Written by Talibung Antike on August 6, 2008
True blooded genuine Eskrimadores in the island Panay from the coastal plains to the hinterlands of Aklan, Capiz, Iloilo and Antique who are mostly if not all are World War II underground guerrilla fighters pitted their craft using “Talibungs”, “Sanduko” and “Ginuntings” against the Japanese soldiers’ “Katana” swords and Bayonets in hand to hand combat when they ran out of bullets. One will never hear a word “Kali” from any of them that alludes to fighting whether unarmed or armed confrontation where sticks, spears, or bladed weapons are used. It should be noted that the word “Kali” in the major languages of Panay and Negros (Hiligaynon and Kiniray-a) means “to dig” which refers to a farming or harvesting activity when one has to dig something from the ground like: “to dig camote=kali camote”, “dig peanuts=kali mani”, “dig gabi=kali gabi”. The word in itself has no reference to fighting at all whatsoever. All these veteran fighters and war survivors refers to their craft as “Eskrima, or the act of “Eskrimahay” which refers to skirmish, a confrontational exchange of blows/attacks, offense/ defense- it may be used outside the context of physical combat, as in “eskrimahay ka tinaga” which means a fierce verbal exchange, and may also refer to the use of weapons like: “baston, talibung, binangon, ginunting, sanduko, lantip, sanggot, espading, daga, lugod, bahi, bugsay, tungkod, yaming, tuwang-tuwangan, garab, kaw-it, hal-o, etc”. The experts and practitioners of these indigenous martial arts systems are either called “Eskrimador” or “Bastonero” not “Kalista”, “Kalidor” nor “Kalinero”.
The claim that the word “Kali” came from the Muslim chieftains that established a colony in Kalibo, Aklan — (sometimes cited as the origin of the name “Kali”) is very wrong and has no historical basis at all.
The official history of Kalibo on record states that, Kalibo is a town in Aklan, founded by settlers from Malaysia who came with Datu Bangkaya (The Muslims had never been successful in conquering Panay Island despite relentless attempts even during Spanish times). Upon the arrival of the Spaniards, Madianos (Madyanos) is the primitive Pre-Hispanic name of Kalibo. It was found to be the first place in Aklan with houses grouped together, the inhabitants thereof, already having some form of political organization.
How Kalibo got its present name was because of a mass Christening of One Thousand (1,000) natives in “Madianos” in May, 1566, by a Spanish priest, who came with Adelantado Don Miguel Lopez de Legaspi. One thousand (1,000) is written in the Aklan dialect as “ISA KA LIBO”, “SANG LIBO”, and in order to commemorate and perpetuate this historical fact, the name “Calibo”, a contraction derivative of these three words in the Aklan dialect, was given to the town instead of “MADIANOS”. From year 1566, “CALIBO” was the official name used up to about 1929. Upon the recommendation of the Committee on Geographical Names, the official name “KALIBO” was finally adopted.
If Kali as a blade based fighting system is to be alluded to the word “Kalis”, it is even farther from the true meaning of the Hiligaynon word “Kalis”. “Kalis” in Hiligaynon and Kiniray-a is a verb which means “to scrape off” and if used as a noun it refers to the straight edged wooden or bamboo slat used to swipe the excess grains being measured. The word “Kalis” is a measuring device or activity to ensure accuracy of measurement where the excess are scraped off or leveled out or “kalison” using a “kalis” before counting it as one full unit volume. Traditionally the grains or farm produce like: rice, corn, monggo, sugar, salt, beans, etc are quantified based on traditional volumetric measuring containers like: “ganta or gantangan” (25 gantas = 1 sack), wooden box “panega” (3 panegas=1 sack), “tabig”, and “tabungos”.
(Note: The use of kilograms in measuring plant or farm products is a relatively recent development when the Philippines adopted the metric system during the 1980s)
Hence, based on the aforementioned elucidations the use of the word “Kali” parallel with Arnis and Eskrima in Filipino Martial Arts if it has to be used at all is absurd and very etiologically inappropriate. Example: you “Kali” your opponent! That would mean “you DIG your opponent!” or say: Lets practice “Kali” that would mean “Lets practice DIGGING”
If you KALI your opponent, you DIG your opponent! So he must have been buried, must have been dead a long time ago or a victim of a land slide! That would be the most absurd FMA indeed!
The languages used in Negros Island are “Hiligaynon” (most of Negros Occidental close to Panay Island) and “Bisaya or Cebuano” (Negros Oriental close to Cebu Island). These languages are influences brought by migrants from both islands as workers in the Haciendas of Negros mostly owned by the Hacienderos who are landed elite migrants from Jaro, Iloilo City. If there is no KALI in Cebu Island nor in Panay Island, then claiming KALI as indigenous blade based fighting arts of Panay Island brought to Negros Island is one of the greatest frauds that ever plagued the Filipino Martial Arts History and Martial Arts World as a whole.
It is high time to “KALI” deeper= to “DIG” deeper and ferret out the “TRUTH” about “KALI” as clearly it has no rightful place in the Filipino Martial Arts World historically and etiologically.
This is a big challenge to the well meaning Filipino Martial Arts enthusiasts, avid practitioners, scholars, researchers & historians to start retracing back and DIG deeper into the true Filipino Martial Arts History…. there are still lots to DIG out (KALI) into the open here in PANAY island… the center of the PHILIPPINES.
Welcome to Panay Island PHILIPPINES!