MABALACAT, Pampanga. — After an absence of 14 years, Filipino arnis warriors asserted their superiority anew in the ethnic combat sport by sweeping all the four gold medals at stake Sunday in the men’s live stick event of the 30th Southeast Asian Games at the Angeles University Foundation here.
Dexter Bolambao got the ball rolling for the hosts, scoring a unanimous decision win over Myanmar’s Soe Paing in the men’s 55-kilogram division while Sen. Miguel Zubiri, president of the Philippine Eskrima Federation, and Philippine Olympic Committee president Rep. Bambol Tolentino watched at ringside.
“Medyo mahirap ding ‘yon ating kalaban. Pero sport natin to kaya inubos ko ang lahat ko para manalo,” said Bolambao, 23, of San Isidro, Leyte, a two-time World Eskrima Federation champion in 2017 in Cebu and 2018 in Honolulu, Hawaii.
Equally triumphant were military men Nino Talledo, Villardo Cunamay and Mike Banares in the men’s 50-55 kg, 55-60-kg and above 60 kg classes, respectively.
“Dominant ang laro natin from start to finish (sa men’s division). Hopefully we win overall, so far so good,” Zubiri said. “Magagaling na rin ang kalaban, ‘yung Cambodia, Vietnam at Myanmar.
“We really prepared for this, sila ang best of the best” the senator added. “Ginawa namin we had Luzon, Visayas, Mindanao championships, pinaglaban-laban namin ‘yan para mapili ang mga athletes natin.”
Still being played at press time were the women’s matches.
Zubiri said the PH arnis campaigners are eager to capture 12 out of the 20 gold medals up for grabs and ensure the overall title in the sport that was last held in the country’s third hosting of the SEA Games in 2005.