Brief encounter: Fighter wins SEA Games gold after underwear row

James Edgar - Agence France-Presse
Brief encounter: Fighter wins SEA Games gold after underwear row
In this photo taken on December 3, 2019, Philippine's Crisamuel Delfin competes in the non traditional men's open weapon final in the SEA Games (Southeast Asian Games) in Tarlac City, north of Manila.
Wakil Kohsar / AFP

CLARK – A Filipino martial artist was prepared to give up his chance of winning a Southeast Asian Games title because he didn't want to wear underpants beneath his traditional loincloth.

Crisamuel Delfin eventually picked up gold for his weapon-wielding anyo routine in the arnis competition, but only after he was persuaded to wear skimpy underwear to avoid a wardrobe malfunction on live television.

"In the Ifugao Igorot culture, it's an insult to the cultural traditions if you wear undergarments under the loincloth," Sen. Miguel Zubiri, the Philippines Arnis Federation president, told AFP on Wednesday.

The former world champion said Delfin's coach had a long argument with judges who had got their knickers in a twist, insisting the fighter wore underpants during his acrobatic routine in case the loincloth fell off and he was left "completely naked".

But the coach told them: "Well, I believe my athlete will just have to be disqualified."

Zubiri said he stepped in at the Angeles University Foundation venue and convinced the trainer to "work something out".

"I knew this boy could win gold," he said.

The senator met with the team and suggested: "Why don't we get a thong, like a string bikini brief, or something like that?

"Eventually he agreed to wear it. He was willing to be disqualified."

Filipino “arnisadors” are fiercely proud of their country, and the sport that symbolizes their spirit of defiance.

Moments after winning gold with a display of somersaults, flips and war-cries, Delfin told AFP his feathered headdress was a sign of ferocity and painted tattoos show a warrior's accomplishments and place in society.

"Being from the tribes of the northern provinces, it was very important that I was able to show my traditional costume and to revive and rekindle the spirit of being a warrior in the Philippines," the 25-year-old said through a translator. 

"I was glad I was to bring out not just the movements, but the emotion and the feeling of being fierce and committed — the spirit of being a martial artist," he said.

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