Wednesday, May 31, 2006


On Aug. 21, 1983, Benigno Aquino was on a China Air Lines flight from Taipei, his last stopover from the United States to the Philippines. It was a regular commercial flight for the China Air Lines, but it was no ordinary flight for Benigno “Ninoy”Aquino.

He had spent the past three and a half years in relative tranquility in the United States. After years of incarceration in the Philippines by Pres. Ferdinand Marcos, he was released and allowed to fly to the United States for medical treatment. After his successful medical treatment, he had spent the last three years recuperating, spending time with his family and teaching at Harvard University.

Now he was on his way back to the Philippines. He would appeal to Marcos to relinquish power and return the Philippines to democracy. Failing that, he was ready to resume his political crusade against Marcos and suffer alongside his people. On board the flight were several television crews including, I believe, one headed by Aquino’s own son-in-law. The television crews conducted several interviews right during the flight.

In the interview, Ninoy acknowledged the gravity of the situation and the danger he was facing on his return to the Philippines. Arrest and detention, and even summary execution or assassination were real possibilities. He even warned the cameramen to be quick with their cameras when they land, as it could be over quickly.

I saw this particular television program when it aired years later, from the plane flight right down to Ninoy Aquino’s final moments on earth.

When the plane landed, the film shows uniformed soldiers boarding the plane. The head of the group approached a seated Ninoy Aquino, saluted and ostensibly introduced himself as the head of his security detail. Ninoy stood up, gathered his belongings and went with the detail and exited the plane. The plane door was then shut, and the cameras could no longer follow Ninoy’s progress past that point.

A few minutes later, there was a commotion inside the plane among the passengers, and the camera panned outside the plane, either through an open window or the door itself. The camera showed a fallen Ninoy laying face down on the tarmac floor.

Supposedly a lone gunman named Rolando Galman was able to elude posted guards numbering thousands in the runway and airport area, and fired one shot at Ninoy’s head, killing him instantly. The security detail then shot and killed the alleged gunman.

Either this was one of the most inept security detail in the history of the planet, or it was one of the more elaborate assassination scenarios in Philippine history.

The hue and cry and outrage at Ninoy Aquino’s murder reverberated not just in the Philippines but also worldwide. As expected, the list of usual suspects was long and intriguing, and included Imelda Marcos, the communists, Gen. Fabian Ver and other high ranking military officials, Marcos crony Eduardo Cojuangco and others but not President Marcos, who was on his sickbed recovering from a recent kidney transplant.

The military soldiers and officers on the tarmac who escorted Ninoy from the plane were tried, convicted and meted life sentences. But the government investigative panel, called the Agrava Fact Finding Board, failed to uncover a mastermind. The Manila International Airport (MIA) where Ninoy was assassinated was subsequently renamed the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).

Ninoy’s death and its tumultuous aftermath eventually led to EDSA, the People’s Revolution, and Marcos’s unceremonious flight from the Philippines in 1986.


Who do you think ordered the assassination of Ninoy Aquino?

If Ninoy Aquino was not assassinated but instead allowed his opposition activities against President Marcos, would he have succeeded in toppling Marcos?

Where were you and what do you remember about this incident?

Saturday, May 27, 2006


Congratulations to Tipunan International associate GM Bernardo Salinas of Canada for a successful seminar and training in the Philippines, and to Master Vic Ferrer for his promotion to 7th Dan in Sikaran style conferred in the Philippines.

Below is GM Salinas own report on his ground-breaking trip to the Philippines with fellow Canadian FMA artists.

In April of this year an entourage of Martial artists from Western Canada arrived in the Philippines to accomplish personal goals in their art. After five weeks of hard work and intensive training in the humid summer heat with temperatures reaching 130F, the group returned home to share their stories of this amazing adventure.

Master Vic Ferrer of Saskatchewan

Master Vic Ferrer of Saskatchewan, a 6th Degree Blackbelt in the Filipino Martial Art of Sikaran, met with his mentor Grandmaster Geronimo to discuss his ideas and suggestions regarding their organization and made a documentary of his experiences. Master Ferrer returned to Canada with his 7th Dan in Sikaran Filipino Martial Arts. Congratulations on a job well done, Master Ferrer.


For Robert McGuire and Andrea Morrow, both from Fort St. John, BC, this was their first trip to the Philippines. It will not be their last. They accompanied their grandmaster Bernardo Fabia Salinas to further their training in Karate and Arnis Filipino Martial Arts. Congratulations to Robert for achieving his 2nd degree (Nidan) promotion in Karate and Practitioner Level VI in Arnis. Congratulations to Andrea for attaining her Brown belt in Karate and Practitioner level IV in Arnis.

