Appearances Can Be Deceiving

GM Maranga related a story to me of his early days training in Balintawak with the late GM Anciong Bacon.

They had arranged a sparring session with a rival school. The Balintawak members lined up against the wall. Rivals from the other school would pick an opponent out of the line up. One challenger stepped forward and moved down the line of Balintawak practitioners, trying to choose a suitable opponent.

One of the Balintawak guys was very muscular, so he was passed over. Unfortunately, the challenger didn’t know that the muscular guy with the ferocious mustache wasn’t very good.

As the challenger looked over Drigo Maranga, Maranga did his best to look tough, because at the time he was relatively new to eskrima and didn’t feel prepared for the match.

At last the eskrimador from the rival school pointed to a small, older man. He had made his choice.

Rodrigo Maranga and the other Balintawak stylists repressed laughs. “Sili kolikot!” they sputtered.

You see, in Visayan a “sili kolikot” is a tiny but very fierce chili pepper (called “sili labuyo” in Tagalog).  The challenger had unknowingly called out the master of the school, the legendary Anciong Bacon, who was small, but hell on wheels, and one of Cebu’s greatest masters of stickfighting!

I met the late GM Sonny Umpad only once. He was a slight, unimposing guy with large, expressive eyes. The impromptu demonstration he did with my own knife was downright scary. And I thought to myself afterward, “If I had gone into a bar to pick out an easy guy for me to beat, I would have chosen Sonny Umpad, and that would have been the greatest –and last–mistake of my life.

These two true masters stand in stark contrast to the satin gi “Punong Tuhon Datu Puti” self-promoters out there. Anciong’s and Sonny’s art did their talking for them, and it still speaks after their passing.


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