Eskrima. A form of indigenous Filipino martial arts that has gained over 200,000 practitioners worldwide. In our modern world, those who recognize or practice it know it as a complex, harsh stick fighting system. But what you see in demonstrations are not just two dopes whacking each other with sticks, or more popularly, bastons. They are an execution of well-practiced fighting drills. Just like athletes, Eskrimadors spend countless hours perfecting their techniques in the gym, and at home. As hardcore fans of Filipino stick fighting have described, when two Eskrimadors continue to hit each others’ bastons during a drill, the consistent twacking noise you hear(each less than a second in between)develop into something of a rhythm, and strangely becomes music to the ears.
In the 15th century, Spanish conquistadors were overwhelmed by the native Filipino tribesmen who fought with sticks, spears and knives. With their captain Ferdinand Magellan fatally wounded, the Europeans retreated, returning with firearms and eventually subjugating their formidable adversaries. Following colonization of the Philippine islands, the Spaniards forbid the locals to practice their deadly martial arts to avoid rebellion. Masters retreated underground, practicing with simple tools made more available to them, like knives and bamboo sticks. Even more so, they somehow convinced their colonial powers of particular tribal dances, held right under their noses, as simply entertainment which in fact we choreographed sparring sessions. Complete with tribal music, highly consisting of percussions as well as rondalla, a native string instrument.
In modern context Sakuting has become a popular folk dance, and performers’ costume wear can have Chinese, Pinoy or even street-style elements. The background music can have an upbeat & energetic flair, in tandem with the fast, fluid movements of the Eskrimadors. Nowadays we can catch a show or two at the Town Plaza, especially during local festivals. Often performers would receive “aguinaldo”, or presents, which usually includes money.
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