31 January 2009


Iloilo City, just like its neighbors in the Panay Island and the Visayas region in general, has a rich and proud martial history and tradition.

During the Spanish era, Ilonggo conscripts--together with Cebuanos and other Visayans--were a mainstay of the Spanish armed forces in maintaining "peace" and "order" in both the northern (i.e., Luzon) and southern (i.e., Mindanao) parts of the country.

They pillaged local kingdoms, burned down tow
ns, massacred insurgents, sowed fear to potential dissenters, and generally did most of the dirty work upon orders of the Spaniards.

Used as frontliners in battle, Ilonggo and other Visayan warriors were instrumental in forcing the different tribal leaders of Luzon and Mindanao to kneel before the Spaniards and lick their boots.

It's no wonder then why--even up to these days--Iloilo City remains one of the best places in the Visayas region to learn the art of indigenous and traditional sword, stick, and empty-hand fighting.

Here is the
partial list of groups that teach Arnis/Kali/Eskrima in Iloilo City:
  • UNO-BLANCO ESKRIMA SYSTEM. They're at La Paz Plaza on Sunday mornings, almost beside the tennis court. They don't wear uniforms, but when you see guys doing some Tai Chi moves (yes, they also do train and practice authentic Tai Chi), that's them. From the looks of what they're doing, theirs is a very efficient blade-based style. They're open to everyone but they don't accept just anyone. For details, you may contact Talibung Antikenyo of the Filipino Martial Arts Forum.
  • NORTEGA ESKRIMA TRAINING GROUP. Grand Master Antonio Nortega, who was his family's duelista or representative fighter back in the old days, teaches this family system. From the looks of it, Nortega Eskrima seems more stick-based than blade-based. There's very minimal footwork, but the strikes are so powerful and "deceptive" they could surprise even a seasoned Arnis/Kali/Eskrima practitioner. Check out this YouTube video posted by a close friend to see a sample of their moves. For an appointment with Grand Master Nortega, you can either contact me (so I can hook you up with his senior students) or the person who posted the YouTube video.
  • COMBATIVE AND SPORTIVE ARNIS SYSTEM ASSOCIATION. This group is led and founded by Master Guru Melecio Balberde from the municipality of Cabatuan. The style is a clever mix of traditional systems that are indigenous to Iloilo, Balintawak Eskrima, and Modern Arnis, Master Guru Balberde being a practitioner of Modern Arnis and also a former official of International Modern Arnis Federation of the Philippines in Iloilo (though their website doesn't state this). They excel at sport Arnis/Kali/Eskrima competitions, and they have several smaller training groups around the city--at La Paz Plaza, in public and private schools, at Iloilo Sports Complex, and many others. For details, you may visit their website.
  • PHILIPPINE DYNAMIC ARNIS. Grand Master Rogelio Galvarole is the founder and chief instructor of this group. Just like the Uno-Blanco Eskrima guys, they train at La Paz Plaza on Sundays, but you can also spot them on other days--usually mornings--and it's easy to do so because they're the largest group that does Arnis/Kali/Eskrima at the park. Another way to spot them is to look for a grey-haired guy who wears hakama in the middle of La Paz Plaza. From the looks of what they're doing, this system is also a mix of various styles, is more stick-based, and incorporates Karate and Tapondo/Combat Aikido moves in their repertoire.
  • MODERN ARNIS-ILOILO CHAPTER. They may be too mainstream for some, but they also do very well even in full-contact tournaments (i.e., with minimal protective gear). For one, I have personally witnessed how Modern Arnis-Iloilo Chapter guys defeated Pekiti Tirsia Kali players in a full-contact tournament at Iloilo Sports Complex sometime in 1997 or 1998. Grand Tuhon Leo Gaje Jr of PTK was there. If my memory serves me right, only two PTK players won out of the seven or eight bouts. Five or six victories out of seven or eight bouts is no fluke, in my opinion. I learned just in April 2008 that it was Master Rosauro "Roy" De Leon of IMAFP-Iloilo who trained the Modern Arnis guys that competed back then. He also used to serve as the Arnis/Kali/Eskrima instructor of the criminology students and the police interns of the University of IloiloYou can reach Master De Leon at +63 (33) 500-2749.
  • FILMOCAN-SAN MIGUEL ESKRIMA CLUB-ILOILO CHAPTER. While this style is originally from the soils of our brave Cebuano brethren, the club already has a branch in Iloilo City and is being run by an Ilonggo instructor, Master Edward Ace Peler. FilMoCan-San Miguel Eskrima is old-style, blade-based Doce Pares. Master Peler, who now teaches a small group of select students, is a direct senior student (third-degree black belt) of the late Grand Master Filemon "Momoy" Canete's grandson, Grand Master Franchot "Panto" Flores. For contact details, you may inquire with Grand Master Flores through his Facebook account.

