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.


Anonymous said...


I want to ask if all the groups you have mentioned in your post is really active here in Iloilo City. I am planning on studying FMA and have no background on any martial art.

Can I have the privilege to join any of these groups? Or do they just accept only referrals?

Which do you recommend as the group that have better training facilities and good instructors?

my email is: pragmatic_panoy@yahoo.com

many thanks

Escrima Sticks said...

awesome to to see escrima spreading and growing.

Anonymous said...

Is their a class in Manila or Malta that teaches Arnis?

thankyou, glenn schaffer