Freeman Cebu Sports

So long, eskrima legend Diony Cañete

Emmanuel B. Villaruel - The Freeman

CEBU, Philippines —  Philippine sports and the entire eskrima (arnis) community all over the world were gripped in deep sorrow with the passing of Cebuano martial arts legend Supreme Grandmaster Dionisio “Diony” Cañete, ODL (Order of Datu Lapu-Lapu) last Sunday night. He was 82.

Diony’s son, Philippine Eskrima Kali Arnis Federation (PEKAF) Executive Vice President Master Gerald Cañete, confirmed the sad news that sparked an outpouring of grief and love for the highly revered eskrima great.

“Personally to me, he was my mentor, a leader and most especially a dear friend ,” wrote PEKAF President Sen. Juan Miguel “Migz” Zubirri on his Facebook. “It was an honor to have been his student and his friend and I’m beyond words for the loss of such a legend in the FMA community.”

Aside from being the chief driving force behind the inclusion of arnis in the 30th Southeast Asian (SEA) Games hosted by the country back in 2019, Zubirri also spotlighted one of SGM Diony’s greatest accomplishments - uniting the once divisive  eskrima landscape.

In 1975 at the age of 28, SGM Diony established the Cebu Eskrima Association that banded all major clubs and top arnisadors in this side of the archipelago together for the first time. In effect, he sort of “civilized” the fighting-oriented masters and curbed them to learn to co-exist for the sake of the ingenious Filipino martial art.

“If there was one person who everybody loved and respected regardless of FMA politics, it was SGM Diony Cañete. He will be sorely missed and I will truly miss him. May he be welcomed by all our Grandmasters who went before him. Rest in Peace our dear Supreme Grandmaster and may the good Lord accept you in His loving arms. Pugay po!,” Zubirri furthered.

SGM Diony belongs to the second generation of the famous Cebuano martial art advocates, brothers Eulogio “Ylong” and Ciriaco “Cacoy”Cañete. He is the youngest son of GM Eulogio Cañete, the founder of Doce Pares who headed the organization from 1932 until his death in 1988.

Doce Pares is the oldest and largest Filipino Martial Art (FMA) system and organization in the world. It is considered as the most complete and well-rounded fighting system as it covers all ranges of fighting and 12 different styles of combat.

Through the years, SGM Diony has left an indelible mark with his tireless efforts in the development and promotion of eskrima/arnis, the country’s national sport.

When he was elected officer of Doce Pares in 1960, rules on the acceptance of students and membership was liberalized. At that time, they also started to promote and develop arnis as a wholesome spectator’s sporting event.

Among his countless achievements, SGM Diony spearheaded the first ever National Arnis Open Championship in 1979 at the Cebu Coliseum and the 1st National USA Eskrima Kali Arnis Championsips in 1988 in San Jose, California.

On August 11-13, 1989, SGM Diony organized the 1st World Eksrima Kali Arnis Championship. If was during this tournament that the World Eskrima Kali Arnis Federation (WEKAF) was born. He served as WEKAF president for a long time and sits as its chairman emeritus until his death.

Under the dynamic stewardship of SGM Diony, Doce Pares has spread on both hemispheres of the globe with over 50 member countries in five continents. He stamped the legacy of Doce Pares as the ‘Gold’ standard of FMA.  For that, SGM Diony will be remembered gratefully and forever be etched in the hearts of those lives he touched.

 Two of them are his brightest students, GM Percival “Val” Pableo and Master Erwin Mosqueda, who are also both his nephew.

“I will miss your training with the group. I will miss our conversations. We still have a lot of plan supposedly but you left us early, we are all shocked and devastated. Everything will never be the same again now that tatay Diony is gone,” said the Los Angeles-based WEKAF chief instructor Mosqueda. “I can’t thank you enough for all your support, your teachings and your guidance. Hope you are happy in heaven. You will always be in our hearts and prayers. God bless and farewell.”


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