Sunday, July 17, 2011

Fair Play: Wekaf and the Doce Pares initiative

A tamer version of this column appeared on Sun.Star Cebu on July 16.
ONE time in 1997, my landlady surprised me with a funny message that I still remember to this day.

It was the time before cell phones and instant messages and to contact someone, you’d have to, well, leave a message and hope he gets it.

“Your boss called,” my landlady, who grew older by a decade during our stay at that Sto. Nino Village boarding house, said. “And he wants you to go to Baseline tomorrow for ‘we f**k.’”

“We what?” I wanted to say but didn’t since my landlady, who was as conservative as an 18th century nun, seemed to have begun to wonder what part-time job I was into.

Of course the strange message had me curious and the next day, when I got to Baseline, the sight of a bunch of old guys with sticks killed whatever strange notion I had.

It was the World Eskrima Kali Arnis Federation, or Wekaf. My landlady, inadvertently wtiched the two letters in the acronym.

That day was the first time I learned that arnis was a sport.

For me, and perhaps, for most of my kababayans, arnis was a boring stick-fighting method that makes no sense. One you learned as a boy scout, taught by scoutmasters who hid under the shade while you spent eight hours baking under the sun, repeating moves 1 to 11 if you miss move 6.

That experience as a boy scout scarred me for life and as a group—hundreds of boy scouts—we all thought that arnis was a crappy art that deserves to go the way of the dodo.

Martial arts—like any subject—is only as good as the teacher and a student’s desire to learn is directly influenced by a teacher’s competence, or lack of it.

As boy scouts, we never learned about Wekaf because our arnis brains got f**ked up by scoutmasters so incompetent they almost killed a kid in a fire drill (poor kid was screaming for his life before a member of the audience decided to act and save his life.)

So I consider myself lucky because of that day, when I got introduced to arnis as a sport, and for my experience with Doce Pares, a Cebu-based school that has raised the status of the martial art worldwide and is trying to do the same in Cebu.

Doce Pares, led by the venerable Diony CaƱete, a grandmaster who is as quick with his mind as he is with his hands, is trying to make Cebu a must-be-there place for arnis practitioners, like what the Shaolin Temple is to kung fu practicioners.

Aside from putting up a Tesda-accredited Eskrima School, where prospective teachers from abroad get their certificates to teach the art, Doce Pares is putting up the Eskrima Temple, which will be inaugurated on July 26, up there in their nine-hectare mountain training park in Busay.

They also have a three-storey building inside Sto. Nino Village, and another beachfront training park in Badian.

That is aside from their various tasks as ambassadors for the sport all over the world, teaching the art to willing foreigners who seem to value arnis more than locals.

Of course, there’s also Wekaf, the biennial competition set to start July 21 that gathers worldwide experts in forms and sparring, where they can touch base with the other practitioners and compare ideas.

But for me, the most important job Doce Pares is doing is none of the above. I believe one of Doce Pares’ best move, one that will change the sport in Cebu and perhaps in the Philippines, is what they plan to do this school year.

Doce Pares, with the help of the Department of Education, will be sending its experts to the various schools to teach the art, a stepladder process that will see the students advance in their learning as they advance in their school level.

Arnis should be taught by experts, not by bored teachers who lack the skills.

And that is what Doce Pares wants to do, starting this year. And in the future, these students could represent the Philippines in Wekaf because it is only through competent teachers that a student learns to love a subject, or a martial art.

Wekaf, and not we got…you know.

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