Friday, January 28, 2011

Healing, the Pinoy Way

We are a class of our own. We have great warriors, we have great cooks, we have great women. We also have great healers. They are called by many names, all I will call them are Pinoy Healers.

Since ancient times, perhaps even before the colonization of the country, the Philippine traditional healing arts developed. These healers are the few among the villages and towns who dedicate themselves in the learning of the art, handed down from generation to generations before. Surrounded by mysticism and secrecy, these healers protect the knowledge  and skills they inherited from ancestors. Stories and legends became popular, telling tales of cure of maladies, sickness and disturbance with the help of the healer.

A general term for such a person is "Albularyo."

An albularyo is believed to be a person endowed with gifts of healing. An alll-in-one healthcare practicioner, the albularyo remedies the ailments of the Filipinos whether it be physical, mental or spiritual. They are experts of the use and application of plants and herbs. They know very well the human body. They calm the mind of the distressed. They know all these through years of training under a full pledged albularyo of the town. Due to the nature of their exclusivity and secrecy, the veil of mysticism hasn't been lifted even with the modern day albularyos. Their healing arts remain a trade secret, given only to the few individuals who intend to learn the arts in order to help others.

Apparently, most of what the albularyos do is not very mystical. The healing herbs and plants are ever present in our environment. The study of human anatomy, touch points, effects of touch enable them to cure most maladies through hilot. The calm, soothing words when an albularyo is consulted brings a troubled mind to ease, especially with instructions from the apparent wise. All of these are also being acknowledged in the field of science, and slowly, the practical albularyo is gaining respect again especially from the people in the big cities. But that is just one facet of the albularyo. There are still others, but it will be said at another time.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Rattan, The Pinoy Warrior's Vine

Scary looking stem of a plant? Perhaps.

This is one of the many species of rattan, a vine originally growing in the tropical regions. To date, about 600 species of this plant are known, among which, a few are known to grow in lengths of 100m. Originally called "rotan" in Malay, hundreds of uses has been developed to utilize the stem of the plant. Furniture, ornaments, keepsakes, and even weapons have been developed using rattan, and their use is ever increasing.
These tropical vines are easier to harvest than timber, easier to transport and grows faster than tress, thus making it a very attractive resource. It is an great alternative to wood furniture and for years it has been used to make the best furnishings in home or in the outdoors. Because of its flexibility to a certain extent, a lot of creativity can be exercised in the use of rattan in furniture making, particularly the rattan core. Almost all parts of the rattan can be used. The skin of rattan strands are peeled off the core and used for weaving. The remaining stems are then processed further, split into small diameters and become the basic material of rattan furniture.

Photo from Marketmanila
Some species of rattan are edible, and some bear edible fruit. Like bamboo, the shoots could be turned into delicacies. The fruit on the other hand, resembles a scaly egg and tastes sweetly sour. It is not popularly known that the fruits can be eaten, it is even rarer cultivated because of its fruits. In the Philippine markets, rattan fruits are an uncommon sight and finding one may be hard.

Aside from the mentioned usage of the tropical vine, there is one use of the rattan plant that a Pinoy warrior would definitely be interested in... martial arts. In the past decades, rattan gained popularity in its use as a tool for practice and as a weapon.

Present day practicioners of the Filipino Arts of Combat use sticks made from rattan. Delicately hardened over fire, these sticks retain the flexibility and durability to withstand multiple strong impacts. With the rise of the present day grandmasters of the Filipino arts, these "bastons" became the training material of choice for safety reasons. The choice of why rattan was used is simple. It is lightweight but strong and durable. It will break but will not shatter. It will spread into thin strands but will not splinter. It is also very much available locally. Compared to local hardwoods, it is cheaper and more practical.

Traditionally, knives and swords were used in the learning of Philippine sword arts. Restrictions by the colonists of the islands prohibited the practice of the deadly arts, therefore resorting to secrecy and seclusion. The sound of clashing metal is more inconspicuous than the sound of sticks hitting each other. Thus the rise of the popularity of the "baston." Now, it is this lowly vine that helps in the preservation of what is "sariling atin" (truly ours), the Filipino sword arts.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

3 Rulers of Old Manila

Rajah Soliman and Rajah Matanda
Three Rajahs. Three rulers of Manila. Three great men. Before there was Spain sovereignity in the Philippines, there was a glorious Manila.

