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.

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