Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri called for unity among arnis organizations and practitioners during the opening of the 1st Arnis Congress at the Philippine Red Cross Multi-Purpose Hall in Mandaluyong City on Thursday.
Zubiri, an arnis practitioner himself, is the author of Republic Act 9850 or Arnis Law declaring arnis as the national martial art and sport of the Philippines.
Over 250 practitioners from more than 100 organizations attended the event, which is said to be the largest historical gathering of arnisador (arnis practitioner) to date.
“This gathering is the biggest gathering in our history and in my experience as an arnisador since 1986. Grandmasters of major styles of arnis all over the country from Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao are here and screaming in one voice that we would be united,” said Zubiri in an interview.
Zubiri lamented the fact that arnis is more respected and appreciated in the United States and Europe.
“Many of our international organizations present here have their respective international headquarters in America and Germany. Why is it that arnis is more popular there unlike in our own country?”
“Now we are taking a hands-on approach with the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) and I am so happy with the support of PSC Chairman William Ramirez,” he said.
According to Zubiri, PSC is the lead agency mandated by law to assist in the creation of a national unified organization for arnis.
“Under the law, it is he (Ramirez) who will lead us to this direction,” he said.
Zubiri said that the new unified organization will be called Alliance of Filipino Martial Arts or AFMA but the name is yet to be registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Ramirez has pledged to fund the organization to boost arnis’ popularity in its homeland.
“We are committed to support them financially so that Filipino Martial Arts (FMA) will really grow,” said Ramirez.
“We don’t ask any budget from PSC. As a matter of fact, we have sponsors for this but we welcome the move of the Chairman to help financially but I promised and told him earlier that we will make sure that every centavo will be liquidated if ever we will be needing their help,” Zubiri added.
Zubiri stressed that AFMA will be inclusive, democratic and consultative.
“We will not scrap or discriminate any organizations. As a matter of fact, we are extending our hands of support and welcome the group of Raymond Velayo so that they may join us in this organization.”
Velayo is the president of Arnis Philippines, the national sports association of arnis, under the Philippine Olympic Committee.
“Let us work together because this is an alliance of FMA. This is not just one organization but an alliance of all FMA,” said Zubiri.
Grandmaster Romeo Macapagal of Kalis Ilustrisimo Tradicional welcomed the formation of a unified arnis organization.
“It is a game changer for the arnis community. It will improve our play, it will improve relationships and it will cause us to become more acceptable in the world stage. Now with government help, arnis can be rationalized and become more dynamic,” said the 70-year old Macapagal, who has been an arnisador for 35 years. Macapagal is among the close students of the legendary Antonio “Tatang” Ilustrisimo.