Grandmaster Teofilo "Pilo" Velez
Few people have promoted the early Balintawak art as Teofilo Velez did. He housed the club at his home where nightly workouts of the Villasin-Velez branch of the Balintawak club were held with check-ups by Grandmaster Bacon. His senior instructors were Bobby Taboada and his sons Chito, Eddie and Monie Velez. Bobby was a more dedicated student of the master as against Velez’ own sons. That does not mean that his other sons were not as good. You always had to watch out for Chito and Eddie, they did not hesitate to hit or hurt, if necessary. Bobby was often used as “dummy” during demonstrations. To show realism, Bobby often suffered cuts on the forehead with strikes. It was brutal!
In one event, Bobby wanted to show off his skills. To cool off his up and coming student, unbeknownst to Bobby, Velez was a natural lefty, thus ambidextrous. Velez shifted his stick to his left and gave Bobby a big whack which served as an object lesson on humility to his young upstart. Demonstrations by Bobby, Chito and Eddie were realistic and very scary fighting scenes - using real knives with split second thrusts and parries - with little or no safety precautions.
After college, with the author’s practice of law and business, martial arts fell in the back burner in matters of urgency. It was through Velez’ invitation that the writer resumed his eskrima studies. The visit to his club started to become nightly and his interest intensified. Villasin also came nightly for workouts at Velez’ backyard on Sikatuna Street at the Parian District until Villasin resumed his classes in his backyard, also in the Parian District. Velez’ backyard was a few square feet, with a pigpen on the side and benches around to accommodate the seated students. We were always sparring at very close quarters, literally and figuratively.
Velez was a friendly and affable fellow, quick to grab your hand and uncomfortably long in releasing it. He was a loyal soldier and a faithful defender of the Balintawak name. He was also a good teacher. In his humble means, he often hosted get-togethers at his home for the Balintawak members. He was a recruiter for and promoter of the art. At his home, he ruled with an iron fist, taming his three sons Chito, Eddie and Monie Velez, his daughter Caridad and Bobby Taboada.
He was also a graceful dancer as he and Villasin would sneak out to the dance school to the consternation of their wives, early evenings to learn cha-cha and tango steps. Their wives held tight reins on them but that did not dissuade them from learning the dance steps. Their dance grace translated to eskrima grace and style.
Balintawak owes Velez gratitude for the multitude of students that grasped loyalty to the style (including the author), to Villasin and to Bacon. Velez was the PR man of Balintawak.- amiable with friends but fierce in the defense of Balintawak, especially severe and stern in handling his boys and Bobby.