From Uli Weidle's travel diary:
XV. Travel to Philippines Dec 2003 – Feb 2004: Christmas and
two times New Year in the Philippines
Arrival in Manila
December 2003, as I arrive at Manila immigration it all starts with the realization: my passport is quite full. I need to get a new passport, because there is no more proper space for new visa stamps. However, in the Philippines such problems can easily be solved. And after clearing immigration,
meeting again with my Filipino friends is in close proximity.
Christmas and Otso-Otso
Christmas always is a special time in Philippines. Religion and family are highly valued and so Christmas is a meaningful time for most Filipinos. With that in mind, my first impression that the most prominent Christmas song is Otso-Otso, comes as a somehow unexpected surprise. Otso-Otso is everywhere and anytime. For example a taxi driver jokingly describes his way of curving through traffic as Otso-Otso (8-8)! Besides being an adequate description for driving in Manila, Otso-Otso is a dance and a song, that becomes ear candy so quick, it might become a more successful export article as was the Philippines originated Love-Letter Email Worm at his prime. For those who like to risk it, our bibliography at the bottom of this article provides a link to Otso-Otso. When listening the song, caution is advised, because after no more then three times of listening there is increased craze danger! :)
Meets and Missed
Meeting again my Filipino friends from the Manila Pitbulls and the Submission Dungeon, particularly Jay, Rommel and Danny, is something I looked forward to during the whole flight. It is good to find all of them in good health and enjoying their lifes. Only a pity that I missed my friend Leslie Buck from Texas by a couple of days. I would enjoy meeting him again, but for sure there will be another time for us to meet.
Asking about my friend Danny I am told that he is in the mountain area for a special tournament. There he represents his tribe as a fighter in a competition in which fights are carried out using spiked sticks and without protection gear. Later I come to know that Danny won the tournament, but that he chose to stay a couple of extra days in the mountains, before showing his face again in Manila business world.
New Years Eve and Special Action
My first impression at New Years Eve: We are at war; Firecrackers and other explosives are used to stop an invasion in Philippines. Indeed I wouldn't have been surprised to read that headline in next days newspaper. With the 15th of December the Election Gun Ban was put into effect. Gun Ban is scheduled to last until June 9th. That means general weapon prohibition – no guns, no knives even for those people that otherwise have a carry permit. But that doesn't seem to stop some Filipinos to shoot with everything that bangs.
Well prepared by New Years Eve experience, I start my exchange training with the Special Action Force (SAF) of the Philippine National Police (PNP) in Bicutan.
SAF is the Anti-Terror Special Operations Unit of the Philippine National Police.
A couple of months ago, Rommel was put in charge of training them. And he is doing a good job! The commando displays a good mix of morale and dedication. Everybody in the commando knows about the necessity and usefulness of the training. Training is outdoor. It starts sunrise early morning and continues into the burning midday heat. Even in water breaks the commando members assemble in small groups to exchange and repeat the training material.
Commanding Officer is Captain Cautiver. He leads his men by example, showing genuine enthusiasm and using each opportunity for additional training and to advance his understanding. Meeting men like him is always a pleasant experience. I am pleased that, based on the shared training experience and technical discussions, good interpersonal relations developed. I am looking forward to deepen that experience in the next meeting.
With Grandtuhon in Bacolod: Pekiti-Tirsia in Action
Big surprise: Pekiti-Tirsia has its own weekly TV show in the Philippines. The title is: «Pekiti-Tirsia in Action!» Grandtuhon invites me for the premiere. It is not my first time to appear in TV, but I am still not used to that. It is kind of funny and a little irritating to see oneself in the TV screen, while answering questions to the camera.
In the first broadcast Grandtuhon invites masters of diverse Filipino Fighting Arts and brings them together with outstanding citizens for a lively discussion. Topic of discussion is the significance of Filipino Martial Art for filipino culture and for the young generation. During the show movie clips from Grandtuhons activities in Europe and USA and from the training of AFP (Armed Forces Philippines) are shown. Myself I give an account about how the Filipino Fighting Arts and especially Pekiti-Tirsia are treasured in Europe and how the European Pekiti-Tirsia practitioners appreciate the exposure to filipino culture and to the life appreciating philosophy as is conveyed by Pekiti-Tirsia. During the show, there are open phone lines. The received calls prove that the impact caused by the show is tremendous. After the show many offers to support the activities of Pekiti-Tirsia are received by the broadcasting company.
I train with Grandtuhon in Sibat and Tri-V with emphasis on counter stab variations and complications. During my time in Bacolod I am able to meet with a senior student of Professor Vinas, and I had again a hearty meeting with master Patcheko. The time with him proves, his "taifunic power" is still strong!
In the second and third issue of »Pekiti-Tirsia In Action« the show has live questions from the spectators. According to the broadcast service, the interest in the series is very high - the viewer ratings double with each aired show. One of the feedback to the first broadcast was the request to show more of the practical concepts of Pekiti-Tirsia. Because of that, the producer moved the show to the big studio. In the second show Grandtuhon and his nephew Rommel Tortal demonstrate basic principles of Pekiti-Tirsia. To see them in action is always a truly awesome experience.
