Wednesday, May 24, 2006


Just like many Americans, I learned of Remy’s passing in an internet posting.

For one thing, I was shocked. I knew he had had surgery, and was having complications during recovery, but I did not know he was at death’s door. I was deeply saddened. I could not help shedding tears as I read the rest of the news.

Professor Remy Amador Presas was no abstraction to me. I was not at his bedside when he died. I was not a ranking student who was part of the Modern Arnis inner circle in the United States. I did not even deem myself worthy of calling myself a student of Remy Presas.

But Remy and I had a connection.

Maybe it was because I met him when he was new to the States, and not too many people knew who he was. I met him via correspondence while he was still in San Francisco, and I did not personally get to meet him until he started teaching and giving seminars at Dan Di Vito’s taekwondo academy in Los Angeles in the mid-seventies.

Maybe it was because we were both middle-aged immigrants from the Philippines trying to make a successful life here in the States, who also happened to have a common passion for arnis.

Maybe it was because we would chat together in Tagalog during those seminars I attended over a span of three decades. One time we were eating seminar lunches. I was eating teriyaki chicken with rice and he was chowing down on several hotdogs. I kidded him that the hot dogs were bad for him. He looked at my food and said. “Sawa na ako diyan.” (I am tired of that kind of food.)

Maybe it was because we had a common friend, Master Godofredo “Godo” Fajardo, in the Philippines. Godo was my Modern Arnis instructor in the Philippines. Godo was a direct student of Remy in the Philippines, and together with many other Modern Arnis stalwarts in the Philippines, became caretaker of the style when Remy left for the United States, and would carry on the Modern Arnis torch after Remy’s passing.

It was probably all of the above, that gave me such a pang of sadness knowing there would be no more Modern Arnis seminars and friendly banter with the charismatic yet friendly Father of Modern Arnis.

That night, I had to teach my regular arnis class in Laguna Hills, California. I decided to do something a little bit different. I wore my official Modern Arnis uniform to class, when normally we just wore our Filipino Fighting Arts T-shirts. At the start of the class, I announced Remy’s untimely death. I asked the students present that night to offer a silent prayer, and dedicate the night’s workout in his memory.

At that time, I thought that that was my symbolic final goodbye to Remy and Modern Arnis. Other than regular correspondence with Godo, I had no official standing or connection with the Modern Arnis hierarchy.

Little did I know that Remy was not done with me yet. This must be the circle of life that Mufasa talks about in “The Lion King.” Godo and I are involved again with Remy’s organization as Commissioners at both ends of the world, with Godo in Saudi Arabia and me in California.

So far it has been gratifying working with the likes of Masters Rene Tongson, Cristino Vasquez, Rodel Dagooc and Roland Dantes in promoting Modern Arnis. It will be a long road ahead, it will be a challenge, and the obstacles will not be minor, but I am happy to be a utility player in a star-studded team that will ensure that Professor Remy Presas’s beloved style and his memory will live on forever.


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