The Philippines 2011 – every given Sunday

February 13.2011

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!

~ by pinoro on February 27, 2011.

3 Responses to “The Philippines 2011 – every given Sunday”

  1. Nice to see some of the legends of arnis at the same place! We have to sit & talk a lot about our journeys, while nibbling some chips and watching our many pics after I return back! 🙂

    Best from the east, take care my friend!!

  2. I’ll go there this coming weekend. I hear that the groups you mentioned are still going strong. Excited!

  3. […] The Philippines 2011 – every given Sunday / Wingchunarnis. Talks about some Arnis groups in Luneta. […]

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