In the third show the spectators ask explicitly to see me. To satisfy that request, Grandtuhon and myself give an impromptu demo about knife combat and empty hand tactics against knife. Grandtuhon is bloody fast, and because both of us are using live blades it is an exiting display. After the show, while going around in the city I get approached by several people who saw the show.
Rommel asks me to accompany him back to Manila. A production team from BBC is expected: They come to Philippines to produce a documentary about Filipino Martial Arts and culture. Rommel wants me to join for the meeting with the contact person. The training in Bacolod was demanding. To help me regenerate fast, Grandtuhon arranges a ginger massage. The healers doing the massage explain me that the local ginger is different from the foreign one. The procedure is painful but doing good. My body feels like its burning inside for almost one day. I have lots of new energy!
Manila second time
After arrival in Manila I meet with the Manila Pitbulls to train together. Inky, the contact person from BBC, is there as well. On arriving at the training site, the Pitbulls ask me whether I had training with Grandtuhon. I answer that by showing my open hands. No further questions asked.
Danny is also there. He has some snapshots, secretly taken from the hip, that show the fights in the mountain. On the pictures are fight scenes and in the background are Filipino people in traditional costume. As Danny explaines, the tournament was part of a bigger event, which prime meaning was not the win of the individual. Each of the eight fighters represented their respective tribe and the fights were part of a ceremony with the goal of bringing the fighters and the tribes closer together. Apparently there was rivalry between the tribes that cost many lifes before.
The old men decided that to end this rivalry a special ceremony should be held and this ceremony should include fights, which should be carried out as short, high intensity fights with no rules, no protective gear. To resemble blade fights, sticks were used that had a nail sticking out a few millimetres on each side so that it was a relatively safe way of edged weapon fighting (as much as the phrase "relatively safe" can be applied to any way of edged weapon fighting). The old people were supervising the fights. The pictures I saw showed that it was a bloody affair; but when I met Danny he didn't show any visible scars. Maybe they used a good Himag? I will have to ask next time. According to Danny the ceremony was successful and the atmosphere between tribes and fighters after the fights was very good. I would have liked to eye witness this event, but some things are not possible.
Danny shows me his latest knife collection. The knifes are really beautiful and some are really exceptional design. I bring some for my friends in Germany.
Bacolod again: BBC, Mayor and the year of the monkey
Grandtuhon wants me to be present for the BBC movie making. I fly with Rommel to Bacolod. There I meet Dog Brother Nick „Pappy Dog“ Papadakis, who arrived in Philippines a couple of days ago, to make a video production about Filipino Fighting Culture for National Geographic.
We welcome the BBC Team with a delegation from the Office of Tourism at the airport. They arrive from Cebu and enjoyed the Sinulog celebration. It seems everything was very hectic, because while talking I get the impression that they didn't really get the meaning of Pit Senyor. As I've been told, they have been filming Doce Pares, Black Eagle and Balintawak – several systems in one day. In Bacolod they are scheduled to stay three days. In this time they will cover Pekiti-Tirsia.
But first we follow an invitation from the mayor of Bacolod. We are greeted with a warm welcome and have a good time talking with the mayor. It is interesting to hear from herself how she sees the current situation and future development of the region.
Of course the winner mask of last Maskara festival is presented too. The Mayor offers her support for the movie project and because she got curious about Filipino Martial Arts, she announced that she will try to visit the set to see how the movie is shot.
Grandtuhon wants me to participate as an actor in the movie making, but understandably the BBC team doesn't want to have European looking faces in the movie. That is ok for me. I can relax and use my digital cam to make a private 'making of'. What could be seen was amazing and I was glad that I was not bound by being an actor infront of camera. It allowes me to enjoy the whole event without distraction.
As always with Grandtuhon, everything is impromptu and unrehearsed. Grandtuhon used his contacts to bring people from the mountain region to Bacolod and persuaded them to demonstrate samples of their special skills infront of the camera. The people from the mountains show magic, rituals, incantations and martial skills. Grandtuhon and Rommel show practical Pekiti-Tirsia and traditional training methods. I can imagine, such could have been the training that Grandtuhon experienced from his Grandfather.
During an unrehearsed sword fight in a river, Rommel receives a cut at the forehead. With some Himag oil the cut is quickly taken care of and on goes the show. Grandtuhon and Rommel show sibat, iron ball training, training in water and practise on coconut shells. There are also recordings of Hilot, and at Grandtuhons blacksmith the forging of a knife poisoned with spider and scorpion is documented.
China Connection – Year of the monkey
While I experienced western New Years Eve in Manila, I celebrate Chinese New Year in Bacolod. With the help of some friends it becomes a memorable time and during the New Year celebration I get some interesting insights in Chinese Martial Arts and Ving Tsun.
