Getting to know some Filipino Martial Arts Maestros

 

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From left: Grandmasters Martin Raganas, Jr., Pepito Robas, Punong Guro Boy Pajo, Grandmasters Henry Espera, Roberto Labaniego, Sensei Jimmy Ibrahim

Most of them are soft-spoken, unassuming, and even slightly shy. If you didn’t know any better, you wouldn’t realize that you’re in the company of men who have contributed so much to Filipino Martial Arts.

During tournaments,  I sometimes cringe when I see young athletes not paying attention when Maestros speak or do exhibitions. This has to change. We’ve got to learn about our own history.

Knowing and respecting the great men (and women) who were before us help us know ourselves better.

I myself don’t know all of them. So during the latest (14th) Arnis Pasindo tournament, in my amateur-interviewer kind of way and amidst my other duties, I got some basic first hand information.

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While everyone else is watching the tournament, I get insiders’ information from GM Martin Raganas, Jr. (first generation Ilustrisimo student) and Coach Arnold Narzo, current Chief Instructor of Kalis Ilustrisimo Repeticion Orihinal (KIRO)
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From left: Grandmasters Maximo Aldave, Lorenzo Magsico, Dr. Richard Gialogo, Grandmasters Jerry dela Cruz, Cris Pasindo, Henry Espera, Sensei Jimmy Ibrahim, Grandmaster Roger del Valle

Maestros Present (Names alphabetically arranged)

  1. Aldave, Maximo (Aikiyoi International Martial Arts)
  2. Buanjug, Eldie (Buanjug Eskrima / Lapunti Arnis de Abanico)
  3. Del Valle, Roger (Magkakaibang Arnis del Valle)*
  4. Dela Cruz, Jeremias “Jerry” (Arnis Cruzada)*
  5. Espera, Henry (Rapido Realismo Kali)*
  6. Ibrahim, Jimmy (Falcon Consolidated Martial Arts)*
  7. Labaniego, Roberto (Eskrima Labaniego)*
  8. Magsico, Lorenzo (Arnis Reform National)*
  9. Raganas, Martin Jr. (Punta Engano)*
  10. Robas, Pepito (Otsotiros Balintawak / Arnis Robas)*
  11. Valleno, Lemio “Romy” (Valleno Arnis Club /LSAI)*

*brief write up below

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From left: Grandmasters Lemio “Romy” Valleno, Maximo Aldave, Roger del Valle, Jerry dela Cruz, Henry Espera

Roger del Valle

  • Born on August 8, 1952 in Labangon, Cebu
  • Trained under Crispulo Atillo (Atillo Balintawak) and Filemon “Momoy” Canete (Doce Pares/ San Miguel Eskrima).
  • Founded Magkakaibang Arnis Ka Roger based in Manila
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From left: Grandmasters Jerry dela Cruz, Henry Espera; Sensei Jimmy Ibrahim

Jeremias “Jerry” Dela Cruz 

  • Born on April 21, 1947 in Sta. Rita, Pampanga
  • He initially trained in Karate (in Angeles, Pampanga) and in 1965 started training under Remy Presas (Modern Arnis).  He became head instructor and taught in many schools and even in the American Military Bases in Angeles.
  • In 1995, he founded Arnis Cruzada, based in Pasig City.

Henry Espera

  • Born on December 1, 1953 in Sorsogon, Bicol
  • Trained under Antonio Ilustrisimo (1980’s), Alejandro “Andy” Abrian of the Moromoro Orabis Arnis Heneral, and a certain Mang Juan.  GM Espera cannot remember Mang Juan’s surname but remembers that he headed Automatic Arnis based in Quiapo, Manila
  • Founded Rapido Realismo Kali (RRK), based in Manila

Jimmy Ibrahim

  • A Karate Sensei but very supportive of the Filipino Martial Arts
  • Born on November 5, 1953 in Cotabato City
  • Trained in Kuntao (with an “o” he emphasizes), Karate (under Dansalan Usman and then later, under Roberto Gonzales, the Karate King of the Philippine movies), and Silat under a certain Norodin
  • He is now with the Falcon Consolidated Martial Arts (Shotokan Karate)

Roberto Labaniego

  • Born on June 6, 1940 in Mambusao, Capiz
  • First trained by his grandfather on the use of  sibat (Filipino spear), then by his father on Largo Mano, Dumog, and some boxing. He later trained on Espada Y Daga under Benjamin Lema (Lightning Scientific Arnis)
  • For more information, click here.
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From left: Grandmasters Pepito Robas, Crisanto Pasindo, Roberto Labaniego

Lorenzo Magsico

  • National Training Director and Founder
  • Arnis Reform National
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From left: Grandmasters Martin Raganas, Jr., Pepito Robas, Eldie Buanjug

Martin Raganas, Jr.