According to popular historical write ups, Rajah Matanda and Rajah Sulaiman(or Soliman) ruled Manila and Rajah Lakandula ruled Tondo. All three of them are blood related. Lakandula and Matanda are brothers, and Sulaiman is their nephew. It is hard to guarantee the kingdomship of the rulers, but the definite thing is these three are the lords of Maynilad.

Maynilad was a stronghold. The kingdoms are big, their powers are influential. They are descendants of the royalties in Brunei. People pay tribute, sailors and traders pay anchorage. The Spanish conquistadors had its sights on Maynilad and wanted to occupy the area. Compacts and treaties were made, between the conquistadors and the rulers but due to non-conformity to agreements by the conquistadors, tension sparked ensuring uprisings and revolts. Eventually, Spain had it her way completely.

The fearless Rajah Sulaiman engaged Spanish forces and due to superior technology of the conquistadors, his army was defeated and the rajah was killed. Same thing happened to Rajah Lakandula, but the ruler of Tondo perished under the hands of Limahong, a Chinese pirate as some historians say. For fear of the lord of Manila, it was only after the death of Rajah Sulaiman, did Spain declare Manila as the colonial capital.

I never knew that Tondo and the nearby areas has been very historical before the colonization. Not much has been written or discussed or emphasized on the history books. It was like an area of Philippine history not everyone appreciates or may have forgotten. But the warrior spirit lived on in Manila and Tondo. It was in Tondo that the fiercest and the brightest Philippine heroes emerged and grew up, and became Katipuneros. Even to the present day, many of residents of Tondo are notoriously brave and fearless.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Ati-atihan Festival and History

They look like warriors of centuries ago in a festive mood, in celebration of an occasion. They fill the streets of Kalibo, Aklan, they sound up the drums and it is only once a year. Yes, it is the Ati-atihan festival.

Currently celebrated in honor of the Sto. Nino, the Ati-atihan festival is very lively, colorful and it is a week long fiesta! The blackened dancers attract tourists from all over the world and when the festivities are done, these tourists hit the beach on the white sands of a nearby island called Boracay for more parties.

Ati-atihan means "to be like aetas"or "make belive ati's." Aetas were the primary settlers in the islands according to history books. They too are the earliest settlers of Panay Island where the province of Aklan rests. According to accepted origin of the festival, in the 13th century, 10 datus from Borneo escaping a tyrant Sultan Makatunaw, came upon the island after sailing with their slaves, warriors, families and properties aboard "balangays." Headed by Datu Puti, Makatunaw's chief minister, they sailed for days guided by the stars in unchartered waters. Upon arrival, the Datu made a trade with the natives and bought  the plains for a golden salakot, brass basins and bales of cloth. For the wife of the Ati chieftain, they gave a very long necklace. Feasting and festivities followed soon after. 

It was a pact to be celebrated. A pact between two races and cultures. In effort to show appreciation to the kindness and hospitality of the Aetas,  the Malays smeared themselves with soot from their cooking utensils. Thus the first Ati-atihan started.

Upon the colonization of the islands, the baptism of a huge number of the natives to Roman Catholicism was celebrated and the drums were sounded. Coinciding with the Ati-atihan of old, it became a combined celebration.

The Ati-atihan festival, the mother of all festivals in the Philippines, the origin of pinoy festivities. When there was just farming and warfare on other islands, there was partying on Aklan. For the past 800 years more or less, it has been a tradition. It will be carried on for generations to come, it will be our original, local Mardi Gras.


Monday, January 10, 2011

The OFWs

Photo from Pinoy-OFW
They are the new breed of Pinoy warriors. They carry the warrior spirit of Filipinos to fight for survival and sustenance. They are the Overseas Filipino Workers.

In the days of old, heroism and war are done on the battlefields, away from home. When a man leaves home for battle, there is a chance of no return. Far away from the family to defend peace, their way of living and for honor, many return but gets changed forever. Such bravery, valor and sacrifice is now being faced by our fellowmen.

It is a battle. A battle against poverty, hunger and livelihood. It is the survival of  Filipino families that are being threatened, and the OFWs are seemingly soldiers sent out. They deal with loneliness, the distance, isolation, and a lot more. Going against the self is a lot harder than dealing with abusive employers, no salaries,  and other hardships. They miss the milestones, the joys of the moment, the festivities, the care of a family., the place they call home. They miss life as we know it, and turn theirs into a mere working existence.

