The Philippines 2011 – every given Sunday
It’s the last sunday that we’re spending in the Philippines
(we are leaving next firday), so it’s the last chance for me
to do something I’ve planned for so long:
to go to Luneta Park in Manila and watch the open air training
of different Filipino Martial Arts groups and schools.
It is a long time tradition and it’s something I really wish to see directly.
Annie has to stay at home and prepare for the reunion
with her college friends, later in the afternoon (party again!),
so I found another companion for my ”trip”: cousin Aladin,
who is my age, has three kids and he doesn’t speak much english.
But we’ll be ok for sure, with his english, my tagalog
and the ability to gesticulate.
We ride on his scooter – a very pleasant ride, I must say –
and as soon as we reach the park , we discover a training group:
Master Rodel Dagooc from Modern Arnis and his students.
This is the third time I’m meeting him (the first time on Bobby’s gym
and the second time when I visited his Arnis Village),
so he introduces me to his students and asks me if I want to join.
I politely decline, saying that I came just to watch different styles
and he even tells me on which corners of the park are other groups.
His school makes a good impression and it’s nice to watch –
disciplined students in red uniforms, drilling flow combinations.
During a short break, Master Rodel introduces me to a tall and thin man,
with long limbs and slow movements – Master Henry Espera,
the founder of Rapido Realismo Kali.
A bit later we cross the street and go on another part of the part,
to watch the RRK group. MAster Henry tells me a bit about his style:
combat oriented, including single and double stick,
knife and empty hands. I ask him about the empty hands part
and he tells me that includes boxing, trapping, low kicking
and principles derived from the weapons and he demonstrates
a few techniques with one of his students.
Later I notice that they’re training with thick and heavy sticks.
We return to Master Rodel’s spot and find them working on
single stick counters, disarms, locks and De Cadena (chained counters).
He demonstrates for me with one of his black belts and allows me to film.
His accuracy and speed are impressive – and I really appreciate his honesty
when he tells me: ”Disarming or locking is very difficult to apply
and most of the times impossible, so the essence is still HITTING!”
After saying goodbye to Master Rodel, we cross again the street
and start searching for Master Tony Diego, a top student of
Antonio ”Tatang” Ilustrisimo, the founder of Kali Ilustrisimo.
The park is crowded already – children running and playing,
families having picnic or just relaxing, couples walking hand in hand,
groups of students in uniforms, foreign turists, vendors…
Not far from the Quirino Grandstand I recognize a man whom I know
from Facebook and I approach him. It’s Nico D. from Belgium,
the founder and owner of ”Philippine Kettlebells Club”.
He lives here for 10 years already, is married, has two cute sons
and he’s also a practitioner of Kali Ilustrisimo,
so I go with him at the training spot.
A few other students are there already, waiting for their Master,
who makes his appearance after a short while.
Master Tony Diego is very open and kind, he asks about my FMA experience
and starts telling me about the style and about his respected master.
Kali Ilustrisimo is a blade oriented system, which makes the stick part
different from other styles – the stance is higher,
the strikes are very shortand closed, thrusts are very often used.
In a training break, he takes out a big color picture,
with him as a young man and ”Tatang” Ilustrisimo at the age of 79,
during a training session, on the same spot were we are now.
He talks about ”the old man” with respect, veneration and affection.
I can only imagine how it was to learn from a legend!
I don’t need to see to much to know that Ilustrisimo
is a style that I would gladly learn – sharp and precise,
elegant and powerful. A real ART, and a deadly one!
Aside from Master Tony Diego and his students,
I have met and watched someone else also
in this corner of Luneta Park:
possibly the youngest stickfighter in the world,
who is only 1 year and 9 months old, plays with Arnis sticks
and kettlebells, is doing CORRECT push-ups
and is watching DVDs with FMA instead of cartoons 🙂
Luneta Park on sunday is really a place to see and a place to be,
especially for a Filipino Martial Arts enthusiast –
and in the next vacations I will try to be here as often as possible!