Manila Again: BBC meets SAF, Guro Jun, Mano-Mano
Soon after the filming in Bacolod is completed, I return together with Rommel to Manila. The BBC team wants additional filming there. They are interested in Kali Illustrissimo, Modern Arnis and in the Pekiti-Tirsia Training of the SAF Commando and the Recon Marines. Rommel is in charge of arranging the security for the team.
Once the BBC Team arrives in Manila, they have an extensive filming with the SAF: Among other, they film in the Special Action Forces Hogan's Alley (shooting range for house-to-house and inhouse fighting). They are especially interested in the topic of sentry removal and all methods of silent intrusion in guarded areas for hostage rescue. This naturally utilises a lot of knife work.
Meeting Guro Jun and Mano-Mano tournament
In time for the BBC filming at the SAF arrives Guro Jun de Leon with some of his Canadian students. It is my first personal meeting with Guro Jun. His Manila representative, Roland Isla, I have already met several times. He and others have told many good things about Guro Jun. As I meet him, I understand why. It is interesting that Guro Jun's student trains among others Vin Diesel. Filipino Martial Art is trendy in Hollywood, and it can be expected that Vin Diesel will show more Filipino Fighting Technology in his coming movies. We have a good time and agree to keep contact.
At one occasion I get a spontaneous invitation to a big Mano-Mano tournament. Upon arriving there, I realise that security is provided by members of the Submission Dungeon. I know I am safe here and I don't need to worry about getting good seats. The rules of the tournament are similar to K1. The fighters at the tournament come from different stiles: Muay Thai, Yaw Yan, Taekwondo, Kali and others. The standard in some of the fights is remarkable: the fighters display very good footwork and extraordinary moves. Sometimes they have difficulty to comply to the rules. Unfortunately, my schedule doesn't allow me to stay till the end of the event.
Trip to the mountains
Danny invited us to his country estate in the mountains. A pleasant change to Manila! While driving there, we almost have a bad accident – but due to the drivers heightened Kali reflexes and maybe the help of guardian angels we are lucky once again and get away with the scare. Once we arrive, we have a magnificent time. Danny prove to be an extraordinary good host - it is almost as if he wanted to show that the traditional values of hospitality, concern and care are observed stronger than ever before. Nick „Pappy Dog“ Papadakis, Rommel, Grandtuhon, Jun de Leon and his canadian students are there too. It is just a great time: training, sun, fresh mountain air, the cat fish from Danny's own fish pond is ready for harvesting, and fresh fruits, fruits, fruits. It is a Kali feast! After the long time in Manila a highly welcomed recuperation! Grandtuhon teaches spontaneously some Dumog and Danny askes me for some stick and body weapon training.
Manila: Oakwood second time, Submission Dungeon, Boracay
Back in Manila I read in the newspaper, that again a group of conspiring military officers has been discovered and arrested. This evokes memories about the Magdalo/Oakwood – event, which created some excitement during my last stay in Philippines. However, this time the conspirators have been arrested without a big commotion before they were able to engage in any kind of public activity. This year's elections have the potential to become really interesting.
In Manila Grandtuhon conducts a Pekiti-Tirsia training in the Submission Dungeon: The training starts at sunrise and after a short warm up session directed by Danny, Grandtuhon teaches Dumog. It is painful and the dungeon guys are completely enthusiastic. Of course me too! As Grandtuhon has to leave due to some business appointment, the group continues training the shown material until noon time. After a short break, Danny asks me if I am in the mood to teach some material. In fact, I had different plans for the afternoon; but spontaneously I agree for a short training session. I train with each person individually on the topic that is his specific interest; we all have great fun because everybody trains with an enthusiasm that lets all of us easily forget about everything else. The enthusiasm of the people is such, that we continue training until late PM. In a short break, one of the attendants approaches me and shows a training stick that I had signed during a workshop the year before. I don't really know what to say – I am deeply touched.
At the end of the workshop another workshop attendee approaches me. He is a young Filipino, who had trained long time Muay Thai. He lived and trained in USA and returned to his home country now, to find true Filipino Martial Art. After the workshop we talk for a long time.
After training, Danny surprises me by giving me a free three days stay in Club Panoly, Boracay as a present. This way I eventually happen to get three days of beach vacation in my almost three months in Philippines. Thank you very much, Danny!
Good-Bye-And-See-You-Again-Party from the Manila Pitbulls
Sadly enough my time in Philippines is limited and my responsibilities as Managing Director of Pekiti-Tirsia Europe require my presence in Europe. The Manila Pitbulls arrange a good-bye party that by tradition is hosted by Buddie in his place. Guro Jun and many others are there, too. The Pitbulls tell me that this party – as the others before – is not a fare well party, but a «have—a—good—trip—and—come—back—real—soon»-party. I like that idea! And I like the party! If there wouldn't be already so many reasons for me to return to Philippines, yet alone the most delicious food that Buddies wife Jesca prepared for the party, would be sufficient reason for returning many more times. This time once again, the food reinforces my already made decision to come back real soon. In May Grandtuhon will be in Europe and my next trip to Philippines is already scheduled for July.
Love Letter Email Worm
Election Gun Ban