30 January 2009


It all started from a mere rumor.
And it turns out that the rumor is true: The Lopezes no longer own the University of Iloilo.
No, it's not Lucio Tan this time.
Instead, it's the Philippine Investment Management (PHINMA), Inc--a Makati-based company whose core businesses include construction, financial management, real estate, and oil exploration and processing--that now owns UI.
PHINMA--which also owns Araullo University in Nueva Ecija and Cagayan De Oro College in Misamis Oriental--is being headed by Makati Business Club's incumbent chairman and former finance secretary during the time of president Fidel V Ramos, Ramon R Del Rosario Jr.
Besides being the top honcho of PHINMA, he also serves on the boards of directors of Ayala Land, Inc; Holcim Philippines, Inc; Trans-Asia Oil and Energy Development Corporation; Asian Institute of Management; De La Salle Philippines; and a host of other big companies and institutions with rich-sounding names.
With Mr Del Rosario's impressive track record, the students of UI hope that they'll be in better hands with PHINMA, which has reportedly made unprecedented improvements in the two said schools it now owns.
Hopefully, this change in management should also mean better facilities, better instruction, better policies, better graduates, even better board exams ratings, and a better stature altogether for UI.
After all, PHINMA's corporate tag line (according to its website) is "Life Can Be Better."
Sources say negotiations regarding UI's buyout may have begun as early as 2005. The agreed amount of sale is unknown...yet. Rumors have it though that UI's old owners raked in nearly a billion.
In 2003, PHINMA set to build a network of three to five universities and colleges all over the country with a combined student population of 50,000 to 75,000.

Among its investment options were Araullo University in
Cabanatuan City, the University of Pangasinan, Computronics College in Dagupan City, the University of Iloilo, and West Negros College in Bacolod City.
In April 2004, PHINMA acquired Araullo University, and Cagayan De Oro College in June 2005.
UI will be officially taken over by its new owners between March and June 2009.
Meanwhile, as of this writing, all UI employees--from members of the board of trustees down to the janitors--are preparing their service records, personal files and things, updated curriculum vitae for most, and retirement applications for some. 

Photo Source: Philippine Business Magazine Website


The martial arts community is a separate universe on its own, and Helio Gracie--the creator of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu--could be one of its biggest and oldest stars.

But even real, literal stars will one day run out of fuel and die. And in the case of the man who gave us one of the world's greatest fighting styles, this martial arts star is now gone.

Gracie passed away at
the age of 95, on 29 January 2009 at his ranch in Itaipava, a mountainous region of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. He was buried in the afternoon of the same day.
Sources say he died of pneumonia.
A sixth-degree black belt in Judo and a tenth-degree red belt in BJJ, Helio Gracie revolutionized martial arts along with his older brother Carlos (who died in 1994 at the age of 92) by introducing ground-fighting techniques based from Judo and Japanese Jujitsu, which he learned from Japanese Judo expert Mitsuyo Maeda. These "new" techniques emphasized leverage and position as a way to compensate for size differences among opponents. 

During his lifetime, Gracie was involved in two legendary fights. The first was against legendary Japanese Judo champion Masahiko Kimura--who outweighed him by some 40 pounds--in 1951 when Carlos threw in the towel after Kimura broke Gracie’s arm with a reverse ude-garami technique, a shoulder lock in Judo which is known today among BJJ practitioners as the "Kimura lock," as a tribute to the Japanese fighter's victory over the BJJ founder. His second major fight, which happened four years later, was against his former student Valdemar Santana, who was also a practitioner of Capoeira, Judo, and Boxing. After nearly four hours of combat, Gracie succumbed to exhaustion against his much younger opponent.
Gracie had seven sons (Rickson, Royler, Rolker, Royce, Relson, Robin, and Rorion) and two daughters (Rerika and Ricci).

Rorion was one of the founders of the
Ultimate Fighting Championship, while Royce was proclaimed hall of famer in the UFC by winning three times between 1993 and 1994.
The fighting style that Gracie created came to international prominence in the martial arts community in the 1990s, through son Royce's impressive and decisive victories over larger and stronger opponents from other martial arts styles, such as Karate, Judo, Greco-Roman Wrestling, Tae Kwon Do, Kung Fu, and Boxing, among others.

BJJ has since become a staple art for many
MMA fighters today and is largely credited for bringing widespread attention to the importance of ground fighting.  
With this legacy and string of accomplishments that will surely outlive him, it can be said that Helio--whose name, I surmise, was chosen by his parents in reference to the sun, the star of our solar system--indeed shone during his lifetime. And brightly he did.
Thanks and goodbye, Grand Master.

It was a fruitful, well-spent life.