Arnis in the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games

Logo of the Southeast Asian Games Federation, the body that oversees the SEA Games. Photo credit.



The Southeast Asian (SEA) Games started in 1959 and since then is held every two years (every odd year).  It’s a multi-sport event and the Philippines first joined in 1977. Currently, eleven countries participate:

  1. Brunei
  2. Cambodia
  3. Indonesia
  4. Laos
  5. Malaysia
  6. Myanmar
  7. Philippines
  8. Singapore
  9. Thailand
  10. Timor-Leste
  11. Vietnam

The Philippines hosted the SEA Games in 1981, 1991 and 2005. In 2019, it will be our fourth time to host.

According to its policy, the host country has the discretion to add any sport (even those that are indigenous to it) provided that at least three countries will be competing in the event.

Photo credit

In 1991, Arnis was included as a Demonstration Sport (a sport played with the main goal of promoting it). It gave the Philippines 14 medals (10 golds, 3 silvers, 1 bronze). But a recent article, reports that it was 16 gold medals.— Note: I don’t know which is correct. I searched the internet for more information but I found none. We sorely lack documentation.

Photo credit

In 2005, Arnis was incorporated as an Official Sport and four countries competed: Philippines, Vietnam, Timor-Leste, and Cambodia. Six gold medals were at stake in Form Competition and Full Contact Sparring. The Philippines won 3 golds (plus 3 silvers) to tie with Vietnam.

2005 Gold Medalists :

  • Men’s Synchronized Anyo : Peter Kelvin Celis, Nathan Ben Dominguez, Glenn Llamador
  • Women’s Synchronized Anyo: Catherine Ballenas, Aireen Parong, Rochelle Quirol
  • Women’s Full Contact Sparring: Anna Joy Fernandez

It would be interesting to know where they are now.

After 2005, Arnis was never played in the SEA games again.

New Developments

Arnis will be played in the SEA Games 2019, if Senator Miguel Zubiri’s wish will come to pass.


Senator Zubiri giving a message at the First National Arnis Congress held on January 12, 2017, in Mandaluyong City, Philippines. Behind him, from left are Hon. William “Butch” Ramirez, Chairman of the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC); Hon. Ramon Fernandez, Commissioner, PSC; Atty. Tonisito M.C. Umali, Asst Secretary, Department of Education. Photo by Paco delos Reyes

Senator Zubiri, the author and sponsor of Republic Act 9850, making Arnis the National Martial Art and Sport of the Philippines, said

“It will be a sin for us not to have Arnis in the 2019 SEA Games.”


I say that both excitedly and nervously.

It’s a golden opportunity for us to highlight Arnis. Of course, I wish for Filipino arnisadors to win the championship cleanly and clearly without controversies.

But as of now, with two years to go, I don’t know of any clear strategy yet. What rules are we using? Who will be our officials? Who are our national athletes? Are they being trained and exposed now? Are they supported? Many questions. Many things to iron out.

How devastating it would be if we get whipped by other more prepared countries. We’re the host and Arnis is our national martial art and sport! We have to win!

I’m scared for us…


This article is based on information I found online.

Thank you for taking the time to read the Deadly Dance blog. A greater thank you if you comment and add depth to this post.



Related Articles:

2019 SEA Games/Wikipedia

Zubiri wants Arnis in the 2019 SEA Games/Jean russel David/The Manila Times/January 14, 2017

Fast Facts: Philippines in the SEA Games/Jesson Ramil/Rappler/June 6, 2015

For the 2005 SEA Games complete medal tally, click here.





Father and son in Filipino Martial Arts


One of my training-mates is a father and son tandem, Eli and his 17 year old son, Bot, a college student taking up Civil Engineering.

This morning, after our practice I did a quick interview:

Joy: How did you start in Filipino Martial Arts?

Eli: In college, I joined a martial arts club called Arjuka which stood for Arnis, Judo, Karate, and Aikido.  We would practice three times a week learning the basics of each.

Bot: When I was in first year high school, Arnis was our PE.  I was bored with it because almost all we did was practice Redonda and Sinawali for one hour every week, for 5 months. And for the final exam, we were asked to get a partner and if we were able to make our sticks “contact well”, we passed.  Easy enough, so I passed.  I didn’t enjoy the class.

Joy: Why are you in Filipino Martial Arts now?

Eli: I always wanted to learn Filipino Martial Arts because it’s Filipino and I’m Filipino.  Aside from that, I like it because it’s a system that uses different weapons and that it’s very applicable to real-life fights.

Bot: My dad convinced me (chuckling softly).

Joy: Why did you want your son to learn Filipino Martial Arts?

Eli: When he was in high school, I knew that soon, his school work would require him to stay late in school. I wanted him to learn skills to make him confident when he has to commute home alone. I believe that Filipino Martial Arts could teach him those skills.

Bot: Dad explained the reason why I needed to learn it and then showed me some movies like Game of Death with Bruce Lee and Dan Inosanto.  In the Bourne series, Dad said “See, with Filipino Martial Arts, even a ballpen can be deadly.”  That convinced me.

