Sy Jr.

Some of the masters who graced the 1st GSMASDA-Arjuka-CMAS Arnis Expo last August 1, 2010 at Gaisano Bacolod Supermall, Bacolod City (from left): Engr. Niel T. Javellana (Uno Blanco Eskrima, Iloilo City), GM Isaac T. Guarra (Arjuka), GM Benefredo "Bebing" M. Lobrdio (Original Filipino Tapado), GM Sotero Tario (Oido Fencing), Pastor Romeo N. Gumban (Dumog), GM Abraham T. Gubaton (Oido de Caburata), Master Jose "Joe" Salanap (Oido de Caburata), GM Sabas T. Gubaton (Oido de Caburata), and Master James U. Sy Jr. (Conceptual Arnis) (CMAS Photo).

Engr. Niel T. Javellana of Iloilo City (right) demonstrating the powerful strikes of the Uno Blanco System of Eskrima from Panay with the assistance of Master Joeffrey S. Deriada of the Conceptual Martial Arts Society (CMAS), Inc. (CMAS Photo).

Grandmaster Frank Abalajon, 72, demonstrating sinawali from his Abalajon Classical Arnis (CMAS Photo).

The 1st GSMASDA-Arjuka-CMAS Arnis Expo brought together 17 Filipino Martial Arts (FMA) organizations from Western Visayas and gave them a chance to exhibit their particular systems of Arnis last August 1, 2010, 3:00-5:30 PM, at the Atrium Area, Gaisano Bacolod Supermall, Araneta St., Bacolod City.

The event was hosted by Guarra Style Modern Arnis & Self Defense Association (GSMASDA) of P/Sgt. (Ret.) Founder/Grandmaster Estanislao “Eslao” T. Guarra, Arjuka-Malingin of Founder/Grandmaster Isaac “Saac T. Guarra, and Conceptual Martial Arts Society (CMAS), Inc. of Founders/Masters James U. Sy Jr. and Narciso “Hansy” L. Alojado in cooperation with the Negros Occidental Baston Federation (NOBF), Inc., and Arnis Philippines-Bacolod/Negros Occidental Chapter, and Gaisano City Bacolod Supermall represented by Advertising Officer Nomer Q. Lobaton.

More than 60 arnisadors/eskrimadors, aged 6 to 82 years old, from Bacolod City, Bago City, Iloilo City, Murcia, and Pennsylvania, USA gave demonstrations of not less than 19 systems of Western Visayan Arnis/Eskrima as well as compete in four Labanan bouts using Arnis Philippine (ArPi), Inc. rules. Arnisadors from Cebu, Silay, and Talisay Cities were also invited but did not make it to the exposition.

Master Sy, who wrote “100 FMA Systems Practiced in Negros” for Rapid Journal, together with his group mates at Conceptual Martial Arts Society (CMAS), Inc., has always worked hard to bring together martial artists from different disciplines in harmony and to grow together. The event best exemplified this higher philosophy in the martial arts.

Mayor Evelio “Bing” R. Leonardia was invited as the Guest of Honor but was not able to come because of a prior commitment. Grandmaster Col. Atty. Marcelo “Pope” C. Jalandoon, Ph.D., the Founder and retired President of the Negros Occidental Baston Federation (NOBF), Inc., gave the inspirational speech. Other grandmasters were also given the chance to speak.

Founder/Master James U. Sy Jr. was the Event Director and did the legwork and paperwork to help GM Eslao Guarra jumpstart the Negros Occidental Baston Federation (NOBF), Inc. under his administration as president. The Arnis Expo was the first major event held since the retirement of Founder/Grandmaster Col. Atty. Marcelo “Pope” C. Jalandoon, Ph.D., as President of the NOBF and during GM Guarra’s term.

DEMONSTRATIONS. The exposition started off with Golden Kamagong Arnis Kali Eskrima Association (GKAKEA), Inc. of P/CInsp. (Ret.) Grandmaster Ibarra E. Lopez, showcasing their Pekiti Tirsia style of anyo, abecedario, blocking, disarming, and sinawali. The demo team was composed of Grandmaster Alejandro “Alex” S. Doza, Rey T. Destriza, and August Zzar L. Lopez.

Engr. Niel Javellana traveled all the way from Iloilo City to represent the Karay-a Uno Blanco Eskrima System of Engr. Grandmaster Devaney “Van” T. Fuentes. He was assisted by Master Joeffrey S. Deriada of the Conceptual Martial Arts Society (CMAS), Inc. in demonstrating the unique defenses and attacks, disarming, jointlocks, and counters fused from three Panaynon systems of Arnis with roots from Antique.

The KaliSilat Arnis Association (KAA) exhibition started with Danny John “Jan-Jan” Cardinal performing a solo baston anyo. Grandmaster Danilo “Danny” L. Cardinal and Master Guilberto C. Dajao then went through tapi-tapi, depensa ofensiva, contra baston, and daga contra daga from GM Cardinal’s Cargada Pigar Arnis System.

The UNO-R Martial Arts Society of Master Ferdinand Emmanuel Y. Gayoles, which was founded in June 2010, was represented by University of Negros Occidental-Recoletos Criminology students Aber Yamar M. Azuelo, Gerald June Daclan, and Carlos Trunio II. The trio, which composes the Core Group, integrated the various footwork, defenses, strikes, and disarms from the Lapu-Lapu Viñas Arnis System into a series of forms and paired one-step demonstrations.

Herada Pigada, the Cadiznon system of Arnis that descended from Grandmaster Benito Agui, was represented by Master Maxwell “Max” J. Maun, the nephew of the Doromal brothers and one of the few remaining practitioners of the art, with Gelkoff Calmerin, RN, Co-Founder of the Riverside Do Club. The duo went through the applications of the defenses, strikes, locks, throws, and counters of the system.

The demonstration of the Universal Defensive Tactics Academy (UDTA) began with Alrehs Carrie “Uni” V. Ganzon, 6 years old, the youngest among the performers of the event, showing various empty hand strikes with his father Founder/Chairman Abraham “Abe” Ganzon Jr. holding the punch mitts for her. The little girl also showed a few self defense techniques from the UDTA System. Founder/Chairman Ganzon demonstrated the 8 striking method combination of Ragas and Oido from the Mancesa Style of Arnis with and Rey A. Cartella.

Grandmaster Frank Abalajon, 72, demonstrated a sinawali free form which combined the 24 methodos which he teaches in his Abalajon Classical Arnis. The various striking patterns GM Abalajon showed were an amalgation of the techniques he had learned from his seven Arnis professors.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

GM Abraham T. Gubaton: The Grand Patriarch of Oido de Caburata Arnis Group (ODCA) By: James U. Sy Jr.

One of the oldest active Arnis grandmasters in Negros Island had just turned 82 recently. The Core Group of Conceptual Martial Arts Society (CMAS), Inc., had started documenting the art and life of this man way back in 2005. With this write up, it is my hope to make the public aware that this man had kept alive a uniquely Negrosanon system of Arnis which was founded in 1936. He has a lineage that goes back to the Founder of Oido de Caburata.

Abraham Tacio Gubaton was born as the second child of Mateo Bubida Gubaton and Consolacion Tacio on July 6, 1928 in Ma-ao, Bago City. His other siblings (in descending order) are Esther, Napoleon, Nathan, Elojiah “Monina,” the twins Manuel and Emmanuel, Sabas, and George. The elder Gubaton studied Arnis under the professor of Bentong Fejedero. Nathan, Abraham, the twins, and Sabas would later study Arnsi themselves.

Abraham Gubaton started studying Arnis in 1946, when he was 18, under his brother-in-law, Gimeno Tiboso, who taught him the Espada y Daga method. At that time Gubaton was employed as an encargado “caretaker” of Woodrow Araneta in Hda. Marcaban in Bo. Ma-ao, Bago City. He studied under Tiboso for 2 years. Gubaton was obliged to study Arnis because the haciendas were a melting pot of people of different characters and temperament. Conflicts were quite common then and as caretaker he is expected to resolve any situation at hand.

Gubaton went on to study with some other arnisadors, mostly using Espada y Daga method. He also studied Saber Foil from Grandmaster Claro Alvarez, who was a relative to the Yasays and Suarezes, families who are proficient in that particular form of Arnis. He learned from Alvarez sometime in 1952, 1953, or 1954, paying P120.00/month for lessons.

One event that changed his perception of the methodo style of Arnis was when Gubaton had an exchange of blows with another bastonero who was using the Oido style. After the bout he sought out Jose D. Aguilar for instructions in Oido de Caburata Arnis. During their return bout, Gubaton defeated the Arnisador who previously beat him.

Grandmaster Jose D. Aguilar was himself a former Espada y Daga exponent. He had eight or nine professors before he met and exchanged blows with Grandmaster Antonio “Toñing” Tolosa of Minoyan, Murcia, the Founder of Oido de Caburata Arnis. GM Tolosa broke Aguilar’s hand with one strike. Aguilar went on to study under GM Tolosa.

Tolosa started his studies of Espada y Daga with his kumpare Ireneo Dulman of Murcia. After he completed the course, they closed the house and had a bout. They both had welts and bruises afterwards. This made Tolosa think deeply about the efficiency of what he has learned. Then one time, an unnamed friend of his got in a fight with an unruly group of men. His friend used a caburata to fight them off.

Tolosa was impressed by what he saw and borrowed the caburata the next day and practiced with it. When he perfected it, he translated the movements of the caburata into the stick in 1936, thereby giving birth to Oido de Caburata Arnis. Oido is a Spanish word which means “by the ear” and is used in colloquial language to mean “to play without notes“ as in the case of a piano or a guitar. In Arnis parlance, Oido denotes the absence of a numbered pattern which is common with most systems of Arnis/Eskrima now taught. Caburata, of course, refers to the flexible weapon which was once used by the now defunct Philippine Constabulary (PC).