Philippine Seminar

Grandmaster Salinas, assisted by his students, hosted an Arnis Filipino Martial Arts seminar in Binalonan, Pangasinan. The seminar was a great success, with 108 participants in attendance including municipal officials, members from the SK Federation, Barangay Council, local police and Philippine National Police. Many people helped to make this seminar a success.

Grandmaster Salinas would like to extend his appreciation and thanks to Grandmaster Flaviano F. Cabuang of the Martial Arts Training Society for sharing his time and extensive knowledge.

Thank you also to Mert Altares, who came from Saudi Arabia to participate in this event and to train with GM Salinas. Altares received a certificate of training for his dedication and attentive study in Filipino Martial Arts. Grandmaster Salinas would like to express his gratitude to Councilor Atty. Francis Villarin Tinio for his hard work in organizing this event, and to Honorable Ramon N. Guico, Mayor of Binalonan, for his outstanding leadership.

Grandmaster Bernardo Fabia Salinas

Friday, May 26, 2006


September 1, 1972 was a historic day in Philippine history. It would not be overly dramatic to echo the cliché, that it was a day that will go down in infamy. On this day, then President of the Republic of the Philippines Ferdinand Edralin Marcos issued Proclamation No. 1081, better known as Martial Law.

In effect, the Proclamation declared martial law over the entire country, suspended the writ of habeas corpus and essentially installed Marcos as dictator for life.

The proclamation of martial law found me working in Cotabato City, Cotabato in Mindanao at a road construction project. At the worksite, it was business as usual. When I drove back to the city in the early afternoon, though, I headed to my favorite watering hole, the restaurant at Imperial Hotel II where I was staying. There, over some cold beer, business associates told me the news.

All television and radio broadcasting were suspended. Instead, the government radio recited the riot act over and over. Among other edicts, there was no carrying of firearms except by military personnel, and there would be a curfew from midnight until 4:00 AM.

Rumors flew all over the place. Hundreds had been arrested in Manila and all over the country. There had been summary executions of known Marcos critics. Guerrilla warfare had now broken out in several parts of the country. It was next to impossible to sift fact from fiction, truth from rumor.

That night, a few minutes after midnight, a group of guys and myself stood at the sidewalk just outside the lobby of the hotel. Later, a military truck roared by, and somebody in the truck yelled at us to go back inside. With so many unanswered questions in our minds, we trudged back inside the hotel for a fitful sleep.

The following day, we had to make some minor adjustments. Now, we had to venture out of the city and into the neighboring towns and to the worksite without any firearms. I usually went out with a driver and a bodyguard. The bodyguard was always armed, and I was armed most of the time. That day, we felt apprehensive and vulnerable going about the province without any weapons, but eventually got used to it.

During that first day, we saw several random military checkpoints. A typical scene would be, a public bus would be stopped and all the occupants had to file out and be searched by soldiers. There was a bare table by the side of the road, which eventually would be piled high with confiscated firearms. We never saw any prisoners as a result of the checkpoints, so we assumed the soldiers were just confiscating firearms but not arresting any firearm carriers.

For the remainder of my stay in Cotabato, we were stopped at random military checkpoints in the province. Sometimes, they would simply look inside the vehicle, ask us if we were carrying weapons, and then wave us on.

We were working on a road construction project that had us working around the clock. Because of the midnight curfew, I had to go to the military authorities and request permits for each worker that had to work from midnight till 4:00 AM.

As an aside, instead of dampening the nightlife scene in Manila, the curfew probably generated more revenue for the nightclub owners. The nightclubs started having “stay-ins,” meaning partygoers simply stayed and partied in the club from midnight until 4:00 AM, the end of curfew time.

The Marcos Martial Law existed technically until 1981, when Marcos himself lifted it but still retained virtual dictatorial powers, and ended for good in 1986, when Marcos and his relatives and cohorts fled Malacanang Palace in helicopters supplied by the US, just as the EDSA marchers were about to storm the Palace gates.

While it may be argued that the first years of martial law brought some tangible benefits to the country, the eventual Martial Law years trampled on human rights, enriched Marcos and his family and cronies by about thirty billion dollars mostly in the form of behest loans, and saddled the Philippine government with these loans for the rest of its life.

September 1, 1972 was truly a day of infamy, the effects of which are still felt by the people of the Philippines, and will probably linger for many more decades to come.

