Monday, July 28, 2008

Kali Country, Where the Flavor Is

The Philippine archipelago, comprised of 7,100 islands in the Western Pacific Ocean, is a small country with a big population. It once was the Pearl Of the Orient during the high time of sea expeditions. Philippine history, many argue, did not begin with the coming of the Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan in 1521. Rather, it began in the 13th century, when 10 datus from Borneo, each with a hundred of his kinsmen, landed in what is now known as Panay Island in the Visayas. Yet it was Magellan, and succeeding expeditions from Spain, who put the Philippine archipelago on the map of the world. The intrepid Magellan was dubbed the discoverer of the Philippines after he landed in Homonhon islet, near Samar, on March 17, 1521. He was later killed in Mactan island of Cebu, in a clash with native warriors led by a chieftain named Lapu-Lapu.

The Philippines is a melting pot of different cultures. Many westerners have decided to make their home in this country due to the tropical weather, ease of business and simply, the culture. Accessibility of resources found on the islands from other Southeast Asian countries together with the West is apparently abundant in the region. Basically one will get the best of both worlds.

The fighting culture is still the same as it once was. Guns and knives are relatively seen in guerrilla warfare. Where tanks and heavy artillery cannot infiltrate, bladed weapons gets the job done. Kali is the martial art of the Philippines. It was practised way back during the formation of the Srivijayan and Majapahit empires. Other popular names are Arnis and Escrima during the Spanish occupation up to present times. Pekiti-Tirsia, as a system was formed during the late 19th century by Conrado Tortal, is a system of the Tortal family. The sole heir and guardian of this system is Leo T. Gaje, Jr. who is referred to as the Grand Tuhon. Pekiti-Tirsia is a combat-oriented style, as opposed to sport orientation by other systems. Pekiti-Tirsia is currently the only Kali system recognized by the Philippine government used to train Force-Recon Marine Battalions of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Special Action Force (SAF) contingent of the Philippine National Police.

Among regular civilians, the Pekiti-Tirsia battle demeanor is rarely seen but only felt. Practitioners are taught to believe in life not in death, health not in sickness, and success not in failure. Concepts of counter offense rather than defense are instructed. This means that a practitioner, though a civilian, should be always conscious and aware with his surroundings. A battle-ready mindset should always be present. Pekiti-Tirsia prepares the person to survive in times of crisis. The ability to see the danger without engaging the danger, ability to prepare to find an exit with speed without being inside the danger zone. An immediate solution is applied leaving no evidence, a complete self-defence skill. We have to survive no matter what and at any cost. In the brotherhood, everyone is advised to always train hard for in training hard, great friendships are forged. We can never be truly friends if the friendship is only based on good times and shallow relationships. But if there is an ordeal, the friendship is forged in the fire and metal and clang of the blade. We get past the ordeal and we are friends forever.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Real world Street Awareness

A typical busy street in Manila

A couple of weeks ago, in the streets of Manila, Pekiti-Tirsia has been tested. One of the members of the PTK Manila Pitbulls has been attacked with the M.O. of car jacking. After a night out, a Kali man was driving down the street when he accidentally bumped into a motorbike. As a concerned citizen, he went down to help the fallen motorist. Seeing that the person was a bit hurt, he immediately called traffic police to notify them of the accident that happened. Until immediately an unknown motorbike carrying three persons suddenly popped out of nowhere. The three persons mugged him throwing punches and kicks all around, when suddenly he was able to deploy his personal folder knife from his pocket stabbing the three guys. These three unknown men sped off upon obtaining the knife wound. Verification was made with the district police station but no reports of any stabbings were made that night.

This kind of M.O. is a typical scenario in the Philippines. People who appear frail and helpless could attack you right then and there just as they see you taking out your wallet to give alms or as you are talking to someone in your cell. There is no more safe place. Restaurant customers buying takeout food could even get mugged with the food they bought on the way to the parking space. Home invasions are quite common when the family is out of the house and the helpers are left or even at night when everyone is sound asleep. Women and children are raped by drug dependents when high or not given money to sustain their lifestyle. There is no more security.

Real world street awareness should always be present when treading unknown territories for the enemy attacks when least expected. The level of alertness might not always be high, but in order to survive, it helps to be always wary of the things going on around you.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

When We Were Kings

It is quite irritating to know that there are some people who would rather know than understand and be happy about it. The textbook student may be knowledgeable to a certain extent. But those who go out in the real world are the true scholars and geniuses since they try to investigate if what has been written should indeed be written that way.

There are no shortcuts in life. If you want to understand, you have to go from A, then B, then C, before getting to Z. In this day and age of the internet, a lot of people would settle for the mediocre, modify it, and call it their own not knowing that the true price of knowledge was paid for in blood, sweat, and tears. Parents have a huge amount of responsibility and obligation in rearing their children and guiding them to the right path. There is no excuse for negligence.

Amidst chaos and disorder, a new breed of warrior emerges from the pits of despair. When all is bleak and murky, when the cloud of confusion looms over you in times of adversity, when all hope fails… the Kali warrior is there.

The Kali warrior is a difficult person to the uninitiated, and at the same time a direct person. His calculations precise, his decisions exact. No amount of confusion in his part where black is black and white is white. A Do or Die attitude prevails. No wonder why the sky is blue and the land green. No wonder why the waters are crystal sparkling clear where even a dip could soothe even the thirstiest of all. It is the guardian’s duty to keep it that way. They will administer exact judgment to those who tarnish it. If one can’t understand, if one can’t adjust, then so be it. We are not for you. Our discipline is for the few and the proud. There is no compromise.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Our Time To Shine

It has been 487 years since the Spanish Conquistadores set foot on the beautiful island of Limasawa aboard three ships. Since then, the Philippines, which were formerly called the Maharlikas, were an untarnished virgin island rich with Malay culture, religion and trading systems unknown to the western world. A prevailing alphabet and language was present, which was later abolished by the Spaniards when they Christianized the islands.

Katipuneros during the Spanish regime

The archipelago was often frequented by the Chinese, Malay and Arabic tradesmen. It was the most beautiful island in the Pacific. The existing fighting code was called Kali, which was an age old fighting system used during the prevailing Majapahit empires of the Indo-Malay era. To the east, it was the golden era at the time.

The Filipinos have survived three major wars and came out victorious in all. No Spanish, American, or Japanese were able to dominate the island. The battles in the northern parts of Manila and Cavite were often made through skirmishes and plunder due to the lack of rebel forces. While the Visayan and Mindanao region were merely impenetrable by the invaders, the northern region suffered severe loss and deaths since this was where they concentrated their attacks. The weapon of choice was the itak or bolo which was used primarily as a farming and hunting tool. In the south, a variety of blades were used from parangs, barongs and ginuntings. Before World War II started, the Filipinos assembled a troop of experts in the field of blade fighting called the Bolo Battalion. The Filipino Bolo was feared throughout the history of foreign occupation and the art of Kali brought many regional victories all over the archipelago. Where the Filipinos lack in firepower and ammunition, they made up with tenacity and resilience to the enemy.

Manny Pacquiao vs. David Diaz

To this day, Filipinos continue to excel in different fields. Our fellow countryman and fighting pride of the Philippines Manny Pacquiao recently claimed his 5th world title in 4 different weight divisions in the field of boxing, the first Asian boxer who has accomplished such a feat. In tough times, the courage and fighting spirit inherent in the Filipino blood is rekindled. Fighting through poverty and oppression, the battle-hardened warrior will dominate. True Filipinos will not surrender. Whatever it takes, we will prevail.