Joy: In high school you were bored with Filipino Martial Arts. How do you feel about it now?

Bot: I enjoy training now. Of course the training is more serious. I have to learn more challenging techniques and I usually go home with sore muscles. But I like it because it helps me be fit and healthy, and teaches me techniques I can use in the streets if ever something bad would happen.

Joy: Do you see yourself staying in Filipino Martial Arts for years to come?

Eli: Yes.

Bot: Most definitely.

Andres Bonifacio movie fight scenes: too dark


I’m Filipino but I don’t care much about our local movies. Sure, I love many things about the Philippines– our people, natural resources, culture, food, clothes, history, music, sports and games, and of course, our martial arts. The movies, however are different. In my mind, many are slapstick, commercialized, and haphazardly done.

So I was glad that the recent Metro Manila Film Festival  included Andres Bonifacio: Ang Unang Pangulo . If you don’t know yet, Andres Bonifacio was the leader of the Philippine Revolution and especially interesting to us Filipinio Martial Artists, is his fighting prowess. He usually fought holding an itak in one hand and a revolver in the other. Now, that’s impressive!

Andres Bonifacio Monument showing him holding an itak on the right hand and a revolver on the left.

I looked forward to watching the movie because I knew it would be educational (we Filipinos are not experts in our own history) and it would also be a show of support to movie makers who strive to make quality, patriotic films.

And of course, I wanted to see the fights! Later on I found out that the fight scenes were choreographed by Sonny Sison, who did a lot of work in Hollywood.

Well anyway, according to one interview I watched on TV, the movie aimed to present an aspect of Andres Bonifacio’s life not known to many: his love love. Okay, I accept that.  So, I sat through those lovey-dovey parts and waited for the fight scenes.

Well, my reaction? The fight scenes were too few and too dark!

The fights were mostly done in the dark that I had to strain my eyes to catch the details of the moves. There were lots of running, jumping over fires, grunting, and blade against blade sounds.  I saw a lot of powerful, long-range strikes utilizing a lot of our angles.   But disappointingly, that’s about it. It was just too dark to see.

Maybe the director did not want the scenes to be too gory so he made the lighting dim.  But for me, whose main goal was to enjoy the fight scenes, it was a let-down.

The last scene where Bonifacio and his men ran in a large open field, towards the enemies guns and canyons was dramatic but I wonder if they were really that “brave” to face the enemies that way.

My main take home thoughts?

  • Fighters should learn how to fight in darkness or dimly lighted areas. In fact, I agree with my friend Mio that all martial artists should get a stint as a Barangay Tanod to get the feel of how it is to fight in the dark or dimply lighted areas where opponents would suddenly spring out of nowhere.
  • Fighters should do lots of cardiovascular exercises also. In the movie, the revolutionaries would jump over fires and run fast in big open fields carrying their weapons. Now, that would be hard to do if all you train in are weapon techniques, right?

So anyway, thank you for this  intelligent and  high-quality movie. It helped clarify some points in our history.

It’s just sad that this movie did not make a lot in the box office but I hope that it won’t deter movie makers from going this path again. Maybe us Filipinos will shape up and finally learn to appreciate good history films.

I hope so.

Pugay to all!


You can watch the whole movie here. The longest fight scene is at around 1:05

There is always something there to remind me

“This is not good,” I told myself. “I probably should go back to Filipino Martial Arts training soon.”

You see, I was in a church service tonight, and was only vaguely hearing what the pastor was saying because I was so distracted. First, it was the pen in his shirt pocket.  I thought of the long list of  lethal moves I could do with it. Then his microphone, another long list. And then the mic stand….

I’ve burned out and it’s been almost two months now that I’ve pulled back from FMA training and all other related activities. (Check out my earlier post I’m tired of Filipino Martial Arts.)

During this break, I realized that I can’t completely shut off FMA. Remember that catchy 1960’s song “There is always something there to remind me” by Burt Bacharach and Hal David? It’s true of FMA.

I go to a book store and spot a knife book.



It’s kitchen book alright but that hold can very well be ours. IMG_20141111_160309

I go to a hardware store

IMG_20141112_132131and find walking sticks

IMG_20141112_131139and knives.IMG_20141112_125920And don’t let me get started on the mall’s kitchen section: weapons are just too many to mention!


IMG_20141112_123925I sit at a doctor’s waiting room and get mesmerized by the pens and scissors on the secretary’s table. I eat lunch and remember the farmers’ bolos cutting palay.   I see a flag and think of Lapu-lapu, Andres Bonifacio, and Diego Silang.

There’s really no escaping. FMA is and will always be a part of my life and unless I want to think of lethal moves in church again, I better start getting small doses of FMA soon.

We’ll see what happens.

I’m tired of Filipino Martial Arts

Sometimes, even I find it hard to believe  that less than two years ago, I didn’t care a bit about Filipino Martial Arts. I didn’t care because I knew next to nothing about it. Sure, I knew that Arnis (as Filipino Martial Arts is popularly called here) was the Philippines’ “new” national sport replacing sipa, and that it used sticks as weapons. But that was it.

