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To revolt is to liberate

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To the untamed vision, a wield of padded sticks in martial arts is not one for a show — too brutal to deserve a spot on any naked eye it decrees to land on. The ferocity this sport imbibes, however, infuses an additional layer to tend to for Spencer A. Cuaresma, a 19-year-old university student whose lame life frames were painted vibrant by a sport utterly associated with barbarity – Arnis.

Dating back to when everything interests his examining mind, Cuaresma clenched two sticks to his hand, tried sweeping them aboard the sailing gust of wind, and put them on grip to imprisonment. Six years ago, the furious weapon started serving as extensions of his body, the same thing that freed him from the chaos of his own adversities.

Embraced with body armor and grilled helmets as a combative headdress, Arnisadores bow to their prey prior to striking them with their armors made of ratan. Declared as the Philippine National Sport, Eskrima Arnis, more popularly known as “Arnis”, borrows genesis from the arrival of the Spaniards in the Philippines, when only sticks and bladed weapons determine one’s lifeline in hand-to-hand combat.

While Arnis does not boast the prestige other sporting events possess, the spirit of a fiercely unforgiving martial artist is hustling — resolute on capturing medals. For whatever reason this nabbing of golds has grown, the roots scream otherwise. Cuaresma, in his humble beginnings as an arnisador, only pledged on stick-wielding as a form of self-defense. Little did it occur to him that the rapid sport, which he considers as a tool for self-preservation, could grow into a bigger cause.

The budding arnisador found his consolation and constant companionship in the arms of Arnis. As he progressed into his forté, the sport no longer stands as an overlooked art for him. It rather transitioned as a combat tool to overcome his daily battles.

Before meeting hands with his sport, Cuaresma struggled to keep his mental health at a balanced pace. Mothering the emotions he felt left more wars in his head which, at that time, he was unarmed to champion — a glimpse of the hardships too many surrendered from. Nonetheless, a distinct story awaits him. Arnis, in his case, was the last thin-hanging string that liberated Cuaresma from the battlefield he did not choose to revolt in the first place; exactly the same sport that freed us during the Philippine-Spanish war, and subsequently, in the Philippine-American war.

From then on, Cuaresma discovered more reasons to stay in motion albeit the downfalls he encountered. As a matter of fact, the amount of peace he savors when playing the combat sport ignited a spark to him, feeding his competitive pride while acknowledging that everyone starts off as a newbie and it is only through the wonders of consistency and persistence that molds a great arnisador.

As a second-year Bachelor of Science in Criminology student himself, Cuaresma endeavors to juggle the hardships he continues to be faced with — fatigue, sleepless nights, and financial distraught — all while balancing his academic, familial, and social life. It is through Arnis, according to him, that shaped the realization of his personal development, giving more credence to things that matter most as opportunities only knock once.

In his six years of swording somersaults and flips, Cuaresma was able to nab the following achievements which he owes to his foremost coach, Benjie Cuaresma, his father; together with Nissan Ramirez and Jojo Bautista, his instructors, who all joined forces to produce arnisadors alike:

  • UM Champion in Combative and Anyo event (Single weapon)
  • CAVRASUC Gold medalist in Combative and Anyo event (Single weapon)
  • 110th Baguio Day Charter National Arnis Championship Gold medalist in Combative and Bronze medalist in Anyo (Single weapon)
  • Dos Rise Silver medalist in Anyo (Single weapon) and Bronze medalist in Anyo (Double weapon)

Given his multitude of credentials that brought pride to Isabela State University-Cauayan City Campus, the academic community shall be taken to a short walk with how the athlete paved his road to victory. His recent win during the 1st Luzon Leg-Philippine Reserved Officer Training Corps (ROTC) Games held at Cavite State University International Convention Center last September 21 meant for him an almost insurmountable mountain to climb on.

A month prior to the game, Cuaresma worked to achieve his 60kg target weight for the Featherweight category. Combining intensive training and binge eating, he eventually gained 6kg; 5kg short from his target. Thus, he tripled his efforts just to be able to face the fighting square.

To an unfortunate note, the guidelines for the game were rectified two days apart from the event’s commencement. Just when he attained the Featherweight category’s requirement, the organizers altered the 60kg requisite to below 60. Adamant to positioning himself in the square, Cuaresma acceptingly performed cardio workouts to lessen his weight. In the end, he placed 4th in Forms (Anyo) and finished as a finalist in Combative (Labanan) event.

Today, even as a trained martial artist, Cuaresma remains the way he was when he was just starting — as determined as he could be and a work in progress despite meager resources.

With most sporting activities enjoying popular acceptance, ISUan arnisador Cuaresma is, without doubt, proud in patronizing the Filipino martial arts industry that put a spotlight on Filipino culture and history.

Most importantly, the subtle idea of free flow in Arnis for him signifies a person’s fluidity in movement so natural — Cuaresma never has to worry again in any circumstance. Life, in the same manner, comes with waves that flow ever so gently in a series of block-and-slash techniques; reviving the spirit of a warrior in him.

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