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About Filemon Canete

Filemon De La Cuesta Canete, or “Momoy” as he was known to his friends and students, was born in 1904. He grew up in the San Fernando region of Cebu. It was there that he began his study of Eskrima as a teenager. The eight Canete brothers learned the rudiments of the art from their father Gregorio Canete. More advanced training came from Lt. Pinyete Piano Aranas, a feared eskrimador in Cebu and other teachers such as Juan Tecson and Juanso Tekya, a demon with stick and blade who lived in the wild San Fernando mountains.

In 1920 Momoy began to study with Lorenzo Saveedra and his son Teodoro, who were considered among the top Eskrimadors in the Visayan region. In 1926, the Saveedras organized the Labongon Fencing Club. The Canetes were members for several years until the Club dissolved. In 1932, the Canetes and the Saveedras founded the Doce Pares Club. The name Doce Pares means “Twelve Pairs” [of hands]. It was named after a group of fighting men in France during the reign of Charlemagne, all of whom were expert swordsmen. At this time, Momoy began to formulate the exercises incorporating various methods of attack and defense. These form the basis of what is taught by the Canete family today.

It was during this period that Momoy began to gain recognition as that rare individual who can create new fighting forms by researching and synthesizing already existing methods. At age 22 he explored faith healing with Don Tecson, a famous eskrimador, faith healer, and wild animal catcher. Later he studied Combat Judo with Jeseus Cui and blended its principles with his Eskrima. Momoy held the Saveedras foremost among his teachers. Indeed many of their students went on to create their own methods of Eskrima.

Beginning in the 1930’s, Momoy began to expand on the methods he had learned, emphasizing espada y daga, the use of stick and dagger. Momoy considered this to be the true Eskrima, requiring the most skill to master. His footwork and powerful striking patterns, allowed him to evade an attack and move in quickly with a counter strike or thrust. With the dagger hand, he could deliver lightening fast thrusts or check, hook, and disarm the opponent’s weapons. His skill with stick and dagger made him feared and respected in Cebu.

Momoy taught the use of the spear, one of the original Eskrima weapons, that had fallen into disuse during the Spanish occupation. He linked the movements of the spear to those of the stick and dagger and to the use of the ananangkil (long stick). Other weapons were the chain (cadena), bullwhip (latigo), and throwing knife.

During World War II, Momoy ferried supplies from the Americans to the Filipino resistance army in the mountains and forests. He also served as a healer for Filipino soldiers. The Japanese killed many Eskrima practitioners during the war. Those that survived either hid with the guerrillas or fled.

As a healer, Momoy was well known in the barrios of Cebu City. Often during Eskrima practice he would pause to treat patients from the neighborhood with spiritual healing. He attributed his power to God and said that it was developed by concentrated prayer. A talented musician and songwriter, Momoy composed several popular songs for the guitar. His students felt that his ability to create new Eskrima movements and forms came from his talent for musical composition.

Momoy Canete continued to teach and refine his Eskrima up until his death in 1995. I was lucky enough to study with him from 1979 to 1987. In that time period he generously taught me the key elements of his art – especially the use of espada y daga. I spent several months in the Philippines training daily in the San Miguel form, disarming and locking, and partner drills. Today Momoy’s art is known as San Miguel Eskrima and is carried on by his students.

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