Philippines out to regain lost glory

Emmanuel B. Villaruel (The Freeman) - July 20, 2016 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines - A 200-strong Philippine contingent is out to regain the country's glory as the 14th World Eskrima Kali Arnis Federation (WEKAF) Championship gets underway today at the J Centre Mall.

"We are combat ready. Our fighters have been training hard for this big event. This is our best chance to regain our lost glory," said WEKAF chairman emeritus Supreme Grandmaster Diony Cañete, ODL (Order of Datu Lapu-Lapu) in a press conference yesterday at Hotel Fortuna.

The last time Phl won the overall championship of the biennial tournament was in 2000. The Pinoy arnisadors nearly reclaimed their throne four years ago, losing by just a gold medal to powerhouse United States.

Still, Team USA, which retained its title in Hungary in 2014, poses as the biggest threat to Phl's quest for supremacy in its very own martial art that has now gained worldwide acclaim.

"It's going to be a great fight between the two countries. It's gonna be a spectacular event to watch," said WEKAF US country director John Marquez. "We are ready and we will try to represent US to the best of our capability."

Close to 500 stick-fighters from 33 counries across four continents will be coming over to the Queen City of the South for the five-day joust that  is considered as the Olympics of this ingenious Filipino martial art.

"Now on its 14th edition, I'm proud to say that our WEKAF tournament is getting better each year. The good thing is that it's not only about competition. With our multi-style system, we are also able to unify the different eskrimadors from all over the world. It's truly a celebration, the Olympics of Filipino martial art," said WEKAF executive director Gerald Cañete.

The city government of Mandaue under the leadership of mayor Luigi Quisumbing will host a welcome dinner today at the Mandaue City Sports and Cultural Complex while tournament proper begins tomorrow yet and will run until Sunday to be followed immediately by the awarding ceremony.

"We are going to make this event the biggest ever in the history of WEKAF," assured SGM Diony Cañete. 'This is something big for WEKAF and we hope to equal, if not better, what we did in 2012."

Aside from host Phl  and defending champion US, the other participating countries are England, France (at least 30 coming from Reunion Islands), Germany, Italy, Mexico, India, Portugal, Greece, South Africa, Poland, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Spain, Holland, Belgium, Austria, Switzerland and Ireland.

 The debuting nations, on the other hand, include China, Vietnam, Turkey, Luxemburg, Chile and Qatar.

For the first time in the 28-year history of WEKAF, there will be double-stick competition for kids and female fighters.

All in all, a total of 105 events will be contested with a maximum of 16 fighters per category. (FREEMAN)

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