WHAT started as a summer clinic for St. Benedict Childhood Education Centre (SBCEC) is reaping dividends in arnis for the private school.
The SBCEC arnis team, started on the initiative of some parents like Wilson Manalang and Imelda Cañete Alfar, made its mark after winning 11 gold medals in the 1st Philippine Eskrima Arnis Federation (Pekaf) World Invitational Championships recently at the SM Seaside. And for good measure, the team added five silver medals and 11 bronze in just its first international tournament just barely over a year after it started.
The team is composed of John Rey (13 years old), Regina Isabela (9) and Francis Rey Anthony C. Alfar (15), Sophia Margarita (15) and Isabel Francesca Codilla (16), Kirk Andre (17) and Zach Maverick Cañete (13), Wrenze Gabriel (15), Balian Dominic (13) and Malik Rain Manalang (11), Daniel Luke and Daphne Lovely Holaysan and Matthew Jacob F. Tan.
What’s the secret behind their success?
A unique coach-student relationship because they’re trained by their parents. And not just any ordinary parents, but ones who carry the name of Cañete. And in the arnis world, the name is synonymous with legend.
“We have better communication with them than the usual coach-athlete relationship,” said Isabel, who at 16 is one of the oldest members in the group.
Isabel, who advanced to the Central Visayas Regional Athletic Association (Cviraa) in her first stint in the Department of Education meet said because their coaches are their parents, they tend to be more open and are not shy in saying what they truly feel.
But there is also a downside in having the coach live in the same house.
“They don’t want us to get hurt that much,” she said.
Her mom Boopep also said they get to have a bigger say when it comes to priorities being coach-parents.
“If their grades get affected, we tell them to concentrate on their studies first, not training,” she said.
The arnis team started last year when a few students joined a summer arnis clinic at the famous Doce Pares headquarters in Sto. Niño Village. From the summer clinic, they decided to continue training the kids in arnis and when the school found out, they eventually competed for St. Benedict, joining the Milo Little Olympics, Cebu City Olympics, the Cebu City Mayor’s Cup and the Pekaf World Invitational.
For their first tournament, the team only had less than four days to train.
“We decided to let them compete to let them experience arnis in a competitive setting,” said Wilson Manalang, whose kids Wrenz Gabriel, Baliam Dominic and Malik Rain are part of the team.
Kirk Andre, who at 17 is the oldest in the squad, admitted feeling nervous and pressured in his first two tournaments, partly because of the name he shares with the legendary Supreme Grandmaster Dionisio Cañete.
“But SGM just encouraged us to keep training. Keep on doing what we are doing so we can better ourselves,” he said.
Wilfredo, who also competed in the World Eskrima Kali Federation (Wekaf) world championships in the 1990s, said they get to share what they have learned to the team.
“We can all teach them based on what we have experienced,” he said.
He is also encouraging other parents to let their kids train in arnis.
“Parents who don’t know arnis, they will discourage their kids to try. They think it’s dangerous,” he said. “But I think basketball is even more dangerous, kay maigo ug siko imong nawong.”
But for Kirk, who also plays for the school’s basketball team, you can combine both.
“Arnis can help you with self- discipline and time management. It also helps our self-confidence,” he said.
And because they are a close-knit group of mostly cousins, they all help each other out.
“We all try our best to make ourselves perform better,” said Regina, who at nine is the youngest in the team.
After their initial year competing for St. Benedict, the team is hoping to win more medals for the school and send someone to the Palarong Pambansa. They also hope to join a qualifying tournament in July and if they win there, they could be competing in the same tournament their parents competed in in the ‘90s—the Wekaf World Championships in 2020.
To get there, the team trains regularly thrice a week in school and at the Doce Pares Headquarters.
They also train under Doce Pares’ Christhyl Gumajin, Jeffrey Navarrete and Cesario Perez while an aunt—Dovie Cañete—also helps train and coach the kids whenever she’s in town from the US.
Their regular training in school has also opened the eyes of their schoolmates to arnis and some have picked up the sport.
However, they are hoping more students will also join them so they can expand their training pool.
“They can see that we are really close knit and they are impressed with that. They don’t have to be afraid about learning arnis. It’s just like any other martial arts and besides, it can also teach you self-defense,” said Wilfredo. (ML)