By Hannah Torregoza
Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel “Migz” Zubiri on Sunday expressed confidence that the country will be able to set the stage for the promotion of arnis, a form of martial arts indigenous to the Philippines, as a sport.
Zubiri, president of the Philippine Eskrima Khali Arnis Federation (PEKAF) and a former world champion, made the statement after the Philippines won and reaped 14 golds in arnis in the 30th Southeast Asian (SEA) Games.
The senator said he believes Filipino “arnisadores” are set to enhance the country’s competitive edge.
“We campaigned for the PSC (Philippine Sports Commission) and POC (Philippine Olympic Committee) to include arnis as a competition sports. Then, the selection of competitors for the SEA Games commenced with a Team A and Team B both well prepared to fight for medals,” Zubiri said.
“We did our best with 14 golds, four silvers, and two bronze medals to show for it. Being the most bemedalled sport of this 30th SEA Games for the Philippines,” he said.
After the SEA Games, Zubiri vowed they will pursue the promotion of arnis in the international stage.
“Post-SEA Games, we will spearhead the promotion of arnis in more countries with upcoming international matches to further strengthen our athletes’ competitive edge,” the lawmaker said.
Zubiri said coming together as a national team took a lot of effort, resources and motivation from all Filipino arnisadores.
“Our underlying strength comes from a deep history kept alive by our present-day grandmasters. The present crop of arnis athletes and coaches drew a lot from the legacy of all arnis styles from all parts of the country,” he said.
It was in 2009 when arnis was declared the national martial art and sport with the signing into law of Republic Act R.A. No. 9850.
But it was only in 2017 that the Philippine Eskrima Kali Arnis Federation was formed.
Zubiri said this eventually paved the way for them to be recognized by the POC as the National Sports Association (NSA) for arnis.
“After a year, we launched a search for the finest & fittest through regional qualifiers that concluded with the National Battle of the Champions, promoting grassroots development our participation of the PSCs Batang Pinoy, Philippine National Games, as well as the Palarong Pambansa,” he said.
“We also worked with the standards set by an International Governing Body for Arnis, the WEKAF ( World Eskrima Kali Arnis Federation). With the passage of the law and the organization of PEKAF, Arnis will be a true grassroots martial art & sport,” he stressed.