Jefferson Paul V. Felicitas

Despite the rising popularity, Pencak Silat athletes and coaches were greeted by a barely occupied gymnasium at the St. Peter’s College of Toril, Davao City during day one of the 2019 Palarong Pambansa, April 29.

Being relatively new to the scene, participants understand why people are still unaware of the sport but hope that the positive trend of awareness from the general public will continue.

The martial arts of Indonesian origin started as demonstration sports in the 2017 Palaro in Antique.

“Based on my observation, nare-recognize na rin ‘yong laro na Pencak Silat. And as time goes by, siguro ‘pag na-introduce na siya as regular sport (in the Palaro), maybe dadami na rin ‘yung audience natin. By next year, magiging regular sport na rin siya and I’m hoping na hindi lang ‘yung athletes talaga ang audience,” Zulaiha Guiamalo, coach from Bangsamoro Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao, said.

Her colleague, Aladin Molid, also shared that many students in their region lined up to join the said sports during the lower athletic meets.

However, a common sentiment among the practitioners is that they receive little recognition from the public, especially outside the academe and martial arts communities.

“Sometimes ‘pag may magtatanong sa akin kung anong sports ko at sinabi kong Pencak Silat, hindi kasi nila alam ‘yon eh,pesilat Riena Elnar from Region 7 said.

She added, “Gusto ko na lahat ng mga tao o majority sa mga tao alam ang sport namin. Gusto ko na kahit isang sabi ko lang ng ‘Pencak Silat,’ malalaman na talaga nila agad-agad.”

Practitioners also encourage everyone to try learning the sports for its positive impact on lifestyle, mentality, and mutual respect, and to learn self-defense.

Philippine Lightning Speed – Pencak Silat (Aklan) gym founder Freddie Jizmundo Jr. emphasized the need for people to learn martial arts, especially women to defend against attackers on the streets.

Kahit maging propesyunal tayo—hindi naman natin hinihingi—mapalaban tayo, masaksak tayo d’yan [at] wala tayong self defense, iba yung ‘pag may self defense ka, aware ka kaagad,” he added.

In addition, Elnar shared an experience when she applied the skills she learned from the sport in real life.

Naglalakad ako pauwi sa amin, may lalaki na lumapit sa akin tapos hinawakan ang balikat ko, ayon ginamit ko (Pencak Silat skills), sinuntok ko siya at umalis na ako agad,” she said.

WINNING STANCE. Mary Francine Padios hooks the eyes of the jury during the Palarong Pambansa Pencak Silat, Seni Tunggal–Patri (Artistic Singles–Girls) category, April 29. PHOTO BY JOJIROSE ANNE B. MONDING

Breaking streaks for first gold
Meanwhile, Mary Francine Padios of Region 6 toppled back-to-back champion Elnar in the Seni Tunggal Patri (Artistic, Singles–Girls) category to grab the first gold medal of the tournament.

Padios garnered 432 points, besting silver medalist Hannah Seins Leaño of Region 9 with 429 points, and Elnar with 413 bagging bronze.

The 15-year-old pesilat said she experienced mixed emotions of shock, joy, and disbelief as her name was called during the announcement.

“Overwhelming kasi hindi ko naman in-expect (na makukuha ang gold) dahil nga lagi akong silver pero happy ako dahil syempre, sino ang hindi magiging masaya?” she added.

According to her trainer, Jizmundo, joining various regional competitions such as the Women’s Martial Arts Festival and Dinagyang Festival gave the neophyte the exposure she needed to gain an advantage against the other participants.

Padios only joined Jizmundo’s Lightning Speed Gym May 2018, where the veteran trainer noticed the former taekwondo jin’s fast learning ability and perseverance.

However, Padios said that she herself does not know what made her performance a cut above the other participants.

“Basta habang ‘di pa ako tinatawag, nagpapainit ako kumbaga. Tapos nag-pray na gagawin ko lahat ng best ko at kay God na ako magsasalalay. I think diyan (bakit nanalo) pero if sa performance, I don’t know, baka sa power or sa stances ko,” she said.

The young Aklanon also expressed that “soon, Pencak will also be recognized.”

“As an athlete of Pencak Silat, I experienced sportsmanship, camaraderie, and defeat and in that moment (whenever she experienced losses), hindi ako nakaramdam ng panlalait mula sa mga pesilat but instead we helped and comforted each other. Maganda rin ang Pencak dahil hindi lang ito sport, because in Pencak Silat, we treat one another as family. And it moulded our character to become a better person,” she concluded.