Arnisadors who are not familiar with Oido de Caburata movements find it awkward and ineffective but it is this characteristic that makes it a powerful and formidable fighting system. A caburata, being flexible, can go around blocks and this characteristic has been integrated into the stick.

Aguilar was one of the first few who GM Tolosa taught, the others being Felmo and Welmo Conanan, Jose Dulman, Pakingking, and Salos. A later batch in 1953 included Ricardo Diaz, Abraham Gubaton, Sabas Gubaton, Bonifcaio Tolosa, and Comploso Tolosa

Master Gubaton studied under GM Aguilar for three years. He invited GM Aguilar to live with his family so he had access to uninterrupted instruction. The Gubatons had a small parcel of land and livestock. All Aguilar and Gubaton did all day was practice Arnis. Later, Master Gubaton continued his studies with his uncle, the Founder himself, Grandmaster Antonio “Toñing” Tolosa for seven more years.

Oido de Caburata although founded in 1936 was in constant development. GM Gubaton narrated that since GM Tolosa’s strikes were very powerful, he had to develop effective defenses against those strikes. These defenses were developed later in the evolution of Oido de Caburata and were taught to Grandmaster Abraham T. Gubaton.

GM Gubaton started teaching Oido de Caburata in 1975. In 1977, Federico “Peding” Abendan, an uncle and student of GM Gubaton, developed the long stick fighting style Backhand, which Fr. Jerson Balitor later baptized to Hagbas bugang. The Backhand was another step in the evolution of Oido de Caburata and later also laid the foundation for Original Filipino Tapado, founded by Grandmaster Romeo “Nono” C. Mamar of Brgy. Taloc, Bago City, another powerful long stickfighting art from Bago City.

Most of Oido practitioners can trace their line back to GM Gubaton. Different interpretations and offshoots of Oido de Caburata had surfaced. According to GM Gubaton, he had taught the bunal “strikes” to outsiders but not the defenses, which he maintains for his family. I am thankful for GM Gubaton for making me understand this point during my last visit. Without the explanation it is very hard, if not impossible, to understand what he meant. He cites his brother Grandmaster Sabas T. Gubaton, the Chief Instructor of the Oido de Caburata Arnis Group (ODCA), as an example; he explained the real essence of the art to him only when he was already 65.

GM Gubaton has seven children with his wife Exaltacion, namely Grace, Jonathan, Joseph, Janet, Julius, Ferdinand, and Job. Jonathan, Ferdinand, and Job had dedicated themselves to the study of their father’s art.

The Oido de Caburata Arnis Group (ODCA) was organized in 1985 but it was in 1995 when the group got the big boost it needed when Fr. Jerson Balitor joined. Fr. Balitor, then the Parish Priest in Brgy. Ma-ao, helped the Gubaton grandmasters organize themselves and document their and their art’s history. Fr. Balitor arranged for ODCA to be featured in the documentary The Stickfighters of Buenos Aires by W.G. Productions and Art Vision which was aired over at Negros Progress Channel 17. Fr. Balitor had also helped ODCA to organize its annual General assembly. Starting 2005, the Gubatons were also featured in the local newspapers and in 2009 in Rapid Journal by the Conceptual Martial Arts Society Documentation Team.

GM Abraham Gubaton had taught many Arnisadors in their locality. Even Americans traveled to Ma-ao, just to train with him and GM Sabas. The Americans, led by couple Guro Mike and May Williams of the Martial Arts Research Institute (Boston), train with the Gubaton brothers every other year. May Williams was a native of Ma-ao and is currently the only certified Instructor of Oido de Caburata in the US.

The Gubatons had also taught Arnis to brgy. tanods on April 17-May 8, 2005 for the Brgy. Don Jorge L. Araneta Barangay Public Safety Officers (BPSO) Self Defense Training.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

GM Guinabo Conducts Arnis & Knife Seminar for Guards by: James U. Sy Jr.

Grandmaster Felix A. Guinabo, Founder of the Trese Grabes Piga-Piga System of Arnis and the Guinabo Arnis and Combat Sports (GACS) club, conducted the Defensive Tactics (DefTac) section for the Refresher Retraining Course of 31 security personnel of the Negros Goldwings Security Services Corporation (NGSSC) last June 21, 2010 in Had. Balatong, La Castellana, Negros Occidental.

The Refresher Retraining Course was organized by the Philippine Arms Training Institute, Inc. under Training Director Rizalia B. San Miguel and Negros Goldwings Security Services Corporation (NGSSC) under General Manager Annieven Andaya.

Other Training Instructors include Area Supervisor Victorio V. Alejo Jr. of NGSSC, Detachment Commander Terry John Aride of ECJ-Farm, and Marketing Officer Jose Bagain of NGSSC.

GM Guinabo conducted a total of 6 hours for the advanced Arnis training, four hours for long impact and edged weapons and another two hours for knife work.

Although security guards have service firearms, they, just like other law enforcement personnel, are expected to postpone drawing them up until a fully escalated situation. In securing and apprehending suspects they must always justify the amount of force that they exert. Drawing and firing a service firearm is considered a last resort. A suspect must be apprehended with the least possible harm as much as possible. It is in this respect that Arnis training becomes indispensable.

Arnis de Mano “Harness of the Hand,” Baston “Cane,” or Eskrima “Fencing” are the traditional generic terms for the Filipino Martial Arts (FMA). These terms refer to a wide spectrum of defensive and offensive methods, styles and systems that include impact, edged, and flexible weapons of various shapes and sizes as well as empty handed striking and grappling and fight psychology.

GM Guinabo taught strikes and restrains using the Arnis stick, which is easily translatable to the security guard baton, as well as on how to handle and defend against the knife. Using the baton, a security guard can regulate the force he can inflict on the suspect. Knowing how to fight with sticks and blades also equips the guards with the necessary knowledge on how to deal with such weapons when a suspect has these weapons and the guard has none.

GM Guinabo developed his own style of Arnis, Trese Grabes Piga-Piga System, after studying Arnis for 28 years from 6 professors: Grandmaster Mario Lavista (1982), Grandmaster Hortencio M. Navales (1985), Grandmaster Teotimo Buenaflor (1987), Grandmaster Geronimo Valdes (1990), Grandmaster Bernandino Tanique (1992), and Grandmaster Frank Abalajon (1997). Master Guinabo started teaching under his own school, Guinabo Arnis and Combat Sports (GACS), in June 1989 in Brgy. Carabalan, Himamaylan, when he instructed the 61st IB of the Philippine Army (PA).

GM Guinabo holds a verifiable Arnis tournament record of 17-2-2. He was crowned champion in the Inter Barangay Open Arnis Tournament (1985) and Negros Open Arnis Championships (1986) and 2nd place in the 5th National Open Arnis Champions (1992). Representing Arnis, GM Guinabo entered and won the bantamweight grand championship of the World Kali Championships organized by the Pekiti Tirsia Global Organization on November 17, 2001 in Iloilo City. GM Guinabo had organized a total of at least 6 Arnis tournaments in 1994, 1995, 1999, 2000, 2002, and 2004.

GM Guinabo is a member of the Negros Occidental Baston Federation (NOBF) under P/Sgt. (Ret.) Grandmaster Estanislao “Eslao” T. Guarra and Arnis Philippines-Bacolod/Negros Occidental Chapter under Commissioner Grandmaster Danilo “Danny” Cardinal and has cordial relationships with the Intercontinental Federation of Filipino Martial Arts Schools (IFFMAS) under grandmaster Elmer V. Montoyo and the Original Filipino Tapado Long Stick Fighting Association 9OFTLSFA), Inc. under 1st Generation Inheritor/Grandmaster Benefredo “Bebing” M. Lobrido.

Interested parties may contact GM Guinabo at 0910-983-0853 and 0907-148-3061.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Sticks & Blades by John Owen F. Ong

This article is reprinted with the permission from the author, John Owen Ong, a family man, martial artist and a businessman.) Sep 30, '08 12:06 AM

All the thoughts expressed here are my own. If it offends anyone, feel free to leave. Comments are welcome, but flaming is not.

Blade based means that the stick is used to train as a safer alternative to the live blade. We must train as we fight.

A lot of the stickfighting schools state that their style is blade based, but their practice do not reflect this. What do I mean?

I. They train to use their off-hand arm to block a strike. This is something you should not do. Why?
1. You can lose that arm after one or two blocks with a blade.
2. When you lose your arm, the blade goes through and hits it's intended target.
3. It hurts.

II. They train to grab the opponent's stick. Another no no.
1. Your hand can get cut and if tendons are severed, then a permanent loss of function can result.
2. It hurts.

III. They grab the blade end of their stick as part of their technique; ie, switching hands to strike. This is like grabbing the sharp end of your blade and hitting the opponent with the handle. Don't do this.

1. It doesn't show a good understanding of your weapon.
2. It hurts you and maybe your opponent if you hit him.
3. It looks stupid.
4. It hurts.

The above are just some of the more blatant examples of stupid techniques from so called blade based schools. Getting hit hurts already, why hurt yourself? Let the other guy do that. Some proposed that it is just a stick and the techniques are acceptable. When they hold a blade, then they'll just adapt and not do the above techniques.

That is just so much manure. We fight as we train. In the heat of combat, you do as your body is programmed in practice. If you practice blocking with your free arm, then you'll do it in a fight. Period. If you have to think about it, you're going to get hit. You have just nullified all those hours of practice. The purpose of training is to condition your body so the movements become instinctive.

If you see someone claiming to be from a blade based style doing the above techniques, walk away. The above techniques are perfectly alright in a purely stickfighting style. They are also acceptable as a lifesaving, last resort technique against a blade. To train them as regular techniques and claim to be blade based is a disservice to the art.

