Feature Story: SGM Ciriaco “Cacoy” Cañete, our National Artist

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There have been calls to give Nora Aunor or Dolphy the National Artist award. The National Artist of the Philippines is a title given to a Filipino who made significant contributions to the development of Philippine arts.

Originally, the categories under which National Artists can be recognized  are Music, Dance, Theater, Visual arts, Literature, Film and Broadcast Arts, Architecture and Allied Arts.  In 1997, President Ramos issued an executive order to create a new category of  National Artist for History and Literature before conferring the honor to Carlos Quirino.

All these categories are not original Philippine arts. These arts were only introduced to us when foreign invaders ruled our country for several years. There is one art that is originally ours and there is one person who dedicates his whole life to preserve this. Sadly, the Philippine government does not seem to care about Arnis and Cacoy Cañete.

Arnis–  our oldest form of art and our best preserved cultural heritage.

Arnis can be traced back to Lapu-lapu when the native warriors only fought with rattan sticks, spears, and hand made swords called Kampilan.

When the Spaniards began colonizing the Philippines, they saw an already-developed weapons-based martial arts practiced by the natives. After the decree prohibiting the native to carry weapons, the elite and underground practitioners maintained and kept the art alive. One thing that is known is that some of the arts were hidden from the Spaniards and passed down through familial or communal ties, usually practiced by disguising them as entertainment like with choreographed dances such as the Sakuting stick dance or during mock battles at Moro-moro stage plays.

Note: Arnis, eskirma and kali all refer to the same family of Filipino weapon-based martial arts and fighting systems.  Source: wikipedia.com

Ciriaco “Cacoy” Canete (born 8 August 1919) of Cebu Philippines is a prominent, internationally known martial artist who travels the globe to share, teach and demonstrate his martial art skills to others. Currently the Grandmaster promotes his art for self-defense, sport and personal well-being.

“Cacoy” Canete is the last surviving member and the only 12th degree black belt and the highest ranking member of the fame Doce Pares Eskrima Club. He started Eskrima at age 7 under the oldest of eight, brother “Momoy”. Now 93 years old, Grandmaster Canete’s list of achievements is extensive. Here are some of the highlights:

  • Founding member of the fame Doce Pares Eskrima Club in 1932
  • Amateur Boxer, Cebu City 1937-1939
  • US Armed Force Guerilla 1942
  • Retired Lieutenant, Military Police, Philippine Army 1947
  • Teacher, St. Francis Academy, Balamban, Cebu 1948
  • Bachelor of Science Ed., University of Southern Philippines, Cebu 1950
  • Teacher, University of Visasays 1951
  • Wrestler, Philippine National Wrestling Association 1957
  • Teacher, University of San Carlos 1962-1968
  • President, Labor Union, Pepsi Cola Company, Cebu 1963-1973
  • University of Visayas, 1964-1991
  • Black Belts: Shorin Ryu Karate 1964, Kodokan Judo 1957, Aikido 1972
  • Retired Captain, Reserve Armed Forces of the Philippines 1970
  • Cebu City Colleges (now University of Cebu) 1971 – 1984
  • President Champion Trophy, 1st National Arnis Masters Open 3/24/79
  • Champion, 1st National Arnis Invitational, 8/19/79
  • Cebu Sports Hall of Fame Inductee, Philippines 1997
  • Sports Commissioner of Eskrima, Cebu City – Current
  • Commissioner on Sports Cebu City, 1998 – 2002
  • Teacher: University of San Carlos 1962 – 1968
  • University of the Visayas 1964 – 1991
  • Cebu City Colleges (now University of Cebu) 1971 – 1984
  • Commissioner on Sports Cebu City 1998 – 2002

A religious man, who has never challenged anyone, Cacoy never refused a good fight to protect his family’s Doce Pares Club and good name. He is undefeated in no-holds-barred weapon fights. His goal in martial arts is to offer confidence to those with low self-esteem, courage to the intimidated, and nurture responsibility among citizens.

  • 2003 USMA International Hall of Fame Inductees:  PHILIPPINES Ciriaco Canete Most Distinguished Grand Master of the Year

He is today the best-known of the Canete brothers (Filemon, Eulogio, Tirso, Ciriaco, Rufino and Silvestre), prime movers in the preservation and promotion of the indigenous Filipino martial art of stick fighting (eskrima-arnis).

Ciriaco “Cacoy” Canete was born in San Fernando, Cebu, in 1919, into a family for whom Eskrima was already a tradition. In his youth, Cacoy trained in boxing, wrestling and the Asian martial arts. In the 1920’s his brothers were already involved in teaching stick fighting. Interest in Filipino martial arts led to the formation by Visayan martial arts practitioners of the Doce Pares Association in Cebu. In 1939, Cacoy’s elder brother, Eulogio “Yoling” Canete became president of Doce Pares, the oldest and longest standing martial arts organization in the Philippines and a driving force behind the popularization of Filipino martial arts. Yoling was president of Doce Pares until his death in 1988.

Cacoy served with the USAFFE in the war years and stayed in the army service until 1947. He studied at the University of Southern Philippines and taught martial arts in various Cebu schools. In 1979 he was champion in both the First Open Arnis Tournament in Cebu City and the First National Invitational Arnis Tournament in Manila, both events sponsored by the National Arnis Association of the Philippines (Naraphil). Another Canete, Dionisio (Cacoy’s nephew) served as president of both Naraphil and the World Kali-Eskrima Arnis Federation (Wekaf), an organization founded much later in the history of Doce Pares (1987). The remarkable Cacoy Canete has been active in organizing tournaments, exhibitions and training programs in eskrima-arnis in the Philippines and foreign countries.

(Sources:  http://www.usadojo.com  and http://www.unitedstatesmartialartshalloffame.com)

Videos of Grandmaster  Cacoy Canete 

Grandmaster Cacoy turns 93 today.
Do you think he deserves the National Artist Award?

Nominations for National Artist of the Philippines are based on a broad criteria, as set forth by the Cultural Center of the Philippines and the National Commission on Culture and the Arts:

  • Living artists who have been Filipino citizens for the last ten years prior to nomination as well as those who have died after the establishment of the award in 1972 but were Filipino citizens at the time of their death;
  • Artists who have helped build a Filipino sense of nationhood through the content and form of their works;
  • Artists who have distinguished themselves by pioneering in a mode of creative expression or style, making an impact on succeeding generations of artists;
  • Artists who have created a significant body of works and/or have consistently displayed excellence in the practice of their art form, enriching artistic expression or style; and
  • Artists who enjoy broad acceptance through prestigious national and/or international recognition, awards in prestigious national and/or international events, critical acclaim and/or reviews of their works, and/or respect and esteem from peers within an artistic discipline.


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