Let the battle begin
Emmanuel B. Villaruel (The Freeman) - July 21, 2016 - 12:00am

CEBU, Philippines - Explosive stick-fighting showdown featuring the best of the best in eskrima world will take centerstage as action in the 14th World Eskrima Kali Arnis Federation (WEKAF) Championship begins today at the cavernous J Centre Mall Convention Hall in Barangay Bakilid, Mandaue City.

Before the battle begins, an elaborate opening ceremony will take place at 2 p.m. to be graced by Philippine Sports Commissioner Ramon 'El Presidente' Fernandez, the country's revered basketball great, and a bevy of beautiful dancers from Hawaii, a paradise island-state of the United States.

WEKAF Executive Director Gerald Cañete, the organizing committee chairman, said the dance group belongs to the famous Hawaii Dance International headed by Madelyne Pascua, a world renowned dance instructor and choreographer. 

The trip has been arranged and sponsored by WEKAF Hawaii and David Cordero, Director of Doce Pares Hawaii, with the support of the city government of Honolulu, as their contribution to the 25th founding anniversary celebration of WEKAF.

The Hawaii delegation is led by Honolulu Council member Joey Manahan and Grandmaster Robert Garcia. They are both hoping that their strong presence can enhance the chances of Hawaii to be selected as the venue of the 15th World Championship in July 2018.  Traditionally, the determination of the venue and host of the championship will be done in a bidding process during the World Congress also set today.

As scheduled, the dance troupe will perform also during the finals of the tournament and at the closing and awarding rites on July 24. As requested ,they also agreed to perform in two other venues preferably in any of the colleges or universities although Cebu Technological University has an inside track in one of the schedules. 

After the kick-off bash, the battle will immediately start in the five-day joust that drew close to 500 arnisadors from 33 countries across five continents.

Host Philippines, which topped the biennial tournament for the last time in 2000, is itching to regain its lost glory, but must brace for another tough challenge from perennial champions United States.

The other contenders are from 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.

Six countries will also make their WEKAF debut in 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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