“KA maayong rang olisihon!” (He deserves being beaten up with a stick!). The teen boys in my neighborhood would say this about a new boy who was too full of himself.

Growing up, I remember my father and my older brother attending eskrima classes and practicing by themselves in our front yard. The presence of those bamboo sticks at the corner of our sala effectively kept us from misbehaving.

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Just when I thought this Filipino martial art was panting its last breath, I saw the movie “Eskrimadors” last weekend. Directed by young filmmaker Kerwin Go, youngest son of Atty. Manuel and Mrs. Carmen Go, “Eskrimadors” is a docu-drama about the eskrimadors of Cebu, especially the members of the original Doce Pares group formed in 1932….yes, 77 years ago!

The film used no doubles, and the musical scoring was original, using drums strategically and masterfully. It was heartwarming to hear the audience applaud every time they saw their eskrima instructors, grandmasters all, projected onscreen.

And even after the movie had ended, people were still milling and lingering in the lobby, talking about the movie. Focusing on cinematography in the Los Angeles Film School, Director Kerwin’s movie is clearly a work of love, taking about two years to finish it.

The legendary grandmaster (GM) Ciriaco “Cacoy” Canete was there, too, dynamic both onscreen and at the brief exhibition prior to the film showing. We remember him as among the 11 awardees and the only Filipino recognized during the 2006 Martial Arts Hall of Fame.

The award is no small feat. To qualify even as a nominee, the artist must have studied martial arts for at least 25 years. He must have made a historical contribution to martial arts and a historical impact to the whole community.

Thus, GM Cacoy shares such glory with actors Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, Chuck Norris and Steven Seagal. Jackie Chan, for instance, was recognized for “changing America’s view of martial arts and encouraging a whole generation to take martial arts.”

As is characteristic of all Filipinos who must reap international awards first before they get their fellow natives’ attention and adulation, GM Cacoy’s 11 awards include six from the United States.

And to think that his first passion was boxing. As a young boy, however, his brothers would not leave him behind while they practiced their art. So they brought him along and that began his affair with the art of eskrima. Today, he is the last surviving original member of the famed Doce Pares Eskrima Club.

In their book “Cebuano Eskrima: Beyond the Youth,” authors Ned Nepangue and Celestino Macachor link the Filipino eskrima to the European medieval fencing. Written by eskrima practitioners themselves, it is appreciably detailed in its commentary of Cebuano pioneers and innovators of eskrima.

As the book is to the reader, Go’s “Eskrimadores” is to the moviegoer. For preserving this part of Cebuano culture, I doff my hat to him! Well done indeed, and thank you very much!

(lelani.echaves@gmail.com)