In 2012, I discovered an interview with Master Rodrigo Maranga conducted by David Foggie, an Arnis expert from Melbourne, on the website www.blitzmag.net . Even after going to the Philippines twice to train with Master Maranga and his family, I occasionally read this interview again, which I find very interesting. The website www.blitzmag.net no longer exists, but luckily I made a copy of this interview because it is no longer found on the net. You can discover this interview below. I have added photos to enhance this article.
Master Rodrigo ‘Drigo’ Maranga interview
Rodrigo Maranga is the son of the late Grandmaster Timoteo Maranga, one of the most respected Eskrima masters in Cebu, Philppines. Arnis instructor David Foggie interviewed Maranga during a visit to the Philippines.
Born on 6 April 1950, Rodrigo Maranga is the son of Grandmaster Timoteo Maranga. A direct student of Balintawak Eskrima’s founder, Grandmaster Venancio ‘Anciong’ Bacon, Grandmaster Maranga was one of the ‘three pillars’ of Balintawak Eskrima, along with GM Bacon and Delfin Lopez. After decades of training, research and experience, GM Maranga modified and altered his system, which he named Super Cuentada and later changed to Tres Personas Escrima de Combate Super Cuentada.
Hesitant to teach his system to anyone, GM Timoteo Maranga was selective with whom he shared his knowledge and rarely taught people outside his own family. After his death in 1988, Rodrigo Maranga assumed leadership of the family system and continued teaching the art only to family members and a select group of outsiders. It wasn’t until 1998 that Master Maranga and his son Rico unveiled their family system to the public.
Today, Grandmaster Rodrigo Maranga and his family are dedicated to keeping his legacy alive and passionate about ensuring that their father’s art is promoted with the respect it deserves.
David Foggie : GM Maranga, when were you first exposed to Eskrima and when did you start training ?
Rodrigo Maranga : My first exposure was when I was still a little boy. I remember having training with my father at the age of four or five. I often watched my father training and this was literally daily, for more than four hours. Also, what added to my training and exposure was being privileged [to see] him doing some tricks with other eskrimadors who visited our house. My formal training started when I was 25 and already married.
Your father, Grandmaster Timoteo E. Maranga, was a renowned and instrumental figure in Cebuano Eskrima. What was he like as a teacher ?
He was a disciplinarian, a good teacher, fighter and a good father. However, he was a perfectionist and very strict. For example, if there was a certain point of instruction that I didn’t immediately get, we would spend a day or more doing it again and again until I perfected it.
What was his method of instruction and teaching progression ?
His method is his method — he had no particular program or pattern in his training [and] instruction. He emphasised the basics and it progressed to the higher levels. Rather than teach groups, he taught one-on-one.
When did your father start training in Eskrima and who was his instructor ?
My father started his Eskrima training at a very young age with my grandfather, Gregorio ‘Godoy’ Maranga, who taught him the De Marina style. My grandfather was also a disciplinarian and perfectionist.
Your father also trained for varying periods of time under other teachers. Did he ever mention them or discuss his training under them ?
Yes, he was trained by other teachers, since he was not contented with what he received from his father. His business, which took him to various places in the whole Philippine islands, gave him the opportunity to meet and be trained by other well-known eskrimadors. Among these were Emilio Tado, Faustino Tanio, Rogelio Ortiz, Emo Sagarino, Dalmacio Salinguhay, Dading Melchades and Antonio ‘Tatang’ Ilustrisimo, for varying lengths of time.
GM Venancio ‘Anciong’ Bacon became your father’s Eskrima teacher. What can you tell us about him ?
My father met Grandmaster Bacon through Dading Melchades who was the husband of his aunt. Grandmaster Bacon was a small man — about five feet, four inches in height and a solid body structure with a small-to-medium frame. He was a very humble man who talked little.
I remember one time after he, my father and I finished with our training, he told me he had given everything to my father and was proud that my father had improved what he had. He had a great regard for my father and vice-versa.
In addition to the training you received from your father, did you receive instruction from any other masters ?
Yes. Aside from my father, I was also taught by Grandmaster Anciong Bacon himself.
Growing up, you must have met and associated with many skilled practitioners visiting and training under your father.
Yes, I met Atty. Jose Villasin, Johnny Chiuten, Esing Atillo, Jose ‘Joego’ Millan, Remy Presas, Rodolfo Mongcal and others.
Remy Presas went on to become world-renowned for his skill in Arnis…
My father was very happy and proud of Remy’s accomplishments. I remember Remy learning from my father and I watched many of their training sessions together. In fact, I can remember Remy arriving with food to give my father because he would not accept money for instruction.
During our dinner, your family was talking of your father’s dedication to improving his knowledge, understanding and techniques. Do any instances come to mind ?
