The numbers are there to prove it: Arnis will definitely become a big contributor to the Team Philippine campaign at the forthcoming 32nd Southeast Asian (SEA) Games in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, the first time the sport will see action on foreign soil in the 11-nation meet.
With only four countries participating, all 40 Filipino arnisadors during the Games are virtually assured of a podium finish.
The Philippine Eskrima Kali Arnis Federation (Pekaf) just finished its qualifying tournament at Ninoy Aquino Stadium in Manila with the winners expected to form the core of the 40-man lineup bound for Cambodia where 12 golds are at stake.
“I can’t give you an amount out of the 12, but our target of course is to get the majority [of the gold medals],’’ said Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri, who heads Pekaf as its chair and president.
According to Pekaf executive vice president Gerald Cañete, men and women Filipino arnisadors will participate in four weight divisions—bantamweight, featherweight, lightweight and welterweight—in live stick and padded stick sparring competitions for a total of eight events.
The remaining four events are team forms (“anyo”) competitions.
“This is our national sport. Hopefully, we’ll be able to beat our opponents in the SEA Games,’’ said Zubiri.
The nation grabbed 14 of the 20 gold medals at stake during the 2019 edition along with four silver medals and two bronzes.
Aside from the Philippines, only Vietnam, Myanmar and Cambodia will be there, giving the assurance that all 40 arnisadors going to the Phnom Penh edition on May 5 to 17 will not go home empty-handed, each of them guaranteed of at least a bronze medal.
“Our opponents have become stronger. Vietnam is catching up, Cambodia has the home court advantage and Myanmar has a Filipino coach who has been training them,’’ said Zubiri, whose marching order from Philippine Olympic Committee president Abraham “Bambol’’ Tolentino is to sweep all the golds.
“It’s hard to tell. It’s a competition. We’ll just do the best we can and get as many golds,’’ added Zubiri, a former national arnisador who won several medals for the country during his prime.
Impressive during the qualifying meet for the SEA Games were Anthony Cris Luna of University of Cebu with two gold medals and fellow Cebuanos Trixie Mary Lofranco, Kurt John Cristobal and Maria Ella Alcoseba.
Kamya Verano of San Fernando, Fitzel Leal, Angelique Cruz and Anjeanette Brillantes made Luzon proud while Brent Randolph Pauya from Tacurong City and Chainna Rosauro of Digos City were the prized finds from Mindanao. INQ
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