I started going to the Philippines in 2007 and have been going bi-yearly ever since. This was my 4th trip over and the most memorable. Traveling with me was Craig Mason of Canada, Dan Meck from Philadelphia and Lyman Prior from Maine. All of us are Modern Arnis practitioners. We arrived in Manila Friday morning November 29th. Upon our arrival the Filipinos, dubbed us the Four Kings of Modern Arnis.
The first day was eventful. We checked into our hotel, the Pension Natividad in Malate at 5am. After a couple of hours of sleep, we decided to get money changed and get other supplies. We found out the hard way not to trust the street money changers. It turned out that they played a little slight of hand game and shorted us half of the money. After getting back to our hotel, we discovered what had happened. The staff at our hotel was very helpful and took us to the police, who helped us get our money back. It turns out that our hotel has a good relationship with the legit money changers and can assist with converting funds. At the end of the day, all was well.
Saturday was our first day of training. The 1st FMA for a Cause benefit seminar was held in Luneta Park. We were honored to be the only participants from outside the Philippines. There were many styles represented; Arnis Mano Mano Dumog, Lighting Scientific Arnis, Kali Ilustrisimo, Ensayo Tactical, Rapido Realismo Kali, Laraw Kali Pamuok and of course Presas Arnis. We enjoyed all of the presenters. There was a wide variety of systems, as well as different styles of presentation.
When it was my turn to teach, I decided to show the obstruction removal progression, as well as the cross arm lock series. I’ve taught on all of my previous visits to the islands, but that was to both American and Europeans. This was the first time I taught to a native Filipino audience. It was gratifying seeing many of the participants practicing what I taught during the break.
After the seminar, our group headed off to the seafood market. For those who have never been there, it’s an interesting experience. You can pick a restaurant and they’ll cook fresh food from the market or you can do what I like to do… go to the market and buy the food yourself. Not only do you get to see how fresh the food is, you can also negotiate how much you pay for the food. It’s definitely a fun experience and a phenomenal meal!
Sundays are a tradition for our group. We visit Luneta Park for training. There are many groups that hold their classes in the park. Our first visit was to GM Rodel Dagooc. He was a long time student of my teacher, the late GM Remy Presas. I first met him in the US in 2002. From that moment, we became good friends. We found him at the Chinese Gardens in the park. We hung out with him for a while, setting up a visit to his home and store. Afterward, we went over to work with the Kali Ilustrisimo group. Peachie and Sir Arnold took our group through some of the fundamentals of Kali Ilustrisimo. After morning training, we headed off to our hotel for rest and food. Later that day we went back to the park to meet with other masters.
After that, the days began to blur together. We had scheduled several of the masters come to our hotel for private training. The instructors and systems that we trained in included:
• Grand Master Roger Solar – Sistema Birada
• Punong Guro Ronnie Royce – Laraw Kali Pamuok
• Grand Master Jay Saceda Jumawan – Modern Lighting Kali Arnis De Abanico
It was a great experience having these masters all to ourselves. It allowed us to take our time and ask as many questions as needed. Furthermore, it was so convenient training at our hotel. No traveling, not having to deal with traffic or getting lost.
Now before anyone thinks that we were “all work and no play”, that would be the farthest thing from the truth. We started off by going to Green Hills in Makati to shop for souvenirs. Then we went to Batangas to visit the Giron Balisong Shop and GM Dagooc’s home. While in Batangas we decided to make a side trip to Tagaytay and visit Taal Volcano. The volcano is in a lake, with a lake inside the volcano. We rode horses to the volcano’s rim, although some of our horses were so small, they should have rode us. It’s a breathtaking view! While we were there, Mr. Meck decided to use their driving range and shot 19 holes in one into the volcano’s lake.
And in Manila, not only did we tour the Manila Aquarium and go equipment shopping in Quiopo, we also had the opportunity to attend the One Fighting Championships MMA event! On the last weekend of our trip, we went to Chinatown with Prof Remy A. Presas’ youngest daughter Maria Butler. Maria and her daughters (Michelle and Samantha) met us at our hotel then treated us to a wonderful chinese dinner. The evening was cut short, but good times were had by all.
Our last day was spent back in Luneta Park. We arrived early for training with GM Rodel’s classes. As usual, they were energetic. Everyone got to see why they call him “Smoking Sticks”. We made our rounds through the park saying goodbye to all of our friends, both old and new. It’s the bittersweet part of trip. Looking forward to going home, but knowing how much we are going to miss the Philippines!
This was my best trip to the Philippines so far. On my previous trips, we would be lucky to find 2 or 3 good instructors and a lot wannabes and pretenders. This trip was the complete opposite. This time there was a high quantity of quality instructors. We got to meet a lot of great people and do great things. Also while we were there, Craig Mason and Dan Meck were both promoted to Tagapagturo (Instructor) in Arnis De Mano by GM Solar.
For those who are interested in joining us on our next trip, we will be going back to the Philippines in November of 2015. I can be contacted at e-mail of 716-675-0899.