The Making of Hari of King
By: Mitos Garcia
Kingship is something that is bequeathed from one generation of royalty to the next. Holding on to the title of king, however, requires constant effort, some amount of wisdom and a high standard of values consistent with the prestige of such a lofty status.
The original Filipino martial art called Sikaran called its champions “kings” hari, in Tagalog- - and not masters because they roved themselves to be the royalty in the practice of the sport. Men who had learned from their elders acquired the title. Earning it through hard practice and by achieving the near impossible, which made then consistent champions in the sport.
However, being hari in Sikaran does not stop with just being a champion in competitions. One also has to have a love for the sport, making it in his life’s ambition to spread as widely as possible its gospel of high ethical standards, nurturing it through hard times and good, teaching its techniques to as many as will learn them and keeping the rigid discipline that it always demands as a way of life.
Such a man is Osias C. Banaag, whose life revolves around Sikaran, pulling into its influence his wife, children, brothers and friends. Beyond the familiar circle are the students who compose the peripheries of the Sikaran brotherhood on a national scale, extending even to other countries.
The title hari was recently conferred upon Banaag, or Osi, as his close friends call him, for the invaluable work he has done not only to perfect his own practice, but to evangelize the revival of this ancient Filipino sport which, a few years ago, was all but forgotten.
The title was conferred upon Banaag by Francisco Torres y Escorpion of Baras, Rizal himself a Hari of the old tradition. Torres was a farmer in his youth, like his ancestors before him, and an avid practitioner of Sikaran, an inherited interest which enlived the late hours of day for the people of Baras and the adjoining town of Tanay and Morong.
Torres, while conferring the title on Banaag, admonished him to continue being hardworking, dedicated and highly moral. He advised all Sikaran players to stick to a diet that is health and wholesome and avoid a degenerating lifestyle.
The old man said that he had decided to make Banaag his heir, because of the work he has done to keep Sikaran alive and progressive. “I have noticed the dedication of this young man, and because none of my own sons have followed in my footsteps, I now make OSIAS C. BANAAG my heir as hari, to whom I will bequeath everything I know about Sikaran,” Torres stated.
Banaag was born in Baras, Rizal in 1959 where the Sikaran was originated, As a youth, he used to watch the elders play in informal Sikaran bouts. However, his first lesson in martial arts was in karate.
He is a religious person; Banaag early in life developed convictions, which gave him a high standard of moral values. He learned to master his bases instincts, adopting a lifestyle of meticulous self-discipline. As a Sikaran leader, he learned the ability to impart to his own students the virtue of true sportsmanship.
Banaag learned several trades, finishing courses in Biogas Technology, Bible Theology and as a master cutter in tailoring, which has served him good stead as a proponent of Sikaran. He took up course in Bachelor of Science in Education at the Tomas Claudio Memorial College.
On March 23, 1976, he went to work at the Foremost Farms, Inc. in Pinugay, Baras, where he became a security foreman. His record as employee at foremost earned the respect not only of his fellow employees, but also of the management, earning him an award of integrity from the company. His work, however, did not stop Banaag from practicing his martial arts. He gave up karate and took up Sikaran, heart, mind and spirit, and exerted all efforts to promote it everywhere.
September 21, 1976, he established the Foremost Sikaran Arnis Brotherhood at the Foremost Farms, Milestone Farms and Peterson Farms, at the Barangay Pinugay, Baras, Rizal. Teaching anyone interested enough to undertake and learn the discipline that Banaag has consistently applied, not only to himself, but also to his students. “I used the Word Foremost not because I was working there, but because it means ‘the very first’ organization teaching solid Sikaran,” Banaag stated.
Banaag’s idea of discipline is simple, if rigid. “No matter how many promotions and degrees are conferred on a practitioner, if he or she is sloppy, or follows a lifestyle that parent would not wish their children to emulate such as: drunkenness, gambling, immorality, etc., or uses Sikaran to gain advantage of others, that practitioner is not worthy to eventually assume the status of hari, or any rank whatsoever because he has made a mockery of something that has become as sacred as our history as Filipinos,” Banaag stated.
These are the values and standards that have been set by Banaag into the Constitution and By-laws of the FOREMOST SIKARAN BROTHERHOOD INC. He also encourages his students to study the history of Sikaran, to imbed in their hearts a complete knowledge of their favorite sport.
In his researches on the history of Sikaran, Banaag has come across some facts, which contradict certain popularly known myths about people and events. He is now in the process of correcting these misconceptions, broached by some for their own self-interest, through interviews and discussions with elders in Baras, Tanay and Morong who have a better knowledge on the subject.
The title of hari June 26, 1994, as the legacy of Francisco Torres to the Filipino youth, Banaag now has the authority to award rankings on his students and subordinates. An affidavit signed by Torres attest to the legacy.
With the final imprimatur on his status as the new Hari, Banaag has pledged to continue the old man’s dream of seeing Sikaran replace foreign-inspired martial arts in the hearts of Filipinos. He also hopes that, in the near future, Sikaran will also become a national official sport participating in the Olympics and other competitions worldwide.
Style of padamba, or flying kick, which was reportedly delivered with tremendous power, at an extraordinary height of 10 feet. Another, Alfonso Tesoro, likewise an undisputed hari, could crack coconuts with bare shins and is said to have acquired the hardness of steel. Casteneda was reported to have killed a carabao with a single biakid, the same way he used to dispose of opponents in the arena. He wound up without challengers eventually.
Although these men died of old age, they had no chance to teach the next generation, and left no legacy. Indeed, surviving old timers watched helplessly while their favorite sport, a product of centuries, slowly faded away to give way to “modern” martial arts from Korea, Japan, China, Indonesia and Thailand.
Torres mentions women who played sikaran, contemporaries who were no less mean players than the men. Acquiring hari status were Segunda Jimenez, Maxima Campo and Marcela Llagas, who would enter the arena with their skirts bound like G-strings above their knees. “They could deliver some very powerful and painful kicks. They took courage to get in there and face these women,” Torres muses.
young man, OSIAS BANAAG y Catalos, had his beginning in karate, but abandoned this to concentrate on sikaran and refining his techniques in his ancestors’ sport. In 1976, Banaag established the Foremost (meaning first) Sikaran-Arnis Brotherhood and has since been its’ most dedicated practitioner.
Mainly through his tireless efforts, sikaran has now regained the interest of many young people, a good number of whom have become his students. He espoused the study of sikaran in two unit of Military, Light Armor Brigade and Army Honor Guard are in Fort Bonifacio, Makati City and for security guards at the Manuela I and II (las Pinas, City) Shopping Complex, on the third floor of Manuela Complex (EDSA) crossing Mandaluyong, City which established the Sikaran-Arnis Gym. Banaag’s efforts paid off. Having garnered (6th) sixth degree status in Karate, he attracted the attention of Hari Francisco Torres who recently conferred upon Banaag the status of hari, symbolizing his mastery of the sport.
No one can confer hari status except another hari, as part of the legacy he leaves behind when he retires from active participation in the sport. The conferment on Banaag is his first between hari and one who is not his own son. This was in recognition of Banaag’s efforts not only for being a top sikaran player, but also for using his own meager resources to nurture and spread it not only in the Philippines, all over the world.
As Torres’s heir, Banaag has an edge over his colleagues. The old man has committed to teaching Banaag his own techniques as much as his old bones will permit. Banaag, for his part, has sworn to uphold the high values of sportsmanship espoused by sikaran and pass on to the younger generations all the knowledge he has acquired. Thus, sikaran is restored to its rightful place as part of Filipino heritage.