  • Born on January 23, 1952 in Estaca, Minglanilla, Cebu
  • His first Arnis instructor was his father, Martin Raganas Sr., who was a member of Cebu’s Doce Pares. He also trained in Boxing, and in Karate where he became a blackbelt. In the mid 70’s, he met Antonio (Tatang) Ilustrisimo and from then on trained with him. His training-mates were Tony Diego, Yuli Romo, and Romy Macapagal. Sometimes the four of them would stay in Tatang’s house in Tondo, Manila. (Trivia: Tatang’s and Tony Diego’s houses were seperated only by a wall.)
  • Founded his own system, Punta Ingano, based in Manila.

Pepito Robas 

  • Born on May 31, 1952 in Hinigaran, Negros Occidental
  • Trained in Balintawak in the 60’s under Arnulfo Mongcal (a student of the Balintawak founder, Venancio Bacon). Then he also trained in Modern Arnis under Roberto Presas, a relative who lived near them in Hinigaran. Roberto is the younger brother of Remy and Ernesto Presas. Roberto then put up his own system, the Hinigaran Arnis de Mano, of which Robas became a head instructor.
  • Founded the Robas Balintawak System, based in Novaliches, Quezon City.
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From left: Grandmasters Roberto Labaniego, Lemio “Romy” Valleno, Punong Guro Boy Pajo

Lemio “Romy” Valleno

  • Born on May 17, 1950 in Monreal Masbate
  • Trained in Lightning Scientific Arnis by the founder himself, Benjamin Lema. Later he also trained under Roberto Labaniego (also LSAI).
  • Founded the Valleno Arnis Club (LSAI), based in Makati City.
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From left: Sensei Jimmy Ibrahim, Grandmaster Henry Espera, Dr. Richard Gialogo

***

These two maestros modestly didn’t want to be put in the same category as the above so I’m writing them as a valuable addendum here:

 Richardson Gialogo 

  • Born on January 17, 1974 in Manila
  • Trained in MoroMoro Orabes Heneral, Modern Arnis, Ilustrisimo, Doce Pares, and Pekiti Tirsia
  • Now the Director of the Loyola Schools Physical Education Program (Ateneo de Manila University) and a Senior Lecturer at the College of Human Kinetics (University of the Philippines, Diliman)
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Grandmaster Martin Raganas, Jr., Coach Arnold Narzo

Arnold Narzo

  • Born on June 22, 1970 in Tondo, Manila
  • Trained under Antonio “Tatang”Ilustrisimo and then later with Antonio “Tony” Diego. There was a time when he trained simultaneously with both of them.
  • Now Chief Instructor of Kalis Ilustrisimo Repiticion Orihinal (KIRO), based in Manila

This is basic information. Soon, I hope to get more including how long they trained with each master, their philosophy, and some words of wisdom. What else can I ask them? Please give me suggestions.

Thank you for taking time to read The Deadly Dance.

Pugay.

Following Grandmaster Rodel Dagooc

GM Rodel Dagooc, Cris Pasindo

A friend relates this story: A few years  ago, Grandmaster Rodel “Smoking Sticks” Dagooc had some visitors in his Luneta class and they were requesting him to do a demonstration. GM Rodel instead asked my Arnis Master Cris Pasindo to demonstrate and said, 

Watching him is just like watching me. Pangalawang xerox na, malinaw pa rin! (He’s already a second photocopy but still clear!)

Why second copy? Master Cris was a student of Grandmaster Mon Kiathson who was a student of GM Rodel.

When you think about it, he has a point. Aside from the facial features (many people mistake them to be father and son), their moves are almost the similar. Master Cris is getting there.

Watch Master Rodel do a demonstration  (His part starts at 1:20.  Before him is Senator Miguel Zubiri, a hybrid Ilustrisimo-Lameco stylist and also a student of the late Maestro Edgar Sulite.) 

If you have trouble viewing the video, click here

And this is a video I took of Master Cris doing a demo in one of his tournaments.

If you have trouble viewing the video, click here.

Some more videos to watch:

Master Rodel Dagooc

1.  Bay Area FMA /2002

2. Training/ 2011

3. FMA Picnic/ University of the Philippines /2006

Master Cris Pasindo

1. Blocks and disarms / Quezon City, Philippines /2009

2. Exhibition/ 2010

3. Solo demo / 2013. Please excuse the distracting music. Anyway, a friend who watched this video said that Master Cris is “scaringly fast”. I agree.

************

Thank you to Mr Mio Cusi for most of the information above. Mr Cusi is a former head of The Manila Times Research department. He also studied Arnis under Master Cris but he is now based in Vancouver, Canada.

How about you, who is the biggest influence in your style and technique?