PASAY CITY, Philippines – No doubt Dexler Bolambao would be the next face of Arnis in the Philippines. From winning seven gold medals for the Philippines in the World Eskrima Kali-Arnis Federation (WEKAF) World Championships in Hawaii, USA last year, Bolambao won Cebu City’s first gold medal in the 30th Southeast Asian Games after winning the Bantamweight division in the Live Stick competition of the Arnis tournament over at Angeles University Foundation Gymnasium in Angeles City, Pampanga.
The 23-year-old Eskrimador from Barangay Mambaling is grateful for the blessings that arnis has given him and at the same time expressed his gratitude to the people who made him what he is today – SGM Dionisio Canete, ODL, his son Master Gerald and all the grandmasters at Doce Pares Headquarters.
“I owe it to them. I am very grateful for the people at the Doce Pares Headquarters, to SGM Diony (Canete), sir Gerald and all the grandmasters who made me who I am today. I dedicate this gold medal to them,” said Bolambao.
A humble member of the PSC-Visayas Technical crew, Bolambao never expected to win a gold medal despite the credentials and the experience of fighting bigger opponents in the world stage. His prayers, determination and pure talent made it easier for him to pull through.
“I already told you that Dexler will win the gold medal, easily. He is the most talented and the most dedicated athlete in our pool of players. And he has a huge heart and his determined to win the gold medal,” Gerald Canete told iNews.PH.
The younger Canete is the executive vice president of the Philippines Eskrima-Kali Arnis Federation (PEKAF) and was the tournament manager of the Arnis competition.
Bolambao’s love affair with Arnis started only when he was at 1st-year high school.
He learned the basics of the sport through their PE Class. He got hooked and started competing the following year.
His skills were noticed by SGM Canete when Bolambao graduated high school and was about to enter college.
He became one of the scholars of Doce Pares and got an athletic scholarship at the Cebu Technological University, where he studied Bachelor of Science in Mechatronics.
Under the close watch of Doce Pares, Bolambao’s skills grew tenfold and he became part of the Team Philippines and vied in the two WEKAF world championships – 2016 in Cebu and 2018 in Hawaii.
It was in Hawaii that Bolambao reaped the fruits of his sacrifices as he won all seven categories that made him a show-in to the Philippine Team. However, Doce Pares wanted Bolambao to prove his worth as he went through the tough process of selection. Bolambao advanced from the Visayas Qualifying in April of last year, and then made it to the pool after winning the National qualifying early this year.
Still, the road to making it to the rooster for the SEA Games was not easy for Bolambao. He went through tough training regimen before he was finally named into the line-up in June.
“I am just so happy right now. Happy because I made Cebu proud. Happy because I lived up to expectations. Happy because I won the first gold medal in Arnis (for the Philippines),” Bolambao added.
The road is still tough ahead, especially the battle of PEKAF to get the approval of the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) to include Arnis into the calendar of events in Asian games, which is the first step towards the Olympics. RCM