If there is any redeeming value to the death matches of early Eskrimadors, it is the fact that it produced one of the deadliest fighting methods of the planet. Centuries or intermittent skirmishes against Moro pirates and colonial rule brought forth a martial art that was developed to defeat superior weaponry and strategy.

During the Commonwealth period (pre-World War II), relative peace prevailed in many parts of the archipelago, except for Mindanao. The Moro people, who had never paid tribute to the King of Spain, gave the American soldiers their worst nightmare, and were probably the most ferocious fighters this great nation ever got embroiled with. The U.S. Marines earned the moniker Leathernecks for the leather straps they wore around their necks as protection from the deadly slashes of the Moros' Kris swords. The .45 caliber semi-automatic pistol was invented to give the soldiers a handgun with adequate power to stop the rampaging Moro juramentados.

The Retirada, Lastico and Largo Mano techniques were developed for jungle skirmishes against an enemy armed with rifles and pistols. Names such as Leo Giron, Antonio Ilustrisimo and Major Timoteo Maranga were among intrepid Eskrimadors who fought with bolos and sticks against the superior Japanese Imperial Army during World War II.

Meanwhile, in the Visayan Islands particularly in the province of Cebu, the old warriors now enamoured by Hollywood and Coca-Cola, had very little choice but to fight against each other in order to preserve the skills they had acquired from their ancestors. It was open season for anyone who proclaimed himself an expert in the art of Eskrima. The duel called Juego Todo or no-holds-barred did not allow the combatants to wear any protective gear like masks and armour.

Rival Eskrima clubs pitted their best fighters against each other, death and permanent injury resulting from these duels was not uncommon. There is no question such “death matches” existed until they were banned by General MacArthur in 1945. Those who went overseas mostly to Hawaii and California, continued to practice and teach the art of Eskrima and the challenges that came along with it was an accepted hazard of the trade.

Amongst the most prominent of these fighters were Floro Villabrille who came from Bantayan Island, Telesforo Subing-Subing from Balamban Cebu, Pedro Apilado from Pangasinan and Angel Cabales from barrio Igania, Sibalom in the province of Antique. The latter finally settled down in Stockton California to establish the Cabales Serrada Eskrima Club. 

Pablo 'Amboy Kidlat' Sabanal (Lightning) was a drifter on horseback who roamed the towns of southwest Cebu to teach eskrima. Amboy Kidlat was the son of the early pioneer of Moalboal Laurente 'Laguno' Sabanal, the first Christian civilian during the Spanish period to have repulsed the Moro pirates with the use of his eskrima skills. The town of Moalboal used to be called Laguno to honour the man who had successfully repulsed Moro pirates on the shores of this southern Cebu town.

One of the inheritors of the system was the late Julian Goc-ong a decorated World War II veteran who acquired it from his uncle Felix 'Titi' Goc-ong, (Felix Goc-ong once killed an African American in a fair duel in the island of Hilo Hawaii).  Manoy Julian was  always very explicit in saying that they did not have a name for the eskrima style of Amboy Kidlat, it was simply called eskrima. However for purposes of making a distinction of their system from the others, and it being the dominant technique of their methodology he called it Abanico de Vertical, which is just one of the styles they practiced along with the florete, fraille, juego literada techniques.

Julian Goc-ong died in February 19, 2003. He passed on the eskrima of Amboy Kidlat now known as Abanico de Vertical to his son Patricio Goc-ong a Nestle sports executive and former two-time Philippine weightlifting champion in the bantamweight division.

The only living daughter of Amboy Kidlat (2006) is Facunda 'Aling Cunda' Sabanal Berro. Aling Cunda was born in Tunga, Moalboal on November 25, 1924. Aling Cunda learned eskrima by simply observing her father teach his brothers. Women being the favorite prey of Moro raiders for their harem, it was not surprising that some of them were equally deadly fighters. Even during the early 20th century Moro pirates continued to sow terror on the coastlines of Cebu.