The three secrets to mastery are practice, practice and practice. There, just had to get it out.

Friday, June 11, 2010

A Memorial to GM Samson C. Tendencia (1920-2010) By: James U. Sy Jr.

Grandmaster Samson "Sam" C. Tendencia, Founder of Tendencia Arnis-Hilot, passed away last May 23, 2010 in his sleep. He was 89.

Samson "Sam" C. Tendencia was born on August 24, 1920 in Tigbauan, Iloilo Province, Panay Island (Western Visayas/Region 6), Philippines.

Tendencia was a member of Macario Peralta's guerilla forces in Panay starting December 8, 1941, during World War II. He eventually became 2nd Lieutenant in the Philippine Scouts and organized the "Lancer" Division US Armed Forces in the Far East (USAFFE). He was honored with the Distinguished Medal of Honor, American Liberation Medal, and Recieved the General Douglas MacArthur Medal of Bravery.

GM Tendencia held a Bachlors Degree in Criminology from the Phillippine College of Criminology and a Master's Degree in Physical Education from the University of Iloilo (Iloilo City).

Tendencia started learning Arnis from Ramondo Gallano of Iloilo at 7 in 1927. Gallano used 12" sticks and taught a Corto Mano "Short Hand (Sp.)" method. He trained Tendencia both left and right handed.

Also when he was 7, the young Tendencia would carry the bag of oils of his grandfather during hilot sessions. From these actual experiences, he learned Hilot, the Filipino art of bone setting, nerve, muscle, and joint manipulation, and deep tissue massage. After years of apprenticeship, Tendencia was sent by his grandfather to heal people with Hilot by himself.

When he was 14, Tendencia was already a Black Belt in Japanese Judo and his teacher, Murakami Sensei, would send him to Japan during summers to further his studies there.

Tendencia continued his studies of the Filipino Martial Arts (FMA) with Deogracias Tipace of Manila, the official instructor of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), when he was 18 in 1938. Tipace, the godfather of Tendencia's son, used 30" sticks and taught a Largo Mano "Long Hand (Sp.)" method.

Tendencia was also taught Espada y Daga by both professors. He studied for 5 years under each teacher.

Tendencia was having piano lessons at the time when he was studying Arnis. He would go to piano class with bruises in his arms and hand. Eventually, he quit piano to concentrate in Arnis.

When he was 30, Tendencia moved to Japan to continue his Judo studies at the Kodokan. There he became a student of Judo great Mifune, Kyuzo Sensei (1883-1965). Many considered Mifune Sensei to be the greatest Judo technician ever, second only to Prof. Kano, Jigoro, the Founder of Kodokan Judo. Mifune Sensei was awarded his 10th Dan in 1945, becoming the 4th person to be so honored by the Kodokan. Today, there are 15 10th Dans by the Kodokan.

Tendencia studied under Mifune Sensei for 5 years (1950-1954). Later, he was awarded his 7th Dan in Judo. Master Tendencia was also Mifune Sensei's personal ping-pong "uke."

Master Tendencia also holds a 9th Dan in Jujutsu and had studied Shiatsu Massage and Swedish Massage in Tokyo, Japan.

After he left Japan, Master Tendencia studied Shorin-ryu Karate in Naha, Okinawa for 2 years. Okinawa is the birthplace of Karate. He went on to achieve 4th Dan.

In 1969, Master Tendencia moved to the US where he worked for Burn's Detective Center in Los Angeles.

Also in 1969, Master Tendencia established the A.R.N.I.S. (American Revised Native Institute of Stick-fighting) USA. In 2008, N. David Guillory renamed A.R.N.I.S USA to A.R.N.I.S Tendencia with the blessing of GM Tendencia and his wife Evangelina.

In 1972, a friend invited him to Arizona where he found a job as a bar bouncer. Within a week's time upon his hiring, he floored three aggressive men who refused to pay their bill. A week after, a friend, who was a SWAT member, had a leg cramp. Master Tendencia used Hilot to cure him and in gratitude, the friend introduced him to his commander, whereupon he gave a demo and was hired.

In 1973, Master Tendencia moved back to Los Angeles. It was then that Master Jack Santos introduced Daniel "Dan" Inosanto, Bruce Lee's protege, to Master Tendencia. Master Tendencia used Hilot to cure the pinched nerve which was bothering Inosanto for 4 years. He also helped reset the dislocated shoulder of Eric Knaus of the Dog Brothers during a tournament; Knaus went on to win his fight.

Grandmaster Tendencia has been listed in the book The Filipino Martial Arts as one of the instructors of Grandmaster Inosanto.

The A.R.N.I.S Tendencia website lists GM tendencia's 7 Appointed Disciples (in order) as Master Ernesto Calvento, Master Narcisco “Chique” Calvento (Deceased), Master Alfonso Calvento (Deceased), Randy G. Pizarro, Renny L. Pizarro, Felix Perezchica, and N. David Guillory.

New Theories on the Orgins of Eskrima by Celestino Macachor

Regional ethnic pride seems to be the biggest obstacle in acquiring an unbiased historically correct account on the origins and evolution of Eskrima. The Ilonggos in West Visayas insist on the story of the ten Datus of Borneo that is widely believed to have brought with them an ancient form of bladed combat known as Kali. Congruent to the theory on Kali as the progenitor of Eskrima / Arnis are the hoaxes and fabrications on the Code of Maragtas and Kalantiaw. In his article Maragtas and Kalantiaw - History, Legend or Fraud?, Paul Morrow wrote:

"How do historians know about events which, according to them, occurred before there were Spaniards in the Philippines while there are almost no known authentic written documents from that era? Much of what we know about the pre-Hispanic era came to us through legends. These are stories that were not written but were spoken by each generation to the following generation. Legends change with each telling because often the teller's memory is weak or mistaken- or the teller just wants to make additions to the story to spice it up. Legends are usually nothing more than stories about the creation of the world, the first man and woman and such. It is easy to see that they are not meant to be regarded as fact. However, there are some legends which do contain a kernel of truth."

There is no truth to the story of the ten datus of Borneo. This was proven a fraud in a research made in 1968 by historian William Henry Scott that exposed author Jose Marco's fabrication on the story of Fr. Jose Maria Pavon the supposed discoverer of the Code of Maragtas. Scott further revealed in his book Pre-Hispanic Source Materials for the Study of Philippine History: Jose E. Marco's contributions to Philippine historiography appear to be deliberate fabrications with no historic validity. There is therefore no present evidence that any Filipino ruler by the name of Kalantiaw ever existed or that the Kalantiaw penal code is any older than 1914."

Unsettling as it may be for some Filipino ethnic group, but with the advent of information revolution, as quickly as it is to spread lies and fabrications it is also as quick to debunk them with serious hard work, patience, methodical research and a passion for historical accuracy. Such is the story of the First Mass in the Island of Limasawa, Leyte that until the overthrow of Marcos and to appease her flamboyant First Lady a native of Leyte, was taken as irrefutable historical fact written in textbooks and taught in all our schools. There is now an overwhelming archaeological/documentary evidence presented by credible historians, anthropologists and archaeologists of Agusan del Norte that proves the First Mass was in fact celebrated in Masau - present day Butuan City.

Like the Limasawa story, Philippine history is replete with fake stories and fantasies concocted by self-serving politicians especially the ruling elite of the Manila and other vested interest groups. This will go on while there are still scams like the textbook bribery scandal in 1998 involving Mary Ann Maslog.

Finding physical /archaeological evidence to determine the exact origins of the Filipino Martial Arts is a very remote possibility, nevertheless, we can collate a wealth of information from the academe and other reliable sources to piece together our theory that:


Contrary to popular belief that it is pre-Hispanic, Eskrima / Arnis / Estokada is a relatively new Martial Art and did not precede the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors and developed mainly in the coastal towns of Cebu, Siquijor, Bohol, Negros, Leyte, Panay and coastal towns of Luzon like Pangasinan, and Pampanga that became a favorite predatory ground for marauding Moro pirates. From a retreating and defensive mode, the early Visayans shifted strategies that once relied on Cottas to more aggressive offensive tactics.

Extracted from Cebu in Legend and History by Evangeline Lavilles de Paula and Angels in Stone by Fr. Pedro G. Galende, OSA are these stories:

1.1 MOALBOAL - Southwest Cebu Coast

This story is probably the first historical account on the use of canes and Latin Oracion against Moro Invaders and the significant contribution of Bohol style Eskrima to the Cebuano Martial Arts. Again, I would like to reiterate that the writers belong to the mainstream academe and were in no way involved in the research of Filipino Martial Arts history.

"Oral tradition relates that Boholano pioneers founded the town of Moalboal. A substantiation of this contention is that its leading families - the Gadors, Cabarons, Bableras, Redobles and many more - came from Bohol. Another fact is that many residents, especially the older ones, still speak with Boholano accent.

The first Boholano to settle in the town was Laurente Sabanal. He was captured by the Spaniards in Bohol for having killed a guardia civil. But he later escaped on a rowboat to Cebu. He chose Moalboal as his new home, having found the land fertile and the sea abundant with fish. He lived alone for a while, but he later returned to his native town and brought back with him his family and some relatives to emigrate to his new-found home. Expectedly, he became the ruler of the settlement.

The Muslims also directed their raids at Moalboal, being already a prosperous settlement. But led by Sabanal, the inhabitants successfully repulsed the invaders. They attributed their victory to Sabanal's oracion. When he died, it is said that he was buried by the shore marked by his magic cane. To this day, a part of it could still be seen. In his honor, the people named a street along the shore."


