By Krishna K. Godhania

                   In the past, challenge matches or duels called Juego
                   Todo (literally, "anything goes") were very common
                   place in the Philippines. No holds barred and
                   without the aid of protective equipment, the winner
                   was determined either by submission or, in rarer
                   cases, death. Anyone claiming to be an expert in
                   eskrima or arnis was fair game and could be
                   challenged to engage in a duel.

                   However, since the implementation of the revised
                   penal code in 1932, the practice of dueling has been
                   outlawed and over subsequent decades reduced to
                   the point of becoming a rare sight indeed. Fear of
                   being challenged to defend one's claim of mastery of
                   the arts had in the past protected the art from being
                   overwhelmed by "overnight" experts. Is there still a
                   need for challenges?

                   However philosophical their effect on individual
                   students, it would be wrong to give the impression
                   that new fighting arts can evolve peacefully.
                   Techniques need to be tested, and that can only be
                   done through genuine combat.
                   Many of the leading masters of the Filipino martial
                   arts have none of the pacific principles that are
                   common among the masters of the other Asian arts.

                   Many would not allow a student to represent them if
                   that student refused a challenge. This is the genuine
                   fighting experience that must happen at some time in
                   a fighting art if it is to have true strength.

                   It was during these unarmored challenge matches
                   that the art had its greatest development, and the
                   es1:nmador realized what was good about his
                   technique and how to advance his art.

                   Challenges, leading to duels, came in different forms.
                   Some were "officially" sanctioned; others occurred
                   unexpectedly when tempers flared and pride or
                   reputation was at stake; sometimes eskrimadors
                   would go to fiestas to fight the "local" champion.

                   To help further understand why challenges were so
                   readily made, we need to look at the profile of the
                   old eskrimador. Many old-time eskrimadors were
                   "tough guys," who liked to drink, gamble, and
                   entertain their vices. They were quite often
                   uneducated, usually due to living in poor slum
                   conditions. In these conditions, finding work at a
                   young age and supporting the family tend to be
                   higUer on the priority list.

                   Aggressive personalities are generally risk takers,
                   and if you take a lot of risks, sooner or later you pay
                   a price. Many of the more famous eskrimadors
                   became well-known enforcers for local politicians or
                   underworld figures.

                   Rivalries between clubs and teachers were often
                   resolved via a bahad. This was an open challenge
                   and was sometimes made in the form of a press
                   release. Such an incident occurred in 1954 when the
                   Balintawak group made a public challenge to the
                   Doce Pares group.

                   The following are some examples of various duels
                   that have occurred in the past, illustrating the diverse
                   nature of the Filipino duel.

                   In September 1933, an officially sanctioned match
                   between Teodoro "Doring" Saavedra and Pablo
                   Alicante was arranged in Argao (sixty-six kilometers
                   south of Cebu City). By officially sanctioned, I mean
                   that the Mayor and other local officials were aware
                   of the bout.

                   Prior to the bout the late Eulogio "Yoling" Canete
                   went to "check out" Pablo Alicante's ability at the
                   request of Lorenzo Saavedra. Alicante was a
                   recluse and sustained a living by catching snakes and
                   monkeys, which he later sold. Upon meeting him,
                   Alicante asked Yoling to look for a ripe banana tree;
                   one was found. The story goes that Alicante
                   delivered one strike to the tree, slowly felling it.

                   Teodoro Saavedra, however, refused to back out of
                   the fight, and both fighters signed waivers. Alicante
                   was reputed to possess an anting-anting (amulet)
                   that could make his opponents freeze. This is what
                   happened to Saavedra in the first round, which he
                   ended up losing. In the second round, Saavedra was
                   instructed to knock out a stone that was in Alicante's
                   mouth, which was supposedly his anting-anting.
                   With the assistance of Filemon "Momoy" Canete's
                   orascion (prayer) and his own physical skills,
                   Saavedra was able to do this and go on to win the
                   next two rounds and thus the fight. As a result of this
                   fight, Saavedra became acknowledged as the top
                   eskrimador on the island of Cebu.
                                                          The late Antonio "Tatang" Ilustrisimo was well known for
                                                          offering and accepting any challenge. On one occasion while
                                                          in Calcutta, he received an invitation to go to Singapore to
                                                          fight in a special bout against a pencak silat master from
                                                          Indonesia. The opponent had a regutation and was regarded
                                                          as a seasoned fighter who enjoyed a good fight. As a result,
                                                          Ilustrisimo trained hard for the fight. The bout was held in a
                                                          stadium, and the number of spectators was in the thousands.
                                                          Upon entering the ring, the Indonesian forced the attack and
                                                          took the fight to Ilustrisimo. Ilustrisimo responded by moving
                                                          off at an angle and severely cut his opponent's arm, thus
                                                          terminating the bout.

                                                          Amador Chavez, a
                                                          top arnisador from
                                                          Bacolod City, fought
                                                          a famous duel with
                                                          the boxer Pedro
                                                          Alvarez. The fight
                                                          occurred in 1961.
                                                          This fight was backed by the well-known and respected
                                                          Serafino family, and also had the support of the local police.
                                                          As usual in such a fight, both fighters signed waivers and
                                                          agreements against revenge acts at a later time.

                                                          In addition to being a professional boxer, Alvarez had some
                                                          background in arnis, but was not in the class of Chavez.
                                                          However, he was reputed to be the favorite in the cash
                                                          betting. His strategy was to crash in through the long and
                                                          medium range, after which he would "punch out" Chavez. The
                                                          fight didn't last long, in fact only seconds. Two hits to the right
                                                          arm and one across the left side of the forebead finalized
                                                          matters. Alvarez, suffering from a deep head wound, decided
                                                          to give up, rejecting Chavez' suggestion to rest for a while and
                                                          then try again later.

                                                          Abner Pasa, a leading eskrimador from Cebu City,
                                                          encountered a situation whereby another eskrimador "visited"
                                                          him for a test of skills. Pasa tried to talk the man out of it,
                                                          explaining that somebody could get seriously hurt. The
                                                          challenger merely smiled and said that was part of the test. He
                                                          then proceeded to warm up and asked Pasa to do the same.
                                                          Pasa replied that if he warmed up, he would expend all his
                                                          energy. The opponent laughed heartily sensing that things
                                                          could get out of hand, Pasa decided to end the fight quickly.
                                                          Without squaring up Pasa asked the opponent (who was still
                                                          warming up) if he was ready upon, the "yes" reply, Pasa hit
                                                          his opponent in the hand, breaking it. The opponent cried
                                                          foul; Pasa replied by saying that I asked you if you were
                                                          ready, and you said "Yes."

                                                          In September 1983, Ciriaco "Cacoy" Canete fought Ising
                                                          Atillo in the last officially sanctioned duel. The duel, witnessed
                                                          by many spectators, did not last long. Two strikes to the
                                                          temple and one to the hand brought matters to a close. A
                                                          remarch was scheduled for four days later but Atillo's heart
                                                          rate was too high, and he was declared physically unfit.

                                                          In recent times, a challenge match between Dionisio "Dioney"
                                                          Canete and Dennis Canete was expected to materialize.
                                                          Dionisio Canete was quoted as saying, "I'll fight him with bare
                                                          hands in the first round so he can show his well-publicized
                                                          pangamut technique. On the second and third rounds, we will
                                                          do bare hands, takedowns, and then sticks." However, the
                                                          match never took place, which came as no surprise.

                                                          The eskrima duel is now relegated to the annals of the past,
                                                          and rightly so. For its proliferation can only assist in restraining
                                                          the growth and popularity of the great Filipino martial arts.