Amboy Kidlat lived in the rugged mountains and cliffs of Campo Siete near Toledo Cebu. Since the place is very near where GM Jose Caballero grew up we can only surmise, he may have been influenced by Amboy Kidlat in his early youth. The place Campo Siete could have been one of his inspirations to name his method as De Campo Uno-Dos-Tres Orihinal. Although he has revealed to his son Mawe time and again how he derived the name of his method, the connection to the place Campo Siete presumably was not a coincidence. Furthermore, the early De Campo emphasized the seven striking angles.

One of the most feared eskrimadors in the pre-war period in Cebu City, was the late Grandmaster Venancio 'Anciong' Bacon inventor of Balintawak Eskrima.



A younger Anciong Bacon; this emphasizes that he had a small build.

Another was GM Vicente 'Inting' Carin who fought in twenty death matches. During World War II, he fought against the Japanese, where he had occasion to use his skills in man-to-man combat.

While attending a fiesta in the Mabolo district of Cebu, Carin noticed that a friend was being overrun by four men. After noticing one of the men drawing a knife and then preparing to stab his friend from behind, Carin instinctively parried the knife thrust and followed up with a kick to throw the attacker off balance. Carin's intervention forced the attackers to concentrate their energy on him. The mass attack was fast and furious; subsequently, Carin did not know how many he was facing. Suddenly, Inting was smashed on the skull with a wooden chair, which sent him to the floor. As he lay on the ground bleeding profusely, one of the attackers sat on top of him and delivered finishing knife thrusts. Carin was stabbed twice in the abdomen and received two extremely deep wounds. He finally disarmed his assailant and countered with a fatal thrust into the armpit of his attacker.


At this point the police arrived. After turning over his knife to the lawmen, Carin collapsed and lost consciousness. One of the attackers lay dead and two others were seriously injured. Carin was presumed dead and together with the other casualties was taken to the funeral parlor. Because of sheer luck or perhaps fate, the late grandmaster Eulogio "Yoling" Canete passed by the funeral parlor and was informed that Carin was one of the casualties. Canete realized that Carin still had signs of life and immediately rushed him to the hospital. It was later learned that the assailants numbered seven — four brothers and three companions!

GM Vicente 'Inting' Carin died in 2005 had the scars to show he had actually participated in Juego Todo duels.


Grandmaster Vicente Carin
shows his scars from knife wounds

Some of these Cebuano eskrimadors later migrated to Mindanao hoping to find peace and quiet and to retire once and for all from Juego Todo. Grandmasters Jose Caballero, Pablicito Cabahug and Jesus Abella later found out that their hiatus was short lived. It was widely believed that GM Cabahug killed more than a dozen Moro bandits during a fracas in Lanao province. Like a curse, a fisherman of Jimenez town named Protacio Mutas never passed on his eskrima skills to his eight sons for fear that they would go through the same bloody experience.

Manong Protacio was believed to have possessed a powerful Orascion. He used to pacify blade for blade encounters by the use of his orascion. Many eskrimadors of the old days practiced Orascion, a Christian incantation in Latin. Many believed that the power of Orascion gave them invincibility from any attacks whether it be blade or bullets. During a town Bayle (ball), seven drunken bullies tried to stir trouble, the leader a certain Lolong Tagaad has always wanted to challenge Manong Protacio, but the latter a very peaceful man always found a way to avoid the bully - until this night. Realizing that Lolong will never stop provoking him, Manong Protacio went home to get his 30 inch pinuti (bolo) to face Lolong once and for all. The six other drunks, fully aware of Manong Protacio's skills, chickened out and ran away. The mortal combat lasted only for a few seconds. Manong Protacio a very clever Eskrimador, slashed Lolong Tagaad's collar bone with a very powerful strike that penetrated his lungs. Lolong Tagaad died instantly, the relatives realized the futility of filing criminal charges because of witnesses testimonies that Manong Protacio fought in self-defence.

Many of the Juego Todo matches of the old days were undocumented and the witnesses accounts of these events were handed down by word of mouth. And since these stories were passed on to several generations, facts can be twisted and exaggerated to benefit the story teller. There were practically no police records to document that such matches actually took place.  

These grandmasters of Eskrima fought with their blood and guts to perfect a wariors art.