Kinatarcan Island, which belongs to the Bantayan group of Islands, is the birthplace of GM Floro Villabrille and GM Antonio Ilustrisimo. A colleague Juris Fernandez who comes from Doong Island told us about his Great Grandfather Tata Lucio Pastor who is one of the longest living Eskrimador of the island. Tata Lucio Pastor who lived up to 106 years old used bakhaw a fire hardened wood cut from mangroves as fighting stick. The lineage of Tata Lucio Pastor's Eskrima is untraceable but the fact remains that his Eskrima is indigenous to the island of Doong and that it was probably developed to repulse superior weaponry and martial skills.

" The Parish of Bantayan was then under the direct control and supervision of the Archdiocese of Manila. Fr. de Ocampos then, built a church made of nipa and bamboo. This church was put on torch by the Moro raiders in 1600, when according to Blair and Robertson , some 800 Bantayanons were taken as captive and sold as slaves to rich Mindanao Muslims. A second church was again erected and was again put on fire by the marauding Moros.
The stone church as we now see is the third church erected. Construction of this church began on 1839 and completed on year 1863. It was Fr. Doroteo Andrada del Rosario who built this church with a tall belfry and tall walls that surround the plaza.
Fr. Del Rosario being aware of the Moro attack built several lookout towers. The towers were located at Balwarte (Suba, Bantayan), Do-ong Island, Bantigue, Kabac, Daan Patio (Madridejos), Kaongkod (Madridejos), Tamiao, Ocoy (Sta. Fe), Cota (Sta. Fe) and Sulangan. Of these towers, only Bantigue and Sulangan have no ruins. To serve as signal of the incoming attack each tower is equipped with virso (a canon like cylinder wherein explosives were set to make a very loud noise). If one tower sees the incoming invaders, they would make a signal. The next tower upon hearing the signal would in turn fire their virso and so with the next towers, a chain explosion is achieved until the signal would reach the town proper. The church bells would then ring the bells to warn the populace about the incoming attack and prepare for the said attack while the olds, woman and children are cloistered to the confines of the tall walls surrounding the church.


The next story from Lavilles de Paula recalls another vivid historical account on the use of strategy and Martial Arts against marauding Moro pirates and probably the importation Leyte Eskrima to Cebu:

"In search for a better place to live in, a family from Cabalian Leyte crossed the Visayan sea to a nearby island and they became the nucleus of a settlement in Cebu which grew into a town. Solferino Borinaga was attracted by the fertile soil and the rich fishing grounds of a place called Palawan. It was so named as there was a spring (Palawan in the dialect) in the area. He brought his wife Alejandra and son Martin. Since life seemed much better in their new home, Solferino went back to his native town and encouraged his relatives and friends to immigrate to Palawan. A group - about ten families - went with him. Together, they organized into a barrio.

The inhabitants - prosperous as they were - were objects of forays by Moro pirates. Discovering the new colony, the Muslims would raid and seize properties, food, and even people. But Solferino Borinaga was an exceptional leader, not only good in organizing, but an expert in the art of battle. Together with only a few men, they did not only defend their village successfully , but they also mounted offensive attacks on the veteran sea warriors, fighting them face to face. Surprisingly defeated, the Moros fled and never disturbed the village again.

News of unprecedented victory over the Moros spread and soon many went to Palawan to settle there permanently. It grew into a town and quite naturally, it was Solferino Borinaga who was its first capitan."


The Province of Cebu stretching from Bantayan Islands in the North to Santander in the South became the focal point in the development of Eskrima and that its development and tactical use outlived the Moro raiders. The Art of Eskrima was also effective against Spanish and American colonizers and also against the Japanese invaders. More heroic stories of the coastal towns in Cebu from Evangeline Lavilles de Paula's book: Cebu in Legend and History:


Arnis in Luzon particulary in the province of Pampanga blossomed at the same time as Eskrima in the Visayas during the administration of Governor General Sebastian Hurtado de Corcuera.

4.1 The Filipino Martial Arts that we know today was a deadly chemistry of Macabebe, Cebuano, Ilonggo and other Visayan Martial Arts. These diverse ethnic groups became brothers in arms and their meticulous recruitment by the Spaniards was intended to match the skills of the Moro warriors. The only bridge to a cultural and language barrier among this mixture of Visayans and Capampangans was their mutual hatred of Moros and the cross-pollination of combat skills. Chapter 9 of Vic Hurley's Swiss of the Kris recalls accurately the recruitment of Pampango, Cebuano and Ilonggo conscripts during the administration of Governor General Sebastian Hurtado de Corcuera to fight against the Moros of Sulu. Hurley credited Corcuera as the most successful Governor General during the Spanish colonial period to have successfully contained the Moros of Sulu. Here are some excerpts of Chapter 9 to support our theory:

"After due preparation, an expeditionary force under the command of Captain Juan de Chaves landed at Zamboanga on April 6, 1635. There de Chaves founded the town of Bagumbayan, which was the first name for Zamboanga, and from this station he soon reduced the towns of Caldera and Balvagan.
After Captain de Chaves' force of 300 well armed Spaniards and 1000 Visayans had cleared the peninsula temporarily of hostile Moros, the construction of one of the finest forts in the East was put into execution. On June 23, 1635, the foundations of the grand fortress of Nuestra Senora del Pilar was laid by Father Vera, engineer of the Spanish army."
The year 1635 had witnessed the arrival in Manila of a very efficient Governor-General and a perfect soldier. The coming of Don Sebastian Hurtado de Corcuera marked a period of success for the Spanish arms which was not to be equaled again until the mighty soldier Juan Arolas arrived 250 years later.

Governor General Sebastian Hurtado de Corcuera - was he the father of the Filipino Martial Arts?

Whatever Corcuera's emotions as he gazed down the valley to the horde of brown kris men waiting to resist him, there can be no question as to his valor. At a flourish of a mailed fist, the Spanish plumes disappeared into the wave of Moros.
We are indebted to Father Crevas for an account of this campaign. From him we learn that Corcuera, with a squadron of small vessels and a dozen flat boats, entered the river, defying Correlat. "The forces which he had were five companies; his own of 150 men, those of Captain Nicholas Gonzalez and Lorenzo Orella de Ugalde of 100 men each; another company of sailors; another of Pampangos; all the rest were rabble and pioneers. The same day he reached the river, he entered, with seventy men, the court of Correlat, defended by more than two thousand armed Moros."
As we consider the caliber of the men who opposed Corcuera that day, we wonder how he kept his small company from being overwhelmed. The Spaniards had arquebuses, but they were slow and laborious to reload. A great deal of the combat must have been hand-to-hand. Pitched to religious fervor, a Moro was the equal to any Spaniard in hand-to-hand battle, and yet Corcuera survived to win a brilliant victory.
de Corcuera remains as one of the conspicuous figures of the Spanish conquest of Mindanao. He was a perfect soldier. His reward for distinguished service in the field against the Moros was paralleled by the treatment Cortez and Balboa received at the hands of the Spanish crown. During his term of office as Governor-General of the Philippines (1635-1644), he incurred the displeasure of the Friars, and upon being succeeded by Diego Fajardo, he was haled into court, fined 25,000 and thrown into prison for five years. He was finally released by a Royal Order and given the tardy award of Governor of the Canary Islands.

Ned Nepangue in a previous article wrote of the stick fighting arts of Canary Islands and Venezuela that is closely similar in technical form to Eskrima / Arnis. Who could have introduced stick fighting in the Canary Islands? From the historical facts above we can surmise that De Corcuera, during his administration of the Canary Islands could have brought along with him trusted alalays (cronies) that probably cross trained with native Filipinos during his Mindanao campaign.

4.2 From another source Complete Sinawali by Reynaldo Galang, he wrote:

"A royal decree in 1636 ordered the "pacification"of the island of Mindanao. Two large companies composed of mainly Pampangans and Visayans were part of the force led by Governor General Sebastian Hurtado de Corcuera. This force traveled aboard eleven large vessels with 760 Spanish infantrymen who were divided into a total of seven companies. Using Zamboanga as base, the troops underwent rigorous training with the advice and help of Datu Suksukan of Zamboanga and Datu Piatong of the Lutaos"

Chavacano the native dialect of the Zamboanguenos is a hodgepodge of bastardized Spanish, Cebuano, Yakan and Subanon dialects.

4.3 Even after the administration of Corcuera the Spanish authorities continued to employ Visayan mercenaries to exact revenge and kill as many Moros as they can with the promise of great rewards. Chapter 13 of Swish of the Kris details this account:

"A decree dated December 21, 1751, was signed by the Governor-General of Manila. It provided:
- The extermination of the Moslems of Mindanao and Sulu with fire and sword and no quarter for Moros of any age or either sex.
-The fitting out of Visayan corsairs with authority to extinguish the foe; to accomplish the burning of all that was combustible.
-To destroy all crops; desolate all land; make Moro captives and recover Christian slaves.
- One fifth of the spoil taken from the Moros belong to the King.
- All Visayans engaged to be exempt from the payment of all tribute while engaged in the extermination of the Moros.
-Criminals who volunteer to the service to be granted full pardon for past offenses."

Given this historical background on the animosity of Visayan Christians and Moros, it is easy to grasp how deep rooted the conflict in Mindanao is until today. The bloody war of attrition between the Barracudas (Moro fighters) and the Ilagas (Ilonggos)and the succeeding MNLF war of secession in the1970's displaced more than a quarter of a million Muslims in Mindanao. Casualties from both sides also numbered to several hundred thousands.

