February 5, 2023

“Creativity is the essence of fencing” — Charles Allen.

I remember when I was young, we used to play eskrima, eskrima (double emphasis on weapon-based fighting with sticks and various improvised weapons).  Even then kids would harness their traditional creativity by using walis, bamboo or any left-over wooden retasos.

That was the era of rubber bands, marbles (holens) and gagamba (spider) matches.Fencing was a sport of the rich and famous and mostly seen in duels in the movies and national heroes who studied abroad. But young children have their way of entertaining themselves.

This amazement in fencing was awaken when I saw the pictures of the BIBAK Fencing Club in Baguio. They looked so regal, that I immediately got in touch with Michael Bugnosen, the grandson of former City Mayor Jaime Bugnosen to inquire about this lifestyle.

Michael or “Mike” Bugnosen belongs to the HEMA or Historical European Martial Arts Philippines. Mike and his colleagues founded the BIBAK Fencing Club in Baguio last February. It deals more on true edge long sword training.  He has a lot of interest though on Filipino martial arts (FMA). According to research, “FMA refers to ancient Malay and newer modified fighting methods devised in the Philippines which incorporates elements from both western and eastern martial arts. The most popular forms of which are known as arnis, eskrima, and kali.” 

The BIBAK Fencing Club is headed by Quintin Tanseco as president ( he trained at the  Academia Duello HEMA institute Canada  and the Kalis Magani of Sala De Armas Filipinas), Christian Bugnosen as vice president, Doyle Intas as secretary general and Rodz Arreola as treasurer. The board of directors is chaired by Michael with Prince Braganza, Sonny Bugnosen and Cyril Chayocas.

The young Prince, funny how his stately name dovetails with fencing, gave us an explanation of how the club started, “From what I remember, Bibak fencing started early February of this year, when my circle of friends started with sir Michael before inviting me. The group started with sparring sessions between enthusiasts like us, then moved on to more formal trainings.  We now have our instructor from Canada in Quintin Tanseco. I only joined around August when things calmed down a bit during the pandemic. I believe our general motivation was our love for swordsmanship inspired by video games, movies and history channels. We wanted to give our hand in imitating these awesome skills that led to our group being formed.”

When asked about the pandemic and how it helps members, Prince continued: “Training with the sport is one way where I could release pent up frustration from the pandemic. I personally feel more alive going outside twice a week for training. The sport is ideal for the pandemic because it is a non-contact sport. We don’t need to hold or have contact with anyone in this sport. Our training swords are long enough to maintain social distance, and that distance is all you need when we spar together.”

HEMA Philippines stated, “Here in the Philippines we are lucky that we have living traditions with roots in HEMA. Though greatly altered in context, movement, weapons and application in most cases. Some systems maintain valuable overlap for both FMA and HEMA purist and idealist.”

What are the protective gears being used for fencing sport? Martin Fabian explains and enumerates the following HEMA gears: in-door shoes, breathable fencing pants, plastic chest cover, fencing jackets, sparring gloves, leather gloves, forearm protector, fencing masks and the different long swords and sabers and shin guards.

Likewise, professional mixed martial artist Eric Kelly explains the importance of the protocols of mindset, keeping distance, use of protective equipment and gears like mask, gloves and the long swords.

I asked Mike what members can learn from the sport. He said: “What the young people can gain from this sport is discipline. One cannot carelessly charge into the opponent. It serves as a good lesson for history of the Medieval times in Europe and other western countries. There are two things you learn from the sport: fun and discipline. Nowadays, we use both plastic longswords and wooden kendo swords. We pioneered HEMA in Baguio.” 

Mike is a student of HEMA as of the moment with no firearms and tactical edge weapons. He is learning deep HEMA techniques and integrates it with kali.

“HEMA is a wonderful sport,” Prince said. He added: “You can engage in it amidst the pandemic. You can learn how to swing swords despite your age, gender, and body type. It is a sport that encourages and involves a lot of thinking to win. Most importantly, it is a sport where you can have fun.”

Craig Harkins pointed out the mental aspects of fencing and the ability to impose their will on a bout, to keep calm and the ability to adjust in-bout tactics as reasons for success in his Fencing.Net.

For those interested you may get in touch with Mike at mobile number 0927-146-4574 or visit them at their Salas de Armas at the BIBAK Fencing Club atBIBAK Hall – Harrison Road or by contacting any of the members.  It is free of charge but limited to only 10 persons at a time and open to all genders with no age limit.

On guard!