Often we would see our father sitting and thinking a lot. Then he would get his stick and physically go through the techniques; actualise what he had been thinking. Sometimes he would call for one of his disciples, Molo, to share his ideas and they would then put the ideas into application.
What is the history of Balintawak Eskrima as passed down to you by your father ?
I only know that Anciong Bacon started it. Originally eskrimadors in Cebu formed Doce Pares, which was an umbrella organisation of eskrimadors. Later on, due to problems, there were splits from Doce Pares and another club was formed, Balintawak. After this, there were eskrimadors who challenged Balintawak and they were conducted with the olisi (stick) and without any protective gear. Anyway, the Balintawak group can explain and give you further details.
Your father named his style Tres Personas Eskrima de Combate Super Kuwentada System. Could you please elaborate on its meaning ?
My father named it Tres Personas Eskrima de Combate Super Kuwentada System because of his belief in the Holy Trinity [Tres Personas], which consists of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. Knowing that there is no one who can be above and be more powerful than the three persons [Holy Trinity] in one God, he thus named his system Tres Personas Eskrima de Combate Super Kuwentada — no one better than his style of Eskrima.
Your family recently renamed the system Combate Eskrima Maranga (CEM). What led to this change ?
The change of name simplifies many things. For example, the word ‘Combate’ explains immediately that it is a combative style of Eskrima and the name Maranga expounds the kind and style of Eskrima that we have. The change was also in keeping with the legacy that our father gave us.
How has the Combate Eskrima Maranga system evolved ?
CEM was founded in the year 2000 after the death of my father in 1988. However, before he died, I applied my knowledge to instructing my eldest son, Rico, who had been serious in his training with my father [since] the age of seven. My son and I regularly trained in our house but my father, Timor, was already very sick and unable to spar with me. Since then, some of my nephews joined us one at a time.
I do not claim to have made innovations to the system, we have only refined it.
What makes up the syllabus of CEM ?
In our syllabus we have armed and unarmed combat using the stick, dagger and long-bladed weapons (pinuti). CEM also has forms, as they are helpful in building the students’ Eskrima skills. My father did not teach double sticks for fighting (combat). However, he used it for warm-up and exercise. The double sticks are a beautiful art that I want to keep. It is a form of dance in Eskrima and derives from a native dance called sakuting and sinawali.
What about the principles and concepts of your system ?
A simplified way of principles and concepts are :
1) The one who punches will be punched, the one who gives an attack will be hit.
2) Never attack and fight when you are in anger.
3) The best defence is the best offence and vice-versa.
4) As much as possible, do not allow your opponent to land a hit.
5) Disarm immediately.
6) [Use] no force-to-force techniques.
7) Always be in cocked position, ready to defend and attack.
In your opinion, what are the characteristics of CEM that differentiates it ?
It is S.E.E.D. This means Short (in every application), Effective (moves), Economical (in actions) and Direct (in every attack and application).
Balintawak is a corto (close-range) system, yet CEM also contains largo mano (long-range) techniques. What led to this addition ?
It’s very important to know both, since real fighting starts with long range and ends up in close range. However, with us if you start with long range, you will not end up in close range. We will end the situation with you in long range.
What are your views on disarming techniques, both cane-to-cane and empty hands versus cane ?
It’s a known fact among eskrimadors that the stick is like a wife: if it is taken from you, it is a big insult. Boasting aside, we have effective ways of disarming both at long range and close range. In order to disarm someone striking with speed and power, the practitioner must have practised constantly. Cane-to-cane, I find it easy to disarm. However, with empty hands against a cane, it is much easier, since I have both hands to use to my advantage — though I need to get closer to my opponent.
You demonstrated some effective methods of dealing with edged-weapon attacks. Could you please outline your approach to such situations ?
With daggers, the end point is the part that kills. It’s vital for the practitioner to always keep their body away from the point and even the edge of the dagger. Do not grab any edged weapon unless [it is] totally given, and by this I mean the attacker has committed to his attack. When it is not given, the approach is subject to change.
Do you think eskrima has much to offer in modern times ?
Yes, it has much to offer. It will remind the world how we fought for our freedom from the Spaniards, Japanese and American dominion in our land using our very own skills in Eskrima in combat.
What do you hope the future holds for CEM ?
God willing, we hope to have a training school, create tournaments among CEM trainees and be able to teach abroad as well.
David Foggie is a student of Master Roland Dantes and is also taught by Master Christopher Ricketts and Grandmaster Vicente R. Sanchez. He teaches FMA in Melbourne (for more info, see Blitz Classifieds).
For further information on the Maranga family system, as well as other interpretations of Balintawak and other systems, check out Warrior Arts of The Philippines by Reynaldo S. Galang, available through Blitz.