4.4 The recruitment of Cebuanos continued until the 19th century. Chapter 15 Later Wars of Swish of the Kris, recalls graphically what motivated the Cebuanos to volunteer in a war against the Moros in the name of the King of Spain:

"Indeed, matters reached such a state that before the end of the year warships were ordered out for another attack on Jolo. Four regiments of infantry and a corps of artillery aided the gunboats. Included was a battalion of Cebuanoes (sic)who sought revenge for the Moro raids. The wives of the Cebuanoes(sic) emulated Lysistrata in reverse. Every wife took an oath before Father Ibanez to deny forever their husbands all of their favors if the Cebuano men turned their backs to the Moros.
In the battle of Jolo, Father Ibanez lost his life in the assault on a Moro cotta. The good Father tucked his cassock about his waist and plunged into the thickest of the battle. The Cebuanoes(sic) performed prodigies of valor and Jolo fell again. The seat of the Sultanate was removed across the island to Maybun, and the Moros paid regular visits to Jolo to slaughter the Spanish garrison which remained. "

It is therefore not unthinkable that the Cebuano survivors/veterans of this campaign later passed on their martial arts skills to the rest of Cebu and the Visayan Islands. The foregoing text also bolsters our theory on the active participation of Spanish priests in combat and their influence in the development of Eskrima. Lavilles de Paula in her narrative told of the same pattern of pillage and plunder in the towns of Sibonga, Mandaue with its famous Bantayan sa Hari Tower, Carcar, Oslob,Naga and Talisay. Practically all the 52 coastal municipalities of Cebu had a history of recurring Moro forays. Given this statistics and taking into account the brave Sri Vishayan ancestry of the Cebuanos, Ilonggos and Warays, we can deduce that a raw form of Martial Arts started to take shape in defense of their coastal communities. Later the Spanish authorities took advantage of the Martial skills of the native Cebuanos and their animosity against the Moros during the Corcuera administration. And with the subsequent alliance with the Pampangos and a more deadly and highly developed Martial Arts that we now call as Eskrima, Arnis, Estoque or Estokada later flourished.

4.5 From the Book THE PHILIPPINE ISLANDS, Chapter XV by Blair & Robertson is a narrative of Moro raids in Leyte, Bohol and Panay Islands:

"That year of 1634 was so quiet and so barren of events worthy of remembrance that I shall not dwell long upon it; for there is nothing of which I have heard to detain me, unless it be the raid of the Mindanao enemy into the island of Leyte, and the depredations that they committed there with the license permitted to them in seeing that there was no attempt made in Manila to check them.
On Sunday, December 3, 1634, the Mindanaos arrived with eighteen galleys at the village of Ogmuc,(Ormoc City) leaving behind in that of Baybay the rest of the vessels, which they brought in their fleet. Fifty of our Indians went out to resist them, but being unable to fight so many, they gradually retired to a little fort, possessed by the village. They thought that they would be able to resist the pirates there, being encouraged by their minister, Father Juan del Carpio, of the Society of Jesus; and they did so for some time, until the Moros, knowing that the church was higher than the fort, entered it and our men could not reach them with their shots. They planted three pieces in a convenient place at the church, in order to do great damage to those in the fort; and firing without cessation, they did not allow our men to fire a shot through its loopholes and windows. Others of the enemy hastened by another side to gather bundles of thatch by uncovering the roofs of the houses; and by fastening together what wood and bamboo they could gather, and pushing this contrivance toward the fort, they set it afire. The fire burned a quantity of rice and abaca (which is the hemp of this country), and many men were choked by the smoke. The besieged, seeing that the fire had caught the timber-work [of the fort], and that they were being inevitably killed without any chance to defend themselves, displayed a signal for surrender, and in fact did so.
They were all captured; and a great contest arose among the enemy as to who should have Father Carpio as his captive. In this contention they had recourse to the Mindanao captain, and he ordered that the father be killed. That they did very gladly, and beheaded him and carried his head back to present it as a spoil to their king, Cachil Corralat (Sultan Kudarat). The latter had charged them not to leave alive any religious or Spaniard, for so had he vowed to their false prophet Mahomet in an illness that he had had. They took the others captive, and sacked and burned all the village. From that place they sailed out and committed the same destruction in the villages of Soyor, Binan, Cabalian, Canamucan, and Baybay (Leyte Island). But they were so stoutly resisted in the village of Inibanga (Inabanga) in [the island of] Bohol, and in Dapitan (Mindanao), that they retired but little the gainers; for those Indians (Visayan Christian natives) are very valiant, and very different in valor from the other villages which the Mindanaos sacked.
The Camucones (the name of the Moro pirates who inhabit the little islands of the Sulu group east of Tawi-tawi, and the islands between these and Borneo) also-a people from islands subject to Borney, cruel and barbarous, and Mahometan by religion, although there are pagans in some islands-made their raids into the island of Panay, chiefly on the villages of Batan, Domayan, and Mahanlur, and in those of Aclan and Bahay, where they captured many of our Indians, and burned the churches of the visita. The visitas are usually deserted, and have no houses to defend them; and those Camucones are very cowardly and very different from the Joloans and Mindanaos, who are valiant, and much more so the latter named. The Camucones entered by the river and bar of Batan, which is salt water, where a very grievous jest happened to two or three of their craft. The river of Batan has another river a short distance above the village road, which ends in a very wide and spacious sea, which they call " tinagongdagat," or "hidden sea," in which the inhabitants enjoy excellent fishing. With the ebb of the tide that spacious sea is left, almost dry, and then many kinds of shellfish are caught, such as oysters and crabs. The Camucones entered that sea, with the intention of lying in wait for some capture, but when they least expected it they found their craft on dry ground. An Indian who was gathering the aforesaid shellfish saw them; and, recognizing them to be piratical enemies by the style of their craft, went to the village and gave warning of them. Many of the inhabitants of Batan assembled, and, well armed, attacked the Camucones very courageously. They made a great slaughter of the pirates, and captured many of them and burned their craft. Some of the Camucones escaped through the mangrove plantations and swampy ground. They were captured next day, with the exception of those who had the luck to rejoin the boats of their companions-who repenting of their carelessness, returned to their lands, and did not return to try their fortune in those regions for many years."

Again, the foregoing narrative demonstrated the cunning and bravery of the early Christian Boholanos and Ilonggos of Panay in repulsing the Moro raiders.


Eskrima / Arnis undoubtedly is a product of Filipino genius, however, we cannot also downplay the significant contributions of Spanish military /civilian fencers especially the clergy in its development.


Boljoon's history presents proof of Spanish Warrior priests training Cebuano natives and engaging Moro raiders in hand to hand combat. We can further surmise that the early techniques of Eskrima such as the "fraille", "florete", "crossada" were coined by these warrior priests. Erlinda Kintanar Alburo recounts in her book Sugat which a collection of essays on the Cebuano insurrection that a Spanish priest Fr. Angel Maestro taught Cebuano revolutionary hero Leon Kilat the fundamentals of Eskrima. Here are more excerpts from Evangeline Lavilles de Paula's book CEBU IN HISTORY AND LEGEND:

"Boljoon is one of the oldest towns in the South. And it is also the most quaint and picturesque. Its narrow coastal plains are bordered by cliffs and luxuriant hills which has a commanding view of Bohol Strait.
According to Marin Morales, the town was created in 1598. The parish was established a year later. But this was disputed by Fr. Blanco, asserting that the parish was founded in 1600. The church of Boljoon was started by Fr. Manuel Cordero and completed by Fr. Julian Bermejo, who also built the convent that was finished in 1841. The convent is L-shaped like a monastery surrounded by walls and tile roof.
Boljoon church is a veritable showcase of old and intricate carvings and bass relief. It still has the Spanish churchyard beside it. According to Tamayo, of all Cebu's churches, the Boljoon church best gives one a sense of the Philippine colonial past. J.T Newman describes the church: It is relatively well preserved, except for its communion rail with ornate silverwork, which has been stolen. It is pseudo-baroque-rococo. Its tower is unusual because it is Islamic in character, it is square, rather than curved, making it look more like a fortress than anything. Its rectangular belfry, built in 1701, has fort windows used to show cannons to defend against Moro pirates. The sound of its silver bells reached Oslob and Alcoy. But in 1802, they were stolen by Muslim hordes led by Datu Orendain. Because of their weight, the Moro vinta sunk. Fray Antonio Maglano, OSA, was the warrior-priest who led the Boljoon militiamen.
One of the parish priests who worked hard to repulse the Muslim pirates was Fr. Julian Bermejo. A chain of watchtowers was constructed under his direction. This chain ran along the shoreline from Punta Tanon (Santander) to Manhage. It was later extended up to Carcar, for a total length of 96 kms. He built a large quadrangular house made of masonry and its walls were at least a meter thick; its four corners were reinforced wit loopholes. The townspeople called it dakung balay. The Governor-general, impressed, sent to the necessary artillery equipment for this fortress. Fr, Bermejo also installed a telegraphic system for the purpose of constant communication among towns in cases of impending raids.
Old Boljoon had four dependents: Mambaje, Ivisan, and Tanon. The first three were situated near the beach, while Tanon was perched high up in the mountains serving as an observation post for the marauding Moros."

5.2 Also from Chapter 11 of Swish of the Kris, Hurley gave credit to the bravery the Spanish priests:

"The history of the Spanish occupation of the Philippines is filled with reference to the bravery of the militant priests of the Jesuit order. These ambidextrous missioners, Cross in left hand and Toledo blade in right, were in the first wave of every attack on the Moros. "
The pattern of Moro raids from the shores of Bantayan Islands, Cebu, Antique, Iloilo, Leyte, Dumaguete to Pampanga matched perfectly with the dominance of these coastal provinces in today's Filipino Martial Arts of Eskrima, Arnis, and Estokada. Like the Big Bang Theory, the Filipino Martial Arts exploded in the years 1635-1644 during the term of Governor General Sebastian Hurtado de Corcuera, the military genius that pitted the best warriors of the Visayas and Luzon against the fearless Moros of Sulu. The dominant FMA organizations worldwide that originated from these once fertile Moro hunting grounds are Doce Pares, Kali Ilustrisimo, Pekiti-Tirsia and Giron Arnis Escrima. There are also several dozens of obscure styles that have taken root from these provinces like, Bergonia Style, Toledo-Collado(Pangasian -once part of Pampanga province), Moro-moro (either Samar or Bohol orgins), Cadena de Mano (probably Panay), Abanico de Vertical (West Cebu), Bohol style, Tapado (Negros) to name a few.

