Thursday, February 11, 2010


(This is reprint of an article in Cebu News Day dated January 31, 2010. Reprinted here in toto)

(The main title on page 6 of the featured article)

(The front page picture in the Cebu News Day)
There is more to Eskrima than stick fighting. Last night's premier of Eskrimadors, an independent documentary film of the unique Filipino martial arts, proved just that.
Filmed by an independent Cebuano production outfit Pointsource Films, the documentary captured for the big screen the history and world class identity of Eskrima.
The chinese have Kung-fu, the Japanese have Karate, Eskrimadors showed that Eskrima is "one of the fastest and deadliest" martial arts in the world and "a complete fighting system", that encompassing combat moves for the hands, the legs, the various locks and submissions as well as the use of different hand weapons.
The film was made in Cebu, the "spiritual home" of Eskrima and its best known grandmasters.
Directed by Kerwin Go, an emerging Cebuano film maker who studied in Los Angeles, California, the film featured several grandmasters.
The only living member of the original Doce Pares group formed in 1932-Ciriaco "Cacoy" Cañete, who is 90 years old - amazed the audience last night with his quick stick maneuvers on stage, one of several live demonstrations given before the premier.
Eskrima fighters were highly feared as duelists who were known to engage in no-holds barred matches or juego todo, long before Bruce Lee took notice of Eskrima in the 1970s and introduced it to the world in his movies.
Derived from the Spanish word esgrima which is loosely defined as "the art of fencing", the practice is also know as "arnis" or "kali" in different parts of the Philippines.
A highlight of the documentary is a juego todo match that opens and ends the film.
Juego todo had its heydey in Cebu in the early 1950s to '60s, know as the "Golden Age of Eskrima". Grandmaster Cacoy Cañete, Anciong Bacon, and Inting Carin ruled the arena. Today, Eskrimadors showed how masters like Cacoy Cañete proved a warrior's mastery is resistant to the passage of time.
Grandmaster Cacoy, a World War II veteran, is the current clube president of the Doce Pares (12 pairs), a name inspired by the 12 bodyguards of French Emperor Charlemagne. He's held the position for more than two decades.
Eskrima traces its history to an art practised by pre-Spanish Filipinos influenced by refugees of the Sri Vishayan Empire who fled to the archipelago in the 13th century.
Mactan chieftain Lapu-lapu was know for his fencing prowess, no doubt a skill that helped him defeat the Spanish fleet led by Ferdinand Magellan in 1521.
Several Eskrima groups performed live demonstration as a curtain raiser during the premier of the film, including World Nickelstick Balintawak Club with founder Nick Elizar.
The school has instructors from different countries, including England and the United States.
The documentary also starred the second generation of the Eskrima gurus: Grandmaster Dionisio Cañete, a lawyer and the son of the principal organizer of Doce Pares, who was grand Cacoy's brother, and Lapunti Arnis de Abanico International grandmaster Undo Caburnay, who exhibits fan-like wielding of the stick, hence the term abanico. Undo was the son of Arnis de Abanico founder Arsenio Caburnay, also a WWII veteran.
In Liborio Heyrosa Decuerdas Eskrima, this fighting system of Eskrima has students holding a single stick and a knife. They learn to fight in tight spaces with little of no lighting.
The film showed how Eskrima gained world-wide attention after some masters went to California and performed demonstration with Filipino-american martial artist Dan Inosanto in the mid 1970s. Bruce Lee also promoted it in his movies.
Since then, Hollywood incorporates different Eskrima manuevers in films such as the Bourne Identity which stars Matt Damon; Tomb Raider: The Cradle of life with Angelina Jolie and Tom Cruise's Mission Impossible, among others.
Scholarly records of Eskrima's origin are hard to find.
Compared to Chinese and Japanese martial arts which were practiced by monks and the nobility, Eskrima has been known as the martial arts of peasant.
It was "the art of the bum", said Supreme Grandmaster Dionisio "Dioni" Cañete, who said they to "civilize" it in order to ensure Eskrima would live on. They set contest rules and made their own protective gear before mounting tournaments.
Sport events and competitions made the martial art more popular abroad than in its own home province.
the need for better appreciation by Cebuanos of a martial art of their own is one of the main driving forces behind the film as a project.
This is why the film makers - Go, cinematographer Ruel Antipuesto and producer Gigi Borlasa - are determined to show the film in Cebu Schools.
Last night at the premier, the Cebu provincial government, represented by Provincial Board Member Agnes Magpale, presented the Eskrima masters with plaques of appreciation.

Cacoy Canete

Diony Canete

Cinematographer Raul Antipuesto (with camera) and director Kerwin Go during the shooting of Eskrimadors.