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A lineage of Escrima in Cebu

This section is based on our notes of conversations over the years with our Grandmaster Carlos Navarro. We ourselves are subject to error and the material is presented as oral history within the Black Eagle tradition. Other teachers and schools will have their own traditions and recollections which may not be the same as ours. We are interested in learning about and understanding these differences. In order to come closer to the truth of our common history students of all styles will need to listen with an open but critical mind to the diverse recollections of the older generation. It is in this spirit that we share these recollections.

The three well known Eskrima families in Cebu in the pre-World War 2 era of Cebu were the Romo’s (central cebu),The Saavedra’s (southern cebu) and the Illustrisimo’s (northern cebu).

Detailed info on each individual in the above lineage can be found below

Oman (nickname) (b?,d.1946)

Taught Olipio Navarro his style of Eskrima de Avanico. Oman also taught Artemio Paez, who was one of the teachers of Grandmaster Filemon Caburnary of Lapunti Eskrima (also called Arnis de Avanico) and Epping Atillo’s father (Carlos Navarro’s friend and sparring partner).   Oman lived in Tisa near neighboring Punta Princesa and Labangon and taught people from these three areas (thus the origin of the name La- pun-ti). Oman died on Negros where he moved after accepting an offer of land and cattle in return for teaching his art to the three sons of an extremely wealthy landowner. 

Lorenzo “Tatay Ensong” Saavedra (b?d.WW2) 

A Senior member of the Saavedra clan. Taught his nephew Teodoro Saavedra, Momoy and Eulogio Canete and Venancio Bacon (The founder of Balintawak). Lorenzo was a small old man who lived in Mambaling. He helped organise the Labangon fencing club in the 1920’s and was a member of  the original Doce Pares club, founded on the 11th of January, 1932. 

Teodoro “Doring” Saavedra (b?d.WW2)

A senior member of the Saavedra clan. Nephew of Lorenzo “Tatay Ensong” Saavedra.Taught Momoy and Eulogio Canete and Venancio Bacon (The founder of Balintawak). He was the vice-president of the original Doce-Pares club when it was founded on the 11th January, 1932. Teodoro Saavedra was executed by the Japanese Kempetai (military police) in Basak Elementary school during the occupation of the Philippines.

Eulogio “Yoling” Canete (b?d.1988) 

Training partner and friend of Carlos Navarro. Taught  by Lorenzo “Tatay Ensong” Saavedra & Teodoro “Doring” Saavedra of the  Saavedra clan. He was the president of the Doce-Pares eskrima club at the time of its founding.

Filemon “Momoy” Canete (b.1904 d.1995) 

Training partner and Teach of Filemon Caburnay. Taught by Lorenzo “Tatay Ensong” Saavedra & Teodoro “Doring” Saavedra of the Saavedra clan. 

Venancio “Anciong” Bacon (b. Oct 15, 1913 d. Nov 1 1980) 

Founder of the Balintawak style of Eskrima. Student of Lorenzo and Teodoro Saavedra. He reportedly stood at 5″ 2′ and weighed 135 lbs. 

Mariano Navarro (b. ?, d. 1941) 

 Reportedly Half-portuguese, although Navarro is a Spanish name. Learned martial arts from his father. Taught both his son Olipio Navarro and his grandson Carlos Navarro his style called ‘Eskrima de Llave’. Mariano trained with and was friends with Bantong. When Carlos Navarro was a small boy he would carry the weapons for Mariano when he would practice with Bantong in lonely places. These weapons includes sticks which were 2 edged (practice swords), 3 edged, 4 edged and round.
Training with Mariano was also secretly, many hours from town in the 
mountains or by moonlight. His training involved long prayers to invoke the “Power of god”. It is not clear where Mariano learnt Eskrima de Llave from. It is clear that he learnt martial arts from his father, but apparently learnt Filipino techniques very distinct from his father’s European style. The only information available as to where he learnt the additional Filipino material is that he studied the fighting movements of animals but it is doubtful that this is the whole story. 

Bantong (nickname)(b?d?) 

Trained Mariano Navarro, usually secretly and very often by moonlight. Bantong lived in the mountains of Gindarohan near Minglanilia. He was  strong man who had a very powerful vertical downward stroke with a long heavy weapon. He reportedly defeated Doring Saavedra (whom Carlos also saw practice as a boy) in an actual fight. Bantong used a long heavy stick with powerful vertical strokes which Mariano was able to penetrate with his Eskrima de Llave (the key). The name of Bantong does not come up often in the history of various eskrima styles. This is perhaps due to his secretive and selective training.

Epping Atillo (b?) 

Training partner and good friend of Carlos Navarro. Currently the resident Grandmaster of the Black Eagle school in Cebu City. Epping Atillo was taught by his father and Artemio Paez . He is now in his late eighties. It is not clear whether Epping Atillo is related to any of the Atillo names in the Balintawak school. Indeed, the Atillo name has been connected with Balintawak for 40 years.

Carlos Navarro (b. 1926) 

Was the friend and training partner of Eulogio Canete and also of Epping Atillo. Learnt eskrima de Avanico his father Olipio Navarro, and learnt Eskrima de Llave from his grandfather Mariano Navarro.

Filemon Caburnay (b?,d?) 

The founder of Lapunti Arnis de Abanico. Caburnay was a student and training partner of Momoy Canete, and he left Doce Pares to form Lapunti later on. He was also a student of Artemio Paez. Filemon Caburnay was also the teacher of Larry Alquezar, who is one of the main teachers of Grandmaster Abner Pasa, the warrior system of Eskrima.

Artemio Paez (b?,d?)

One of the teachers of Grandmaster Filemon Caburnay (Founder of Lapunti). He was the friend and training partner of Olipio Navarro. Learnt Eskrima de Avanico from Oman. Also taught Epping Atillo. Artemio also took up the task of continuing  Carlos Navarros training after his fathers’ death in 1952. 

Olipio Navarro (b?,d. 1952)

Father of Grandmaster Carlos Navarro, son of Mariano Navarro.  Reputedly a thrusting specialist, he learnt Arnis de Avanico from Oman, and learnt Eskrima de Llave from Mariano Navarro. He was the good friend and training partner of Artemio Paez.

Wenceslao “Eslao” Romo (b?,d?) 

Teacher of both Eulogio Canete and of Doring Saavedra. Eslao lived in Basil (sometimes pronounced Pasil) and was a close friend and sparring partner of Oman.   He was known as Islao Pito’y Sagang (pito meaning 7, sagang meaning blocking). Some said his style was called Literada or Riterada

Epping Atillo’s father (b?,d?) 

Learnt Eskrima de avanico from Oman, and taught his son, Epping Atillo. 

Mariano Navarro’s father (b?,d?) 

Mariano reportedly learnt much of his martial arts from his father. When Carlos trained with his grandfather, Mariano and many other Eskrimadors of the time (such as Oman, Bantong and Lorenzo Saavedra) were already old men. Mariano and his father can then be placed well into the late 1800’s, still during the time of Spanish occupation. It is the presence of the Spanish at the time that explains the assimilation of European fencing techniques that was prevalent in the eskrima of the time. It is still not clear who Mariano Navarro learnt Eskrima de Llave from.