It is foolhardy to assume that a single ethnic group invented the Filipino Martial Arts, but what is obvious here however, is the dominance of the Cebuanos and Ilonggos in the art of combat due to the vulnerability and proximity of their coastlines to the fast paraos of Moro raiders. The Christian natives in these coastal areas had no choice but to fight tooth and nail to protect their territorities, women, children, culture and their newfound religion. The Moro attacks on the Cebu, Negros and Panay coastlines were more frequent than any other place in the entire archipelago. It is therefore safe to postulate that because of regular fracas, these ethnic groups honed their fighting skills and developed a more technical form of combat vis a vis the other regions. The Visayans dominance in the FMA has nothing to do with boastfulness as what Pedro Reyes wrote in his article The Filipino Martial Tradition. For lack of a weighty hypothesis Pedro Reyes without qualms and understanding of the sensibilities of the proud Visayans insulted us:

"Arnisadores prefer teachers who shine by their own light, like the sun, rather than the planets that shine by the reflected light of their school or teacher. That is why arnisadores like Jose Caballero,(Cebuano) Remy Presas (Ilonggo) and Edgar Sulite(Waray) claim to have created their own styles, rather than to have inherited them. Incidentally, masters from the North are more apt to be self-deprecating while masters from the South are more prone to boast. This is due to social convention and personal dynamics and has little to do with actual ability. But in the country of hard sell this could be one reason why arnis from the south is spreading throughout the world, while arnis from the North remains in the shadows"

Reading between the lines, it is another vain effort by people of the North to muddle the history of FMA. Reyes is no different from the pretentious FMA historians out to skew the facts about the Filipino Martial Arts and as a loyal practitioner of Kali Ilustrisimo, in effect he is banging himself in the head or unless he will concoct a story that the Ilustrisimo system originated in Tondo or Ilocos.

I've always been a proud Cebuano, however I find it difficult to believe that Lapu-lapu defeated Magellan with his superior Kali skills as portrayed by the pseudo historians in the FMA circles. For all I care Magellan could have tripped on the corals off the shores of Mactan and bashed his head on the rocks. The "battle" that took place as historians tell us was actually a lopsided massacre. Magellan only had less than a 50 man reconnaissance patrol (not a full scale invasion by any military standard) against more than one thousand men of Lapu-lapu, and you call that a Martial Art victory? Pure hogwash! As the first Asian to repel a foreign invader, Lapu-lapu's niche in Philippine history is already assured, but please let us stop spicing up the story on the "Battle" of Mactan as an epic display of our hero's Martial Arts prowess.

I have nothing against organizations calling their Art Kali, that is just fine for branding purposes, but laying claim that it is the mother of Eskrima / Arnis and that it originated in Muslim Mindanao is a contentious issue. Kali is a contradiction in terms, where can you find a practitioner of Kali who calls himself "Kalisador" or "Kalista"- no less than GM Antonio Ilustrisimo prefered to be called an Eskrimador, or even our myopic friend Pedro calls himself an Arnisador. Master Ben Largusa leader of LargusaVillabrille Kali calls his late mentor GM Floro Villabrille an Eskrimador.

Let us assume for the purposes of discussion that indeed Kali was practiced by the Ten Datus of Panay as what Mark Wiley suggested in his book the Filipino Martial Arts:

"Legends claim that ten Datus (chieftains) left Borneo and settled in Panay where they established the Bothoan in the twelfth century. The Bothoan was a school where the Datus taught Kali along with academic subjects and agriculture. It was a kind of preparatory school for tribal leaders. "

But then again, as he said it is just a legend -told and retold and embellished for several generations that any scholar in his right mind would not take with a grain of salt. While we did have lectures about the Code of Maragtas and Kalantiaw,(which is already proven as a fake) I can't recall any of the history my teachers back in college mentioning a sophisticated system of combat like Kali during the pre-Hispanic period. Such a wonderful subject as an ancient Martial Art would have been a good piece of classroom discussion. So, how could our teachers miss that during those years when Bruce Lee's Eskrima exhibition in the movie Enter the Dragon was still very fresh in our memory. Again, granting that Bothoan really existed and Kali was one of the lessons in their curriculum . . . well, what was true in 1500s or prior to that, was not necesarilly true to other adjacent islands . . . no internet cafe then, no text messaging and no TransAsia plying the route.

I would like to argue that assumption of Mark Wiley by again quoting Paul Morrow:

"So, how do we tell what is true and what is false in Philippine history? Here is a rule of thumb: Any account that assigns an exact date to an event in the Philippines before the arrival of the Spanish in 1521 is probably not true. At present there is only one exception to that rule. That is the date recorded on the Laguna Copperplate Inscription of 900 A.D. which was proved by skilled investigation.

As time goes on, more and more exceptions to the rule of thumb will arise due to the efforts of the increasing number of new historians who desire to correct the lies that were taught to Filipinos in the past."

If indeed Kali is a very old term and has something to do with warriorship then everyone must be familiar with it like the words baraw, tameng, sondang, bangkaw . . .and it would have imprinted an indelible mark in the collective consciousness of the Visayan people for hundreds of generations like the Moro bogeyman that our yayas (babysitters) used to scare us with to pacify our childhood tantrums: "Hala kon di ka mohilom dagiton ka sa Moros ug e-lawog sa Tirong" (Hey, if you won't shut up the Moro is going to snatch you and feed you to the Tirongs)

To muddle the issue further there are other amateur linguists in the FMA that theorize on certain Visayan words as the root of Kali. They say that Kali is related to many words, that means that this same word has connections with the following Visayan words:

Kalipay (Happiness), Kalibutan (Earth/World), Kalibog (Confusion), Kaliwat (Relatives/Ancestors/Heredity), Kalisud (Difficulty), Kalibanga (Diarrhea/LBM), Kalimotaw (Eye Pupil), Kaligo (Bath), Kalit (Sudden), Kalihim (Secretary) . . . okay let us disarrange the letters . . . Kilat (Thunder), Kilas (Agility) . . . and where and when did kris become kalis? What language is that? Esperanto?

For twenty-two years I have traveled the entire breadth of Mindanao as a Salesman while on the side searching in vain for the vaunted Kali man I've read so much in FMA books. Without luck, everywhere I went dodging bullets and 105-mm howitzers whistling past my ears, from Ipil, Zamboanga del Sur to boundaries of Bukidnon, Davao and Cotabato I always end up in a quagmire. I tried Ned's suggestion to search for him in a place noted for making bolos. Aside from their own version of native nipa wine called Pa-uroy, the town of Cantilan Surigao del Sur is also famous for their finely forged pinuti , but there is no one here who can handle the weapon with at least rudimentary skill. From Dumingag, I was referred to a Muslim bladesmith in Margosatubig, Zamboanga del Sur, but the poor artisan I encountered does not even know the word Kali. I was expecting to finally get the chance to meet an authentic Kali man in the person of GM Billy Baaclo of Ozamiz City. To my disappoint, he traced the lineage of his Abaniko de Sungkiti to Prancing Ybanez of Sibonga, Cebu. I did find an assortment of Barongs and authentic Krises in Lanao, but they were mostly ornamental. I tried to cajole the peddlers themselves to bring me to the Muslim swordsman, and what did I get? "Igso, banig na lang, walay Kali." (Brother, just buy my mat, no Kali). So where's the elusive Kali man?

No one will question the Moro people's fortitude in battle, but whatever form of sword fighting they practice, I have no doubt in my mind that it is not Kali. Silat and Kuntao are indigenous to the Island of Basilan but none of its techniques are analogous to what we see in "Kali", Eskrima, or Arnis. Or maybe they really don't have any organized sword fighting system after all and relied purely on suicidal frenzy and the sharpness of their Kris at the height of mayhem. Knowing the typical Mindanao Muslim's penchant for announcing in huge streamers petty accomplishments such as passing the Teacher's Board Exams, their "sticker-happy" cars, gun-totting warlords and flamboyant display of jewelry, I find it incredible how such a Martial Art known as Kali that they supposedly invented can be kept secret until today.

So where does our theory on the origin of the first Filipino Martial Art fit in? Simple logic, given our hyphothesis:

-Years 1635-1644 The Explosion of FMA during the administration of Governor General Sebastian Hurtado de Corcuera
-Recruitment of Pampango, Cebuano, Ilonggo and Warays and cross pollination of raw martial skills with aid of Spanish fencers.
-Warrior priest actively engaged in combat alongside Christian Indios and Spanish Regulars

Coined by no less than the Spanish colonial masters of the era, the single most definitive word that best described their engagement with the indomitable Moros of Sulu was - ESCRIMA !


"Cebu in Legend and History" by: Evangeline Lavilles de Paula
"Sugat" by Erlinda Kintanar Alburo (Center for Cebuano Studies)
"Angels in Stone" Pedro G. Galende, OSA
"Maragtas and Kalantiaw-History or Fraud?" by: Paul Morrow
"Pre-Hispanic Source Materials for the Study of Philippine History" by: William Henry Scott
"Swish of the Kris" by: Vic Hurley
"Complete Sinawali" by: Reynaldo Galang
"The Philippine Islands" by: Blair & Robertson
"Origins of Eskrima" by: Ned Nepangue

Special thanks to the following contributors:

Mert Altares, King Fahd University of Petroleum & Minerals, Dhahran, Saudi Arabia.
Juris Fernandez, Liloan, Cebu

Thursday, June 10, 2010

A Memorial to GM Alejandro “Andy” Abrian (1936-2010) By: James U. Sy Jr.

