Cultural Potpourri | Filipino Martial Arts Fest @ Abreeza Mall

UPON the invitation of event planner Jessica Segura, I attended the Filipino Martial Arts Festival 2018 at the Abreeza Mall last Jun. 9, 2018. “It’s a first of its kind so please do not miss it.

The event is actually the brainchild of Robby Alabado and mine. We are hoping to make Kali a major tourist attraction in Davao. That is why we are also focusing on its cultural aspect,” she almost pleaded to me in her charming way. Since I used to practice the Japanese martial arts of judo and jiujitsu myself under Paolo Tancontian sensei, I decided to attend to satisfy my curiosity as to what Filipino Martial Arts (FMA) truly are.

Filipino Martial Arts (or Sining Panlaban ng Filipino) refer both to the ancient and newer fighting methods devised in the Philippines. It is said to combine elements from both Western and Eastern martial arts. The most popular forms are Kali, Eskrima and Arnis although Kali, Eskrima and Arnis are interchangeable terms for Filipino Martial Arts.
It is generally believed that the native Filipino styles of self-defense were started by various Philippine tribes to defend themselves from intruders and invaders. The styles are also believed to have emanated or were strongly influenced by martial arts from other areas such as India. Filipino Martial Arts styles differed based on the tribe or the area of origin. When the Spanish Conquistadores came to the country, the native practice of Kali-Eskrima-Arnis was hidden by disguising the practice in dances.

The Filipino Martial Art of Kali, Eskrima or Arnis is primarily a weapon based style of fighting. Some of the weapons used are the single stick (solo baston), double stick (doble baston), and the sword and dagger (espada). Samples of the weapons were shown to curious guests during the event. Practitioners of the Filipino Martial Arts are known for their fast movements and efficient footworks in wielding weapons.

Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri, who unfortunately failed to attend the FMA Fest @ Abreeza Mall, authored Republic Act No. 9850 or “an act declaring Arnis as the National Martial Arts & Sports of the Philippines.” Senator Zubiri is committed to supporting and pursuing Arnis. The Senator started practicing arnis at the age of 16 years old. He was named National Champion in 1988; and became the first Arnis World Champion in 1989 at the Ninoy Aquino Stadium.

“Indeed, the Filipino Martial Arts of Kali-Eskrima-Arnis are a tribute to the ingenuity and bravery of our forefathers. It reminds us of how our brave ancestors defended our beloved land in the past, of their bravery, and selfless sacrifices. From this, the Filipinos of today can draw strength, pride and inspiration…..We the members of Mandirigmang Kaliradman believe in this past. We believe in the capability of the Filipino warrior; and it is our aim to revive this ethic, the Filipino warrior’s ethic,” said the founder of the Davao based branch of Lightning Scientific Arnis called Mandirigmang Kaliradman, Master Manolo Luis del Rosario. Del Rosario studied under Grandmasters Emer Ybanez and Benjamin Luna Lema. He started learning martial arts like karate, judo, tae kwan do, aikido, among others, at the age of 11 years old.

Indeed, the FMA Fest @ Abreeza Mall was like a crash course with both theoretical lectures and practical demonstrations. Master/Prof. Felipe P. Jocano, a faculty member of the Anthropology Department of UP Diliman whose area of interest is the anthropology of martial arts as body practice, had an interesting lecture on “History of the Filipino Martial Arts and It’s Relationship to Filipino Culture.” Jocano belongs to the Telu Bituun Bagani. Master Romeo Macapagal of the Kalis Ilustrisimo, a businessman by profession, touched on the subject of the historical roots of FMA and its Spanish connection. Master James Sy of the Conceptual Arnis, an academic instructor at the Riverside College and the VMA Global College (both in Bacolod City, Neg. Occ.) handled the subject on FMA Myths. Davao’s Master Manolo del Rosario informed the audience on FMA Training Methods and the Filipino Worldview. Medical Doctor Adrien Pierre Quidlat, an instructor of the Rapido Realismo Kali, showed FMA potentials in other fields such as Education, Medicine and Sports Science. Lastly, the veteran FMA practitioner Dionisio Canete, who started practicing FMA under his famous martial artist father and founder of Doce Paris in Cebu, tackled the subject of FMA as a sport. After each speaker’s presentation, demonstrations and sparring demos were shown to the audience.
One interesting demonstration was presented by the Datu Ahmed Paglas Kuntaw-Silat members comprised of young Muslims, both male and female, in their traditional outfits who did their FMA version like it was a dance form.

The other FMA masters who came to show their support included Henry Espera of Rapido Realisimo Kali; Benefredo Lobrido of Original Filipino Tapado; Mario Palazuelo of Kapatirang Doble Olisi Eskrima; Nasser G. Lumenda of Datu Paglas Kuntaw-Silat; and Paolo Pagaling of Estocada de Campo.
Congratulations to all the FMA grandmasters, masters and their students and followers. Mabuhay ang FMA.

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