The joyful festivities of Dinagyang this year saw the gathering of many Arnis-Eskrima teams from Iloilo and beyond, who met for the “Dinagyang Bastonero 2015” tournament. Organized by Master Bonnie Celendro and held at Iloilo Sports Complex Covered Gymnasium, it was the theater of various competitions in three main categories: Men Full-Contact and Women Full-Contact under the ArPi (“Arnis Philippines”) ruleset, and the Solo Forms, which were categorized by age. It was the occasion for many young athletes who trained and prepared hard to show their skills, and those skills were indeed there during these three intense days of competition.
After the opening ceremony executed by three local Grand Masters, the demonstrations then followed, each one featuring real applications of Arnis-Eskrima, Dumog (the traditional grappling martial art) and other Pangamot (“empty hands”) styles such as WEDO with Grand Master Frank Sobrino.
To give a brief explanation about the Full-Contact Arnis Sports, it must be kept in mind that the players are supposed to enter the 8 x 8 meter competition area, with each one of their vital parts protected by a headgear, a chest plastron, arm, hand and leg protections. The tool used is a semi-rigid padded plastic stick. There is no way a crippling accident may ever happen and, thus, the young players can launch themselves and give the best of their skills at 100%. All of these is made in observance of the good spirit of friendship and mutual respect that are moral qualities found among Filipino players, either male or female.
A number of points are then given according to the hit scored on the body of the opponent and the winner is the one who prevails in two out of three rounds in the bout. A round is basically won either by scoring five points ahead, by disarming the opponent or if one player has committed up to three fouls, therefore earning the win to the latter’s competitor. Two judges in two opposite corners count the points on an electronic scoreboard.
On the other hand, the “Anyo” or Form competition is a demonstration of individual skills in the perfect show of a codified series of moves combining precise attacks, defenses and footwork. The categories are “Solo Baston”, “Doble Baston” and “Espada y Daga” A group of judges is to be thoroughly observing the player and each will give a mark, with 10 being the highest. The Form competition calls for a different set of skills that imply more of a gymnastic. An Anyo perfectly executed with impeccable footwork, speed and power in the strikes and overall martial mindset is an impressive thing to see.
Apart from the presence of the school, college or provincial teams and a handful of foreign players, it was notable to see the Philippine Army Team led by Lt. Francis Mirabelle Samson and trained by Master Rolindo Catapang; and the Philippine Air Force Team led by their coach SSgt. Rhodney Francis Potoza. Both of these teams came all the way from Luzon, they were very supportive of their respective teams and they were making it known vocally each time their player was in a bout. This is called “esprit de corps”.
A brief talk with the leaders of these two teams showed how committed they are in the spreading and teaching of their beloved sports that they have all been practicing since their teenage years. A lesser known aspect of the practice, which is the social role of Sports Arnis, was also emphasized by Lt. Samson and SSgt Potoza as they explained that both the Army and the Air Force are supporting school children and also select the best young girl and boy “arnisadors” to train with them to become athletes. As Lt. Samson said it, many of these kids come from poor families and Arnis is a way to avoid the traps and seductions that the street life can propose to a young person, replacing this easy way by a harsh training, leading to a better self-accomplishment and self-confidence.
In the personal opinion of the author of these lines, Arnis Sports should be promoted and supported by the various levels of government as a way to develop mental focus, excellent physical condition, reflexes, and the stamina of the youth of this country to repel the growing wave of obesity and ensuing heart conditions or high sugar that go with the modern urban mix of low physical activity and devastating publicity and widespread use of junk food and soft drinks. Bringing up new generations of a healthy and fit youth will be less of a weight in the future on the shoulders of the Social Security System, who will be able to save a lot of funds if this was implemented. The public and private support has been done for decades in Japan with judo, and in South Korea with taekwondo among others countries.
MABUHAY ARNIS (Long live Arnis)!
List of Participating Teams:
ANGELICUM SCHOOL OF ILOILO (Iloilo)
BACOLOD (Bacolod City)
BAGO (Negros Occidental)
BICOL ARNIS TEAM (Bicol)
CAPIZ ARNIS LSAI (Capiz)
CARGADA PIGAR (Negros Occidental)
CENTRAL PHILIPPINE UNIVERSITY (Iloilo)
GOLDEN SCORPION ESKRIMADOR – BANTAYAN BASTONERO (Iloilo)
GRACIANO LOPEZ JAENA (Iloilo)
ILOILO NATIONAL HIGH SCHOOL (Iloilo)
JALANDONI HIGH SCHOOL (Iloilo)
JANIUAY ARNIS (Iloilo)
JANIUAY TIGERS TEAM ARNIS (Iloilo)
KALIDO SOCIETY Bacolod)
MEDEL ARNIS (Bacolod)
PHILIPPINE AIR FORCE (Manila)
PHILLIPPINE DYNAMIC ARNIS INC. (Iloilo)
PHILIPPINE ARMY (Manila)
TALIKALA ALAKSAN BASTONERO (Iloilo)
TRADITIONAL PHILIPINE ARNIS – BAKHAW ES (Iloilo)
TRADITIONAL PHILLIPPINE ARNIS (Iloilo)
UI – PHINMA (Iloilo)
WEST VISAYAS STATE UNIVERSITY (Iloilo)
The gallant foreign players who attended the tournament were :
Mr. Francis Hauser (SWITZERLAND)
Mr. Eldad Jaeger (ISRAEL)
Mr. Fujimura Satoshi (JAPAN)
Mr. Watanabe Kiyota (JAPAN)
(Photos by the author)