Thursday, May 25, 2006


During one of my college history classes, our professor, a well-known historian and writer, Dr. Marcelino Foronda, recounted this interesting anecdote. As part of his historical research, he had occasion to interview Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo when Aguinaldo was pretty advanced in age but still lucid.

Dr. Foronda recounted that he was tempted to ask the venerable general this question. The question was, did he (Aguinaldo) order the execution and death of Andres Bonifacio, supremo of the Katipunan (KKK)? But Dr. Foronda admitted he chickened out, thereby allowing Emilio Aguinaldo to carry that secret to his grave.

The facts leading to the death of Andres Bonifacio seem to be straightforward enough.

Initially allies, Andres Bonifacio and Emilio Aguinaldo quickly became bitter rivals for leadership of the fledgling revolution. The relationship between the Bonifacio supporters called the Magdiwang Faction and the Aguinaldo followers called the Magdalo Faction strained to the breaking point.

To resolve the leadership issue, the revolutionaries agreed to meet at what would be called the Tejeros Convention, where Andres Bonifacio lost to Emilio Aguinaldo in the elections. Aguinaldo was sworn in as President of the revolutionary government, but Bonifacio refused to recognize Aguinaldo’s government and set up his own government.

Followers of Aguinaldo convinced him to arrest Bonifacio for treason. A detachment of Aguinaldo’s soldiers surprised Andres Bonifacio and his brothers at breakfast. A short fight ensued in which Andres Bonifacio was wounded in the neck and Andres Bonifacio’s brother Ciriaco was killed. Andres Bonifacio and another brother Procopio were brought to Naic, Cavite, where Aguinaldo had his headquarters.

From this point, the details start to get hazy.

On May 8, 1897, both brothers were sentenced to death by a military court.
On May 10. 1897, a detachment of soldiers headed by General Lazaro Makapagal escorted both brothers to the Maragondon mountains. Interestingly, three mountains are mentioned as the possible execution sites of the Bonifacio brothers—Mount Tala, Mount Buntis and Mount Nagpatong.

There, as ordered, General Makapagal opened and read his sealed orders. He wept when he read that the council was ordering him to execute the Bonifacio brothers. Presumably, the Bonifacio brothers were executed by a firing squad, and buried in shallow graves in the Maragondon mountains.

Emilio Aguinaldo’s involvement in the execution is unclear. In some accounts, he opposed the execution of the Katipunan supremo, and voted instead for banishment. But Aguinaldo’s generals demanded the death of Bonifacio. Whatever Aguinaldo’s final decision was, the military council voted for and signed Bonifacio’s death warrant, and also that of his brother Procopio.

Thus did Andres Bonifacio’s quest for independence for his beloved country end, in his own violent death at the hands of his fellow independence fighters. But a grateful nation honors Andres Bonifacio as the Father of the Philippine Revolution, whose cry for freedom in August of 1896 eventually ended decades of colonial rule.

Questions for discussion :

Do you think Aguinaldo issued direct orders to execute the Bonifacio brothers?

If there was less infighting between the Magdiwang and the Magdalo factions, and more unity among the Filipino forces fighting the Spaniards, would that have resulted in the Filipinos winning the Revolution and gaining their independence?

Wednesday, May 24, 2006


On May 21, 1967, members of an obscure political sect called Lapiang Malaya (Freedom Movement) started massing in Taft Avenue in Pasay City, a suburb of Manila. They were dressed in peculiar blue uniforms with red and yellow capes. What made their otherwise colorful uniforms ominous were the accoutrements that came with them--long bolos and anting-anting.

They had come from the rice fields of Luzon, and their mission was to march on Malacanang Palace, the presidential palace in Manila, and overthrow the government of then President Ferdinand Marcos.

They were led by an octogenarian named Valentin de los Santos, variously described either as a fanatic or a cult leader. But Valentin de los Santos was not your run-of-the-mill fanatic. An old political warhorse, he had run for President of the Philippines several times under the same political party, the Lapiang Malaya. He was revered by and had a large following of peasant farmers.

This ragtag band of bolo-wielding protesters was met by heavily armed troopers of the Philippine Constabulary (PC), who fired warning volleys above the heads of the farmers. Emboldened and believing that their anting-anting had protected them from the deadly hail of bullets, the farmers charged the PC ranks with their bolos. This time, the troopers fired at center mass, and carnage ensued.

This incident became known as the Lapiang Malaya massacre and just added to the list of bloody events laid at the doorstep of President Marcos. It would be many years before any reckoning of any kind for this incident and many others would catch up with Ferdinand Marcos.


Did the Lapiang Malaya have any martial arts training of any kind, as suggested by the bolos and the anting-anting?

