Bob Lim

LIKE most people, the singular person I know in martial arts is Bruce Lee. Up on the big screen, the charismatic kung fu icon vanquished the bad guys employing various martial arts weapons in cinematic choreography not seen before.

What’s unknown to most Filipinos is that Bruce Lee incorporated eskrima, a Philippine martial arts into his broad combat repertoire. This piece of trivia is significant to generations of Filipinos who think that the best martial arts come only from foreign lands.

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So what’s up with eskrima? For a home-grown martial arts where Cebu is its Mecca, eskrima is almost invisible to many Bisdaks. Yes, we hear about it in the form of urban legends, read about it in occasional newspaper items but we seldom see it. This situation, however, will be partially remedied with the showing of a full-length documentary film, entitled The Eskrimadors, to be shown on Jan. 30 in SM Cinema with matinee at 6:30 p.m. and the premiere at 8 p.m. At 61 minutes, the film offers an overview of eskrima from its hazy pre-Spanish origins, its pioneers, its grand masters, its physical routines and its present status.

To properly set the tone, the film opens with a juego todo duel, a no-holds-barred, full contact fight between a mature eskrima master and an up-and-coming eskrimador in an open field.

There and then, the viewer is treated to the incredible but lethal beauty of eskrima, its speed and energy presented in fast-paced editing, top caliber cinematography and a musical score that captures the up-tempo action. This early, the viewer is made aware that the film is under capable hands.

The film then moves on to the exposition of the story of eskrima which, in the absence of historical texts consisted mostly of oral tradition as told by its living grand masters, among them the venerable

Cacoy Cañete, Undo Caburnay, Dionisio Cañete, Nick Elizar, Rodrigo Maranga and Uwit Jecong.

The narrations are adroitly interspersed with well-choreographed actions scenes. One of the best parts of the film is the last portion where it shows the significant inroads of foreign eskrimadors to the sport. As articulated by the Caucasian eskrimadors, they take on their training 24/7, meaning they spend more time and effort because they have the luxury to do so. In contrast, the eskrima grand masters bewail the continued lack of interest by Filipinos on its own sport.

FOR those not well versed with eskrima, it‘s not unusual to experience an information overload.

There is the obvious need to see the film again so as to better acquaint with the multi-faceted subject matter.

Three young Cebuano filmmakers are behind this stellar project. Taking on the multiple tasks as director and co-producer is Kerwin Go, a Los Angeles trained cinematographer. He acted as cinematographer for two recent feature films for a US based production company. Before his US sojourn, he was creative director for RCTV during its first few years, took up short film courses at Bigfoot and was active in some Bigfoot productions.

Kerwin Go got valuable help from Ruel D. Antipuesto who handled the cinematography and is credited as a co-producer. Ruel is himself an award-winning filmmaker for the independent digital film Confessional that romped away with top prizes in Cinema One Originals and 2008 Star Awards, as well as in the Osian Cinefan filmfest in India.

Jiji Borlaza is associate producer for Eskrimadors. She also has associate producer credits in the Bigfoot docu USS Cooper-The Return To Ormoc Bay and in The Confessional.