Grandmaster Alejandro “Andy” Abrian, Founder of Moro-Moro Orabes Heneral Arnis, passed away on April 18, 2010. He was 76.

GM Abrian was born on November 3, 1936 in Eastern Samar. At a time when Flash Elorde of Cebu reigned as the world boxing champion, Abrian was into boxing. Later he sought out a friend of his uncle who was a boxer living in the next town. Mang Pasi was also an Eskrimador aside from being a boxer. The teen had a few rounds with the boxer after which Mang Pasi adviced Abrian to take up Eskrima instead.

Since then Abrian trained in Eskrima by himself by climbing coconut trees, hunting wild animals, and doing drills with half of his body immersed in the sea. He picked up pointers from local eskrimadors.

Abrian later relocated to Manila where he worked as a janitor at the Luneta Park. The Kali Ilustrisimo group (now Kalis Ilustrisimo) of Grandmaster Antonio Ilustrisimo is among the Eskrima groups who conduct their training at the park. Abrian joined the group but soon left and in 1955 founded his own style which he called Moro-Moro Orabes Heneral Arnis.

The name Moro-Moro is homage to the fact that GM Abrian’s style is a modification of a Moro eskrimador’s style who he saw performing in his home province. Orabes and heneral are terms used by Samareños to refer to low and high strikes respectively.

GM Abrian started teaching his brand of Eskrima in the 1980s. His Eskrima primarily teaches single stick, single knife, and empty hands with double sticks and stick and dagger taught later in training. The style is characterized by fast footwork, dance like movements from low, crouching stances, and the absence of choreographed or flow drills. GM Abrian also integrated Boxing’s bobbing, weaving, ducking, and principle of putting the body behind a strike into his Eskrima. Disarming is also taught in Moro-Moro Orabes Heneral Arnis.

Grandmaster Alejandro “Andy” Abrian was among the eskrimadors featured in the book Masters of Arnis, Kali, and Eskrima by Edgar Sulite and was in the cover of the Vol. 5 No. 4 (Book 18 2001) issue of the Rapid Journal.

In September 2006, GM Abrian suffered his 6th stroke, leaving him confined to a chair with slurred speech, impaired hearing, and unable to practice Eskrima. Three months after, hr taught an Australian from his chair; he had also taught his latest student Diego Nepomuceno by proxy. One of GM Abrian’s students, Punong Guro at Nagtatag (Grandmaster/Founder) Henry Espero of Barrio Tagdon, Barcelona, Sorsogon, Bicol Region, founded his own style of Rapido Realismo Kali.

Maguad-Barte Nuptials Lapulapu Vinas Arnis Demo by CMAS

1st Negros Negros Fighting Arts Expo by ABS-CBN - Original Filipino Tapado Demo

1st Negros Negros Fighting Arts Expo by ABS-CBN - CMAS Demo

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Arnis Now RP’s National Martial Art & Sport By: James U. Sy Jr.

Published in Rapid Journal Vol. 14 No. 2 4th

RA 9850

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo officially signed into law Senate Bill 1424, authored by Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri, as Republic Act No. 9850 “An Act declaring Arnis as the National Martial Art and Sport of the Philippines“ on December 11, 2009.

RA 9850 makes Arnis as a requirement for the Physical Education (PE) course of the Department of Education, Culture, and Sports (DECS). The Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) is the lead agency tasked to implement RA 9850. The PSC will be inscribing the symbol of Arnis, that of the fighting sticks, in its official seal.

Those who signed the bill into law include Senators Manuelito “Lito” Lapid, Juan Miguel F. Zubiri, Mar Roxas, Richard Gordon, Ramon “Bong” Revilla, Jr., Aquilino Pimentel, Jr. and Representatives Arthur Pingoy, Jr. (2nd District, South Cotabato), Pryde Henry Teves (3rd District, Oriental Negros), Cesar Jalosjos (3rd District, Zamboanga del Norte), Nanette Castelo Daza (4th District, Quezon City), and Narciso Santiago III (Party-List, ARC).

It has been taught in schools that Sepak Takraw is the national sport of the Philippines and Dr. Jose P. Rizal is the national hero, alongside the national flower (Sampaguita), national tree (Nara), national bird (Philippine Eagle), etc. However, contrary to popular belief, no law or proclamation had named a national sport or national hero. Sepak Takraw is a Thai-Malay sport which many believe is Filipino.

Previously, there was HB030.64 “Act declaring Sikaran as the National Martial Art of the Philippines” filed by Cong. Isidro S. Rodriguez Jr. of the 2nd District of Rizal with co-authors Cong. Michael John R. Duavit, Cong. Ronaldo V. Puno and Cong. Victor R. Sumulong. It was filed on September 30, 2004 and was read on October 26, 2004.


The passing of RA 9850 is long overdue. The governments of neighboring Asian countries had given their respective martial traditions pioneering recognition and support years way ahead of the Philippines. Judo and Karate-do were successfully implemented in the Japanese school system even before WWII. China has a well oiled Wushu program and sends well trained athletes to spread their Wushu overseas. Korea unified the various kwans “schools (Hangul)” after WWII into what is now the Olympic sport of Taekwondo. The Thai Royalty had always patronized the development of Muay Thai among the Siamese populace.

The seminal efforts to integrate Arnis into the school system can be traced back to the 1970s with proclamations such as DECS Order No. 26, Series of 1975, which mandated concerned parties to engage in liaison with the National Arnis Association of the Philippines (NARAPHIL), then the newly formed National Governing Body (NGB) for the Filipino Martial Arts (FMA), for their Sports Development Program on Arnis. Other orders followed, among them DECS Order No. 58, Series of 1990 and DECS Memo No. 294, Series of 1995.

Senator Orlando “Orly” Mercado filed Senate Bill 280 on July 6, 1992 which required the inclusion of the study of Arnis as a Physical Education (PE) course in the secondary and tertiary level.

Cong. Juan Miguel F. Zubiri of the 3rd District of Bukidnon, with co-authors Cong. Raul V. Del Mar and Cong. Narciso D. Monfort, filed HB026-49 “Act declaring Arnis as the Philippine National Sport” on August 22, 2001. It was read on August 28, 2001 and was later substituted by HB05284. HB05284 was authored by Cong. Zubiri and co-authored by Cong. Lorna C. Silverio, Cong. Cecilia T. Taganas Layus, and Cong. Orlando A. Fua Jr. on October 4, 2004 and was read on October 9, 2004. The bill was approved on the second and third readings on November 18, 2002 and December 17, 2002 respectively. The house vote was 155 for yeas and none for nays and abstain. It was transmitted to the Senate on December 18, 2002.

Senate Bill 1424 is an “Act declaring Arnis as the National Martial Sport of the Philippines” was approved by the House on November 15, 2005, transmitted to on November 23, 2005 and received by the Senate on November 23, 2005.


Arnis is the Filipino corruption of the Spanish Arnes “Trappings, armor,” which alludes to the arnisador’s reputed ability to defend himself as if he is protected by an armor. Before the term arnis was used, as in the case of Florante at Laura in the 1800s, Eskrima was used to refer to the Filipino way of fighting with weapons. Eskrima is the Filipino corruption of the Spanish Escrima “Fencing,” in reference to the blades used as weapons in the art.


A lot has been written that Arnis, or Kali as some would have it, was used by the Mactan Chief Lapu-Lapu in killing the conquestadores Ferdinand Magellan in the Battle of Mactan in 1521. The only existing historical record of this battle was that of Pigafetta. Pigafetta was very meticulous in his recording of the Cebuano’s culture but he have not mentioned that Lapu-Lapu did practice a martial art called Kali, this inspite of the fact that the Italian chronicler did list the weapons used by the natives and praised their skill in combat.

The early history of the Filipino Martial Arts (FMA) was not systematically recorded by the early Filipinos. Information than can be established are those that can be derived from historical records, archaeological finds, linguistic studies, and research on related scientific fields. Much of what is passed on today as FMA history are oral traditions and most that find their way in cyberspace are unverified claims, distortions, and assumptions.

Nevertheless, it is beyond doubt that Filipinos were efficient with various forms of blades, sticks, daggers, and other weapons. It is a documented fact that many arnisadors/eskrimadors who fought as regular soldiers or guerillas in World War II used their skills in facing the Japanese in hand-to-hand combat.

The weapons used will generally dictate how an arnisador will manipulate his weapon. The Filipino Martial Arts (FMA) as a whole is a fusion of the martial traditions of the various races that have inhabited or occupied the archipelago or traded with the natives. One visible influence is from the Spaniards, who themselves were among the best fencers in Europe during the renaissance Period.


Arnis was well and alive in the more remote places of the Philippines during a good part of the 20th Century but did not get enough attention in the more urbanized areas up until it became a hit overseas, particularly in the US. The newer generation went for Taekwondo, Karate, Judo, Aikido, and other Asian Martial Arts.

This was partly due to the fact that the early 20th Century practitioners of Arnis were fighters more than sportsmen, fighting with blades, sticks, knives, and what have you. Traditional training was contact oriented and less often than not training ends with blood. Since their skills were for survival, arnisadors were reluctant to teach their arts. If they ever did, they made sure they kept the more dangerous techniques for themselves. Commoditizing Arnis for mass consumption then was unheard of.

The gradual rise of Arnis to prominence started when the National Arnis Association of the Philippines (NARAPHIL) was formed in 1975 to unify various schools. The famed Doce Pares of Cebu played a major role during this evolutionary stage of sport Arnis.

With the passing of time, Arnis was imported by Filipinos overseas, especially in the US, and it grew in popularity. Today, foreigners visit the Philippines to study directly from the grandmasters.

The efforts of both NARAPHIL and Arnis Philippines (ArPi) had evolved the sportive aspect of Arnis, making it more viable for public acceptance.