The OFWs are the new Pinoy warriors, the battle is about survival. The spirits of our ancestors who fought battles before, lives within these warriors as they engage in this fight. They may not look like it, but they are. Amidst all the smiles, the laughter, you will be able to see their strength and the warrior within.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Pinoy Martial Arts

Everyone knows about arnis. Everyone has heard or seen of it. But only a handful few had dedicated themselves to the preservation and the promotion of the art.

Filipino martial arts are the most organized, systematic and ingenious form of martial arts. It equips a practicioner all the tools to maim, damage, hurt and disable an opponent with or without weapons. Filipino Martial art is a knife based system. Even without knives or swords in hand, the movement of attack or defense are still in a cutting, slashing and chopping motion. Very efficient.

Different variations, different styles, different names. But they have all have something in common. Although generations and generations have passed, these arts has been handed over from descendant to the next, now, more and more people are willing to share. Like the Grandmaster of Lightning Scientific Arnis International, Benjamin Lema, he was willing to let others learn.
It was a fulfillment for me when I saw that these arts are still alive and thriving here in Metro Manila. Although Arnis is a sport in the State Colleges and Universities, the true martial art is still obscured from most of us. It really was an effort for me to research, locate and contact people involved with Filipino Martial Arts, especially looking for a style to learn. It came upon me that our own martial arts, our own culture needs more exposure and promotion. The Masters of LSAI were kind enough to help me when I got in touch with them and I will get involved starting at their Sunday School tomorrow at UP Lagoon.

It was this video below that convinced me what arnis style I should learn. Of course there are always other schools, but maybe because GM Ben Lema is from the island of Panay, where my mom also came from, I find closer ancestral ties to the art he taught. Sadly, the grandmaster passed on and his legacy are left with the students he instructed. Please watch the video, it is and impressive demonstration.

Special thanks to Masters Jon Escudero and Master Felipe Jocano, also to Jian, and Jeff.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Pampaingay na Baril-barilan

About 20 years ago, almost every kid has one. It was a noisemaker, made by one ingenius guy who wanted something safe for the children during the New Year's revelries and maybe he made a lot of money.

You turn the rotating arm, it makes noise. You turn it faster, you get a lot more. Perfect also for role playing games of being the action star, shooting imaginary bullets. At least you don't run out of ammo, just like the stars of Pinoy action movies who don't even need to reload against an army of goons.

In a kid's mind, he becomes a warrior, a fighter. Just like in the local action movies the kid becomes an antagonist fighting for a just cause. Sadly, these toys break easily. Made of thin "palochina," one week of playing with it is a long time for a kid. For most of us, 3 days tops.

I saw these last December when I went to Divisoria. A really pleasant surprise. It was like a trip down memory lane.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Fighter of the Decade

Manny Pacquiao. Another Legendary Name. Another Legendary Warrior.

WBC voted the People's Champ as the Fighter of the Decade. Wow. He could also qualify as fighter of the century.

Eight boxing titles. No one has ever done that. If that's not enough proof, reviews of analysts, experts and even other boxers all over the papers and the net  might have a chance of convincing your doubting mind that Manny is a reality.

Although records are meant to be broken, it may take time. In his own right, Pacquiao made his mark. And he isn't done yet. He is at his prime, he is at his peak. He has all the good people around him and he makes things happen. 2011 looks challenging and exciting for the guy.

The First Pinoy International Celebrity

From Komiklopedia
Datu Lapu-lapu.

He was the first Pinoy to gain international attention. He was first in becoming legendary...worldwide. He was the datu of Mactan, and a warrior.

Debatable it is, his battle accomplishments, his past, and his story. Not so much is written about the guy, but he has statues all over the Philippines. All we know is the one thing surely under his belt, Magellan's defeat.

A win will always be a win. No matter what circumstances are involved. Once in a battle, every advantage is essential. Thus, if clearly disadvantaged, one may choose not to fight. It is a duty of a commander to know what he is up against. Poor Magellan, he was caught in a political entanglement and he was not a warfarer. Sea-worn sailors are not in a condition to fight an army with tons of battle experience, no matter what technological advantage there is. Still, a win will always be a win. And the credit goes to the datu.

It is just sad that not much is known about Lapu-lapu. Perhaps his obscurity made the man more legendary, more mythical. Good thing. All we can do is speculate and fill in the blanks. :)