While waiting for their 30-minute class, the children had gathered around a whiteboard. They were answering questions such as “What is your name?” and “Who is your mother?”, scrawling their answers in Baybayin. According to Baybayin expert Kristian Kabuay, Baybayin means “to spell out or syllabicate.” Kristian also brands Baybayin as pre-Philippine calligraphy. It is better known as the ancient spoken language of the Tagalogs and a distant relative of Sanskrit.
Prominently labeled posters with common phrases and the human being’s body parts are in English, Tagalog, and Baybayin. The children are comfortable learning Tagalog plus bits and pieces of Philippine history during their sessions.
During the first five minutes of a class, Guro Joseph and instructor Trang Luong patiently ask each student to name one of the “Five Rules of ‘Batang Mandirigma’” (Little Warrior). One by one, the enthusiastic child warriors bow and greet their teachers respectfully and sit down for two minutes’ meditation practice.
Every class, starting with the four to six-year-old learners at 4:30 p.m. and the next class of seven to 12-year-olds at 5:15 p.m., goes through the same warm-ups and drills. For example, the instructors teach students the proper way of safely rolling their bodies forward and backward on the padded mat. The group looks exhilarated as they jump, kick, and jab with vigor.
Joseph and Trang guide the children through the afternoon’s lesson individually and in pairs. “I will see how well you listen,” Joseph says as they prepare the class for their culminating activity, an obstacle course. Their goodbyes end with a resounding “Opo!” as they stand in attention.
The next batch of students (aged seven to 12) are energetic yet somehow more focused and disciplined. The white bandannas around their necks, embroidered with yellow stars, show their ranks: Level 1, 2, or 3. Each child wields two rattan sticks. Distinctive artistic renderings on some sticks make it easy to distinguish ownership. They quickly find their favorite sparring partners. However, Joseph and Trang deliberately rotate the students. Joseph easily grabs the kids’ attention with “I will give instructions --- and one time only!”
In the Beginning
On November 2019, Eskabo Daan will celebrate its 10th anniversary in San Francisco, California. Eskabo is an acronym for five fighting styles: Eskrima (E), Serrada (S), Kali (K), Arnis (A), Boxing (B), and Jeet Kune Do (O). Daan means “the way.” According to the website’s description, the Eskabo style draws from traditional Filipino martial arts to more modern styles, with instructors teaching an innovative and contemporary system of self-defense, with or without weapons. Aside from FMA classes, the school offers kickboxing lessons based on Filipino dirty boxing, and a street-oriented self-defense class for women.
Eskabo Daan’s classes for the “Little Warriors” had its beginnings three years ago as a summer program when the organizers of Sama Sama, a Filipino cultural camp based in Oakland, asked Joseph Bautista, “Can you teach kids?” Delighted with the success of the workshops, the parents and their children pursued Joseph with “Can you teach more consistently?” Joseph inquired if they had a location in mind. “Daly City,” they replied, “at PBRC.”
The Pilipino Bayanihan Resource Center or PBRC, at 2121 Junipero Serra Boulevard in Daly City, is a convenient 10-minute walk from the Daly City Bart station. The children’s classes and an adult class officially started in September 2018.
Ray Satorre, PBRC’s president of the board of directors, states: “I encouraged the Eskabo Daan project with Joseph and the PBRC, to have it in Daly City, and to propagate the Filipino art of self-defense. It embodies the Filipino cultural traditions of self-discipline, value formations of leadership and patience, and respect for the elders. The Eskabo Daan expresses all these values. Using sticks in self-defense is an original and authentic
Filipino invention, created long before the coming of the Spaniards to the Philippines. For as long as we have the Center, we will accommodate them with the proper schedule.”
Life Lessons for Kids
A casual conversation with two of the parents, while they waited at the sidelines, revealed some insights about their children’s growth and development through Eskabo Daan.
Liselle enrolled her son in the “four to six” group and her daughter in the “seven to 12” group. “I brought them here for culture, safety for kids, and consistency of health through exercise,” she said. Liselle’s children have been going to Eskabo Daan for the past month.
She continued: “It’s great that Eskabo Daan has back-to-back classes. My daughter does her homework here while her brother takes his class. When he waits for his sister, he gets to take his snacks with me. They used to have martial arts classes in another city. The scheduling was just too difficult. They also rotated the teachers frequently. My daughter quickly outgrew the play-based classes.”
Liselle, when asked if she had observed any changes in her children’s behavior after a month, responded, “My son used to be quiet and reserved, especially in the playground. His teacher perceived that he wanted to be sure he didn‘t make a mistake. If he made a mistake, he would get embarrassed, shut down, and not talk for the rest of the day. Today, he is more vocal. He gives it his best. At Eskabo Daan, he learns how to take directions. I observed that in my daughter’s classes, it is more about being able to memorize their drills and exercises. The kids learn by levels here, improving on their past lessons.”
Although the school offers month-to-month fees, Liselle explained that Eskabo Daan gave her an option to pay six months’ tuition in a lump sum. The fee includes the uniform (a T-shirt and pair of pants) and two rattan sticks. Parents are responsible for their children’s footwear.
The second parent, Rebecca, also has two sons in the “four to six” group. She was about to send her children to karate classes when a friend told her about Eskabo Daan. Rebecca’s kids started their classes in September 2018.
“What I like about this school is that my children learn about Filipino culture and history during the holidays, such as Halloween and Christmas. For example, they invite history teachers from San Francisco State University. We had the author and historian, Oscar Peñaranda, come here and tell stories to the kids,” Rebecca said.
She continued. “How is Eskabo Daan helping my children? I was born here, and my parents never taught me Tagalog. At this school, my youngest son knows how to count in Tagalog. How? When his older brother has his classes, he likes to watch and observe. That’s how he learns.”
Rebecca is proud of her older son. “My son is very creative. In school, he wouldn’t focus as much. Since they learn meditation practice here, he is in tune to everything. Within six months, he became more focused in school. During a Student-Teacher Conference, one of his teachers told me he is doing much better, he is taking part in class, and following class rules. I couldn’t help wondering if martial arts is helpful.”
As the children troop out of PBRC, the adults get ready for their class. They are skilled; they are confident. They know that the little warriors are curious and observant. They are the kids’ role models. They practice Eskabo Daan’s GURO CODE.
“As a dedicated student of martial arts, I will live by Guro principles: modesty, courtesy, integrity, self-control, perseverance, and indomitable spirit.”
Lorna Lardizabal Dietz is a member of the Board of Directors of the San Francisco Filipino Cultural Center.
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