Arnis was included in the 1991 and 2005 Southeast Asian (SEA) Games and is played in all 5 clusters of the Philippine Olympic Festival (POF) and 17 regions in the Palarong Pambansa.


The National Arnis Association of the Philippines (NARAPHIL), formed in 1975, was the first National Sport Association (NSA)/National Governing Body (NGB) for the Filipino Martial Arts (FMA). Then Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff Maj. Gen. Fabian C. Ver was its first president.

Since NARAPHIL was closely related to the Marcos regime, it lost its status as the NSA for FMA right after President Ferdinand E. Marcos was overthrown by the People’s Power and replaced by Corazon “Cory” C. Aquino (D: 2009), the widow of the late Sen. Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Sr. (D: 1983). Arnis Philippines (ArPi), founded as the Philippine Arnis Federation on July 11, 1986, became the next government recognized NSA for Arnis up to today. Raymond S. Velayo is its first president and to this day continues in such a capacity.

Arnis Philippines (ArPi) was incorporated by Velayo, Grandmaster Rolando Pintoy (a.k.a. Roland Dantes), Grandmaster Ernesto C. Presas, Rene Tongson, Diwa Sahagun, Jeremias V. de la Cruz, and Mario D, Malicsi with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) on August 20, 1986.

Arnis Philippines (ArPi) is the 33rd official member of Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) and recognized by the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC).

The objectives of Arnis Philippines (ArPi) are 1) to be a major force in preserving our culture and the dying art of Arnis, 2) to consolidate and unite the different factions and groups of Arnis aficionados, and 3) to develop the sport aspect of Arnis for and in the hope of its inclusion in major sports events like the South East Asian Games (SEA Games), Asian Games, and ultimately the Olympics.

Arnis: A Question of Origins by Felipe "Bot" Jocano

Published in Rapid Journal Vol. 2 No. 4 4th Qtr 1997

Master Felipe "Bot" P. Jocano Jr. (center), Associate Professor at the Anthropology Department, with his students at the Sankil Karasak (Lightning Scientific Arnis International/Lema Scientifc Kali Arnis System) Gym, University of the Philippines (UP)-Diliman, Quezon City (James U. Sy Jr. photo).

The term arnis evokes a number of reactions from people every time it is mentioned in a conversation. Some people start fanning their hands in the air, imitating the distinctive movements of the two-stick (doble baston) training method. This image of arnis is one of the most popular to the layman. A second reaction, and quite as common as the first, is the question: "Saan ba talaga galing ang arnis?" (Where did arnis really come from?) Alternatively, "Di ba, sa atin nanggaling ang arnis?î (Isn't it that arnis comes from us?) is a question also heard. This article is an attempt to critically examine the roots of one of the martial arts of the Philippines, arnis. It must be noted that in no way does this article claim to be the final say on the origins of arnis. It is actually a preliminary look, a start if you will, into re-examining carefully the origins of an art form.

Arnis, also known as kali, escrima, baston, etc. is a complete martial art system, encompassing weapons training and empty-hand self-defense. It includes training in single stick techniques (solo baston), double stick techniques (doble baston), stick and knife or dagger techniques (espada y daga) and knife techniques (daga). Some styles may include staff and spear (sibat) training in their curriculum. Others will include the practice of medium to long bladed weapons (bolo) in their repertoire. Many styles have some form of empty hand combat, encompassing striking, kicking, locking, throwing and even choking methods. These are usually taught when the practitioner has demonstrated a reasonable degree of proficiency with the weapons of his style of arnis. Different arnis styles, from different parts of the country, may emphasize different areas of the training methods noted above. The term arnis is believed to be a Tagalog corruption of the Spanish term arnes, or harness, a reference to the decorations worn by the early Filipinos. Kali is another term used to refer to the same kind of martial arts. Different provinces may have different names for arnis, such as baston and kaliradman (Ilonggo, Bisaya), pagkalikali (Ibanag) and kalirongan (Pangasinan). These are only a few examples of the terms already recorded in different sources.

With such a comprehensive system of martial arts being taught and promoted in different areas of the country, it is inevitable that people would ask, where did such a complete martial art system come from?

One suggestion is that it originally came from another martial art system, called tjakalele. This is actually the name of a branch of the Indonesian martial art system known as pentjak silat. Another suggestion is that it was brought here from the Southeast Asian mainland, particularly during the Madjapahit and Shri-Visayan empires. Yet another suggestion is that it was propagated by the so-called ten Bornean datus fleeing persecution from their homeland. We shall critically examine these assertions one at a time.

The idea that arnis evolved or was derived from another martial art system, namely tjakalele silat, is due to linguistics. The alternative name for arnis is kali. It is widely held that this is the older term for arnis, and that kali itself emphasizes bladed weaponry apart from practice with the stick. It is not surprising that a connection could be seen between the term kali and tjakalele. However, linguistic similarity alone is not enough ground to assert that kali was indeed derived from tjakalele. There has to be documented proof that one came from the other. What form should this proof take? Authenticated documents certainly are one of the best pieces of evidence - if such could be found, and proven to be genuine. A close and thorough comparison of both styles would help, but it must be remembered that they would have changed over time, reflecting the different changes that have happened in their cultures of origin. On the other hand, one of the local terms for a bladed weapon is kalis. It is also believed that kali is a derived term from kalis. This assertion will require study before it can be validated.

Another oft-quoted idea is that kali was brought here during the Shri-Vishayan (7th -14th centuries and Madjapahit (13th -16th centuries) empires. This reflects the notion that the Philippines then was somehow an integral part of both empires. It must be noted that the archaeological evidence for the role of the Philippines in both empires is very meager. About the best that could be said is that there was commercial contact, but whether such contact also included the spreading of martial arts is circumstantial at best.

A third idea regarding the spreading and propagation of kali in the Philippines is that ten Bornean datus (sometimes nine) fled here and settled in various parts of the Philippines. They brought with them their fighting systems and taught these along with other arts in the academies called the bothoan.

A key problem here is that much of what we know about the ten datus is derived from the Maragtas of Pedro Monteclaro, published in l1oilo in 1907. Doubt has been cast on its usefulness as a historical document, especially since it records folk or oral history. Scholars such as the late William Henry Scott and F. Landa Jocano, are clear on this point - the Maragtas is a document recording folk or oral history, and not an actual eyewitness account of the events stated therein. As such, its historical value diminishes rapidly with each retelling of the story .If the original story of the ten Bornean datus is folklore and not authentic history, what are we then to make of the story regarding the propagation of kali in the bothoan? Folkloric history is useful in enabling people to identify with the art of kali, but it should not be taken as actual history.

If after having critically questioned the sources of the origins of kali, or arnis as it is known today, and through these critical analyses, have come to the positions stated above, what can we then say about the origin of kali, or arnis? Regardless of the name of the art or its sources, the fact that the early Filipinos practiced some form of combat was not lost on the Spaniards who first arrived here. Pigafetta's description of the death of Magellan is graphic in its description of the weapons wielded by the natives. It is interesting to note that Magellan died as he was rushed by the defenders armed with spears and bladed weapons. In more recent times, Scott's book Barangay includes a chapter on ancient Bisayan weapons and warfare. This was derived from the accounts and dictionaries of the early Spanish friars, some of whom were witnesses to the use and practice of weapons and warfare methods at the time.

To state therefore, that its origins lie outside the Philippines is misleading, for it disregards the unrecorded but no less real experiences our forefathers went in simply trying their best to survive. These experiences are recorded in the techniques of their styles of arnis. It is also quite possible that there were blendings with different styles of combat, but if so, these are quite difficult to verify historically.

A key difficulty in researching the origins of arnis is that most sources tend to be oral history or folkloric in nature. They are not exactly historical documents in the sense of being eyewitness accounts. Hence, their authenticity in this sense is always suspect. On the other hand, as folklore, they serve as a window, if you will, into how people think. Folklore gives us an idea of how people actually understand their world and their place in it.

Martial arts, in whatever form, and in whatever place, are the unique product of the people who developed them, as members of their culture. A case in point is Japanese fencing, kendo in its modern format, kenjutsu as the traditional form. Japanese fencing is a product of the technology and the values and habits of the Japanese. Similarly, it should be remembered that kali or arnis as it is also called today, is very much a product of the Filipino cultural experience. The relative informality of most practice sessions, for instance, is a reflection on the importance we place in building harmonious relationships with others.

In conclusion, it is not easy to actually trace the origins of the art of kali or arnis. Perhaps we may never actually trace it to a single key event in the lives of our forefat1lers. On the other hand, it is equally important to remember that the art itself is a continuing evolving product, subject to change and refinement over the years. What is also important is that we remain open-minded, willing to improve our understanding of the origins of this martial art. Such open-mindedness is useful inasmuch as it provides us with further insights into our identity as Filipinos.


Canete, Ciriaco. Doce Pares. Cebu City. Doce Pares Publishing House, 1989.

Inosanto, Dan; Johnson, Gilbert; and Foon, George. The Filipino Martial Arts. Los Angeles. Know How Publishing, 1980

Presas, Ernesto. Arnis. Manila. 1988

Presas, Remy. Modem Arnis. Manila. Modem Arnis Publishing Co., 1974, 1993.

Yambao, Placido. Mga Karununngan sa Larong Arnis. Quezon City: UP Press, 1957.

For references on Philippine prehistory:

Jocano, F .Landa. Questions & Challenges in Philippine Prehistory. Professorial Chair lecture: UP Press, 1975.

Jocano, F Landa. Philippine Prehistory. Quezon City: PCAS, 1975

Scott, William Henry. Prehispanic Source Materials for the Study of Philippine History. Quezon City. New Day Publishers, 1974.

Scott, William Henry. Barangay. Quezon City: Ateneo de Manila Press, 1994.