Vicente: The story of the Sphinx Clan

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By Jayson Vicente

The Path

Friday, January 14, 2011


(Part 1)

Congratulations to Major Felix M. Balanza (OIC), Sgt. Ernesto Natura (coach), Cadet First Class Janice Baniaga Matbagan (1st, 10 kilometers), Cadet Second Class Zeporah Gabino Dalang (3rd, 21 Kilometers), and other cadets who made it in the top ten and finishers of the race for showing their prowess in the just concluded Subic International Marathon last Jan. 9.

PERHAPS one of the most decorated Martial Arts clans in Baguio, in both karate and arnis, is Sphinx Martial Arts Clan. Even in the internet you would read the name Sphinx or Black Master Sphinx added to the profile of various martial artists who are making a name in the world of martial arts.

Many of them include in their profile that they trained in the art of Sphinx. I thought at first that those people are mostly Americans, trained under the founder of Sphinx Supreme Grand Master Jimmy B. Galez Sr.

I only found out after having the chance to get in contact with some of these people that they were trained or they have trained under the Baguio based Sphinx under one of the its prominent instructors, Shihan Manuel Meneses de Leon, who passed away several years ago.

During his death, I had to break it to those people I could contact and let them know the sad news - the passing of one of the pillars of martial arts in Baguio and the Cordillera. The response was great as people spread the word and although sent late their condolences.

Being a member of the Sphinx Clan since I was 12 years old, I knew all there is to know about the clan. Because I devoted a big part of my youth doing my part to make sure the Sphinx prospers and continues the legacy of Shihan Manuel de Leon.

And so I decided to be a Sphinx by heart and by soul no matter what, fortunately I had a blessing acquaintance with one of the remaining pillars of the original Sphinx and he is instrumental in the clan's existence before and is very instrumental in the preservation of the biography of Sphinx at present.

Master Rolando Hong, a soft spoken simple guy, is one of the remaining Sphinx members in the City of Baguio. He actually trained and got his black belt under no less than Supreme Grand Master Jimmy B. Galez Sr. (the founder of the Sphinx style of Martial Arts).

As Guro Lando (as I and his other students call him) recounted, he was part of the second batch of black belts of the Sikaran Karate Club founded by Arthur Bernal, Baltazar Bernal Jr. and Jose Gomez who once lived in the City of Baguio during 1964-1966. With trainings held with then, Philippine vice president of the Black Master Sphinx Karate Clan Alfredo Villamil before it formally opened and was housed at Mabini Elementary School on Sept. 1, 1966, and in the same year affiliated with the Black Master Sphinx Karate Clan.

The first batch was that of Shihan Manuel Meneses de Leon who went on to found the Sphinx Karate Clan which instituted its home in the Young Men's Christian Association.

The long accounts of the things that have come to pass and molded the karate community of Baguio and perhaps the whole Cordillera was such an interesting topic that a mug of coffee was not enough.

Guro Lando was laying it all down in details so I am forced to do two or three parts of these accounts to give justice to the biography which could have set the benchmark for martial arts in Baguio.

So tune in for the next part and let's be enlightened about the things that transpired. Believe me, it is so interesting that even I was surprised by the interconnection of people and organizations that exist today as we know it.

For the next week's teaser here are the karate clubs which existed and their founders during the 1960s to 1970s:

- Samurai Karate Club - Eddie Oriondo
- Kamikaze Wado Ryu Karate - Orlando Centeno
- Sikaran Sphinx Karate Clan - Arthur Bernal
- Blue Kimono (TRACMA) - Emil Gapuz
- Arodan's Social Council - Andy Rodriguez
- Japan Karate Association (JKA) - Kunio Sasaki/ Arsenio Bawingan Jr.
- Shorinji Ryu - Jorge Borja Jr.

For comments and suggestions e-mail me at jaysonscorpio@yahoo.com.ph.

Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on January 15, 2011.

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