MANILA, Philippines – It is very much alive and kicking, literally and figuratively.
“Arnis is not dead. It is alive in every part of the Philippines,” said Raymond Velayo, president of Arnis Philippines, the national sports association representing the sport.
Velayo noted around 10,000 arnis athletes participated in the recent Palarong Pambansa starting from the elimination level.
According to Richard Gialogo, vice president of Arnis Philippines, all 17 regions in the country sent arnis athletes in the annual games for elementary and high school.
“Arnis teaches an individual to respect the elders through the ‘mano system’,” said Gialogo. Values such as perseverance, patience, and discipline can also be gained from arnis, he added.
Arnis is an ancient form of martial arts that uses weapons such as wooden sticks and daggers or knives. Arnis was practiced by early Filipinos as means of fighting.
Today, like other form of martial arts such as taekwondo or wushu, arnis is recognized as a sport. “As a sport, we take into consideration the safety of the athletes so we use helmets, body vests, and foam-padded sticks,” said Gialogo.
Velayo and the rest of Arnis Philippines are currently pushing for the passage of the senate bills promoting arnis as a national sport.
They attended Senate hearings last April on two separate bills filed by Senators Miguel Zubiri and Lito Lapid declaring arnis as a national sport.
“We hope that the bills would pass the third reading this time,” said Velayo. A similar was filed as early as 2005 by then-Senator Orly Mercado.
“Our task in Arnis Philippines is to preserve our culture. To preserve a martial art like arnis, it should be put in the sports arena,” he said.
In 1991, Arnis was included in the Southeast Asian games as a demo sport. After 14 years, it became regular medal event in the 2005 SEA games.
The ultimate dream, according to Velayo, is to elevate arnis into the Olympics. “We can get more support (for arnis) when it becomes a national sport and then promote it abroad,” he said.