If there is any redeeming value to the death matches of early Eskrimadors, it is the fact that it produced one of the deadliest fighting methods of the planet. Centuries or intermittent skirmishes against Moro pirates and colonial rule brought forth a martial art that was developed to defeat superior weaponry and strategy. The techniques of the earliest forms of archaic Eskrima practiced by the Mactan Chieftain Lapu-lapu had only 5 striking angles and one thrust. This was then called Pang-olisi in Cebuano.
The Retirada, Lastico and Largo Mano techniques were developed for jungle skirmishes against an enemy armed with rifles and pistols. Names such asLeo Giron, Antonio Ilustrisimo and Major Timoteo Maranga were among intrepid eskrimadors who fought with bolos and sticks against the superior Japanese Imperial Army during World War II.
During the Commonwealth period (pre-World War II), relative peace prevailed in many parts of the archipelago. Except Mindanao. The Moro people who never paid tribute to the King Spain gave the American soldiers their worst nightmare and were probably the most ferocious fighters this great nation ever got embroiled with. The U.S. Marines earned the moniker Leathernecks for the leather straps they wore around their necks as protection from the deadly slashes of the Moros' Kris swords. The .45 caliber semi-automatic pistol was invented to give the soldiers a handgun with adequate power to stop the rampaging Moro juramentados.
Meanwhile, in the Visayan Islands particularly in the province of Cebu, the old warriors now enamored by Hollywood and Coca-Cola, had very little choice but to fight against each other in order to preserve the skills they have acquired from their ancestors. It was open season for anyone who proclaimed himself an expert in the art of Eskrima. The duel called Juego Todo or no-holds-barred, did not allow the combatants to wear any protective gear like masks and armor. Rival Eskrima clubs pitted their best fighters against each other. Death and permanent injury resulting from these duels were not uncommon. Those who went overseas mostly in Hawaii and California, continued to practice and teach the art of Eskrima and the challenges that came along with it was an accepted hazard of the trade.
The most prominent of these fighters were Floro Villabrille who comes from Bantayan Island, Telesforo Subing-Subing from Balamban, Cebu, Pedro Apilado from Pangasinan and Angel Cabales from barrio Igania, Sibalom,province of Antique. The latter finally settled down in Stockton, California to establish the Cabales Serrada Eskrima Club. An obscure eskrimador named Felix Goc-ong a contemporary and town mate of Telesforo Subing-subing worked as a contract worker. Felix Goc-ong once killed African American in a fair duel in the island of Hilo, Hawaii. The lineage of Felix Goc-ong's Eskrima, a style called Abanico de Vertical can be traced to the legendary horseback riding eskrimador named Amboy Kidlat(Lightning). The system was passed on to his son Julian who later became a decorated WW II veteran.
Amboy Kidlat lived in the rugged mountains and cliffs of Campo Siete near Toledo, Cebu. Since the place is very near where GM Jose Caballero grew up, we can only surmise that, he may have been influenced by Amboy Kidlat in his early youth. The place Campo Siete could have been one of his inspirations to name his method as de Campo Uno-Dos-Tres Orihinal. Although he has revealed to his son Mawe time and again how he derived the name of his method, the connection to the place Campo Siete presumably was not a coincidence. Furthermore, the early De Campo emphasized the seven striking angles.
One of the most feared eskrimadors in the pre-war period Cebu City was the late Grandmaster Venancio "Anciong" Bacon inventor of Balintawak Eskrima GM Vicente "Inting" Carin who fought in twenty death matches. He once killed three of seven attackers during a dance in Mabolo District of Cebu City. Mortally wounded from stab wounds, he was given up for dead and was brought to the morgue. By a stroke of fate, GM Eulogio Canete came over to check his pulse and found out that he was still breathing faintly, immediately applied first aid and brought him to the hospital and thereafter fully recovered from his fatal wounds.
Some of these Cebuano eskrimadors later migrated to Mindanao hoping to find peace and quiet and to retire once and for all from Juego Todo. Grandmasters Jose Caballero, Pablicito Cabahug and Jesus Abella later found out that their hiatus were short lived. It was widely believed that GM Cabahug killed more than a dozen Moro bandits during a fracas in Lanao province. Like a curse, a fisherman of Jimenez town named Protacio Mutas never passed on his eskrima skills to his eight sons for fear that they will go through the same bloody experience. Manong Protacio was believed to have possessed a powerful Orascion. He used to pacify blade for blade encounters by the use of his orascion. Many eskrimadors of the old days practice Orascion, a Christian incantation in Latin. Many believed that the power of Orascion gave them invincibility from any attacks whether its blade or bullets. During a town Bayle (ball), seven drunken bullies tried to stir trouble. The leader a certain Lolong Tagaad has always wanted to challenge Manong Protacio, but the latter a very peaceful man always found a way to avoid the bully- until this night. Realizing that Lolong will never stop provoking him, Manong Protacio went home to get his 30 inch pinuti (bolo) to face Lolong once and for all. The six other drunks fully aware of Manong Protacio's skills, chickened out and ran away. The mortal combat lasted only for a few seconds. Manong Protacio, a very clever eskrimador, slashed Lolong Tagaad's collar bone with a very powerful strike that penetrated his lungs. Lolong Tagaad died instantly. The relatives realized the futility of filing criminal charges because of witnesses testimonies that Manong Protacio fought in self-defense.
Many of the Juego Todo matches of the old days were undocumented and the witnesses accounts of these events were handed down by word of mouth. And since these stories were passed on to several generations, facts can be twisted and exaggerated to benefit the story teller. There were practically no police records to document that such matches actually took place. However, many of the eskrimadors still alive today like GM Inting Carin have the scars to show that they actually participated in Juego Todo duels.
The remaining living witness to GM Caballero's Juego Todo duels is Egmidio Tubal a retired PC soldier of Davao City.
These grandmasters of Eskrima fought with their blood and guts to perfect a warriors art - one of the legacies of many of our great ancestors like Lapu-lapu who fought to preserve our culture and our freedom.