Did Valentin de los Santos really believe their anting-anting would protect them from bullets, or was this the final act of a madman shouting his last suicidal hurrah?

Did Valentin de los Santos survive the carnage?

Where were you, and what do you remember about the event when it happened?

Tuesday, May 23, 2006


Have you ever wondered who and where are the top Filipino Martial Arts masters and instructors in the world? Do you know who were the ancient warriors, street fighters and tournament champions responsible for creating these various deadly weapons arts passed on down from generation to generation? What styles are the most popular and widely practiced all over the world today?

Jay de Leon, a Modern Arnis master, free-lance writer and Filipino Martial Arts historian, has just launched a new website to answer these questions. Titled “The Filipino Martial Arts Museum,” the website is a virtual or cybermuseum that attempts to answer these questions. Just like a real museum, it has a gallery of photos and artifacts that one can browse. It also has relevant articles written by both expert authors and volunteer writers on all aspects of the art, as well as a library of martial arts books, such as “The Art of War” by Sun Tzu. .

Roger Agbulos, listed as one of the top guros in the world, commented, “The sheer amount of information and the breadth of the topics covered are amazing.” In addition, an online store will stock unique martial arts T-shirts, weapons, videos and tapes, books and memorabilia.

As Curator of the cybermuseum, Jay de Leon invites the readers to contribute submissions for articles, and virtual artifacts to the museum as well. “I want this website to be a living museum, and the most visited reader-written site in Filipino Martial Arts,” states Jay de Leon.

Go now to Jay de Leon’s museum and browse, contribute or leisurely read a few articles. If you are practitioner, go back to the shrouded mist of time and meet the warriors of feral tribes, fighters of death matches and masters of the blade of long-ago Philippines. If you are a novice, come and meet the living legends, venerable grandmasters, and hardcore guros (teachers) of the art. Discover the amazing art of Filipino martial arts at this unique cybermuseum at .

Saturday, May 20, 2006


This particular event will always be etched in my memory, because I saw it on live television.

On the night of August 1, 1971, the Liberal Party was holding its “miting de avance” rally at Plaza Miranda in Manila. Its oppositionist senatorial line-up was seated on a raised dais or platform erected temporarily at Plaza Miranda specifically for the rally. Some of these candidates included senatorial candidates Eva Estrada Kalaw and Jovito Salonga and mayoral candidate Ramon Bagatsing.

I am very familiar with the Plaza Miranda area. I went to college at De La Salle University on Taft Avenue in Manila. When I took public transportation, Plaza Miranda was where I would catch my short jeepney ride to Taft. Ave. after a bus ride from Quezon City to Quiapo. On a normal day, Plaza Miranda then was just a huge open space in front of the Quiapo church, full of people hurrying to and fro.

Tonight, the crowd just milled in front of the raised dais. From what I remember from newspaper accounts, there were several grenades thrown onto the stage. One exploded onstage, the other bounced off the stage and exploded right into the crowd. One grenade turned out to be a dud, and could have easily increased the death toll.

From what I saw on TV, you could see and hear the explosions. After the explosions, smoke swirled up on stage, and you could see those mostly at the edge of the dais scamper away. Some in the middle of the stage stood up staggering, and a few figures were slumped on their chairs or on the floor of the stage.

Pandemonium broke loose soon after that. I believe there were several television replays of the blasts. But nothing could equal the emotional shock of the first explosions.

Nine were killed and several dozens injured, including Senators Jovito Salonga and Eva Estrada Kalaw. Senator Jovito Salonga was one of the worst hit of the victims. It took three major operations in the first twelve hours after the bombing for a team of doctors to save his life. Salonga has carried the effects and scars of that bombing the rest of his life. He is blind in one eye, deaf in one ear, and claims to have over a hundred shrapnels in his body.

Pres. Marcos blamed the communists for the bloody crime. Speaking for the Philippine Communist Party, its founder Jose Ma. Sison denied having anything to do with it and in fact condemned the bombing. Another suspect to emerge during the subsequent investigation was General Fabian Ver, head of Marcos’s Presidential Security Unit (PSU).

Marcos took advantage of the situation to suspend the writ of habeas corpus, Hundreds of suspected subversives from the ranks of students, workers and professionals were rounded up and detained by the authorities. Many writers point to this incident as the catalyst and Marcos’ rationale for martial law eventually declared in 1972.


Who do you suspect were the perpetrators of this crime?

Do you think President Ferdinand Marcos had direct involvement?

Where were you and what do you remember about the event?