Now if you let me enumerate all the things I love, FMA would be easily included. It has helped me become fit and healthy and confident. It has introduced me to worlds that I never knew existed before.

FMA made me happy.

But somehow these past few weeks have been different. I seem to have lost the spark. The excitement and hunger diminished and the emotions were no longer raw. Whereas before, I looked forward to every training session, reveled in it, and then went home only to read and watch some more, now even my FMA Facebook remain mostly closed.   I’m bored, uninterested, and tired.

My rational mind labels this weariness as burnout.


:the condition of someone who has become very physically and emotionally tired after doing a job for a long time (Merriam-Webster)

Well, although my case is probably mild, I know that that’s what I have. And because I know the diagnosis, I also know the cure.

I. need. a. break.

That’s why my sticks and blades quietly rest in their cases now.

In the meantime, I rest, run, and do strengthening exercises. Sometimes though,  when I do arm exercises I long for my weapons…

But the longing is not enough to make me take them out of their cases. Not now, not yet.

I’m on vacation.


I’m sure I’ll eventually come back.

But for now,  I rest.

A tree fell on my car and gave me an awesome workout

Photo credit: NASA
Typhoon Glenda 2014. NASA image by Jeff Schmaltz

The eerie howling of the wind woke me up at around 5 AM. Power was out and although all our windows were shut, it was chilly. “It’s going to be a memorable day,” hubby said (it was his birthday).

The Philippines has around twenty typhoons (tropical cyclones) a year and this year’s seventh, Typhoon Glenda (International name, Rammasun) was one of the worst to ever strike Metro Manila (sustained winds 94 miles/hour with gusts up to 116 miles/hour).

Around 6 AM, the winds intensified and banged our kitchen windows. I kept praying that the glass wouldn’t break. Hubby decided to open the shutters a bit to lessen the pressure but that meant rain entering our kitchen. I was so nervous that I decided to hole up inside our bedroom! There was nothing we could do but wait.

It took another four hours before the howling stopped. Whew!

The aftermath:

Me and my family in various areas of Metro Manila were safe. That’s the most important. I just hoped that when the national reports come in, they wouldn’t be devastating.

Anyway, we looked out to our yard and saw this:

One of the main branches of our decades-old mango tree fell…


and hit my car!

Typhoon Glenda 2014

Hubby’s car which was parked a few feet away was spared, yay!

At first, hubby’s plan was to borrow or buy a power saw to cut all the branches, but then I remembered one training session Master Cris and the rest of  our group had.  They cut tall grass with their itak. So I thought, “With all these trees to be cut,  why not use my Eskrima training? It could turn out to be a terrific workout!”

“Go, ahead,” hubby shrugged when I told him my idea. Did I sense some amused doubt there? 🙂

Anyway, I got some old socks, cut off the ends and used them to cover my arms, just like how master Cris described what they did when he worked in the farms in Davao.

And then I hacked and hacked with all my might!


Our neighbors came to help.




Janet, who grew up in a farm in Tacloban knew how to wield an itak and her strikes were strong and precise. No wonder a lot of farmers are good in Eskrima!


Good thing only my rear bumper was damaged. Hey, how did that branch get UNDER the car?  P1060579

That’s hubby, the birthday boy.P1060571

We were careful not to get bitten by these!


We only had these tools but we accomplished a lot.


It turned out to be a happy, awesome workout for everyone.


The next day, hubby hired five men to finish the clearing up.

All’s well that ends well.

That was an awesome workout, I must say. 🙂

Thank you for taking time to read The Deadly Dance.  Pugay!


To read my post about another terrible typhoon, the worst in modern history, click here. 


Arnis fruit


After our practice recently, Master Cris and I went to the fruit and vegetable stand owned and manned by a fellow arnisador, Johnny.  When we arrived there, Master Cris asked me, “Ma’am nakakita na ba kayo ng bunga ng arnis?” (Ma’am have you seen the fruit of arnis?)

At first I thought he was asking me a profound figurative question and although a bit puzzled, I started to think about how to answer.

Haha! I didn’t have to make the effort afterall, because Master Cris was referring to the literal rattan fruit also known as kalapi.

Yes, I’m a filipino based in the Philippines but I’ve never seen this fruit before. Maybe I just wasn’t aware but I don’t even remember seeing a rattan tree before.

That's Johnny, introducing me to the real fruits of arnis!
Johnny and I, documenting my first time to see a kalapi.

Anyway, from afar they looked like longgan or lychees. Close up, the outer layer looked like scales or snake skin. When you peel it, you’ll see shiny brownish flesh.

rattan fruit, kalapi

The taste? SOUR! Much like a very sour calamansi or tamarind. But after a few seconds, there was a sweet aftertaste and Johnny said that in October when it will really be in season, it will be sweeter.

Ok, that will be worth waiting for. For now, I’ll pass… 🙂