Miguel Zubiri bats for arnis to become ‘permanent’ sport in SEA Games
Five arnis events were held in the 2005 SEA Games an Sen. Miguel Zubiri wants 20 in the 2019 meet. 

SENATOR Miguel Zubiri is hoping arnis would finally become a regular event in the Southeast Asian Games.

The 50-year-old public official said holding the sport considered as the national game of the Philippines when the country hosts the biennial meet in 2019, should signal the start of including arnis a part of the SEA Games calendar.

Arnis was played in the SEA Games the last time the multi-sports event was held here in 2005, but only as a demonstration event.

“No stand has been made to make it a permanent sports,” lamented Zubiri. “Thai boxing is already part of the SEA Games’ permanent list of sports. Pencak silat is already part of the SEA Games’ permanent list of sports. So naiwanan na tayo. E, dito tayo malakas, sa combat sports.

“So my dream is to be able to fight in 2019, and to make sure that we will be part of the 2021 Vietnam Games.”

For a sport to be included as a regular part of the SEA Games calendar of events, it should be held on two consecutive staging of the meet.

“My plan is to make arnis a regular SEA Games sport. Nakausap na namin ang Vietnam, which is hosting the 2021 Games and they’re already committed to have arnis in its lineup. So the momentum is there,” said Zubiri, president of the Philippine Eskrima Kali Arnis Federation, which has for its members the major arnis groups in the country.

In the 2005 SEA Games, the Philippines won three golds, with Vietnam bagging the two other gold medals.

“Nakakalungkot na we only had five events. Hindi natin pinaglaban yung position natin. As host country, we should have asked for more. Muntik pa tayong matalo ng Vietnam.”

Using it as motivation, Zubiri said he mentioned in talks with Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) chairman Bambol Tolentino about holding a total of 20 arnis events, which is the maximum allowable in the SEA Games.

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“We’re hoping for 20 events, and if the SEA Games organizing committee will approve that, we’ll try to capture majority of the categories,” said the Senator,  who unfortunately, failed to make the national team when arnis was played as part of the 1991 Manila SEA Games.

“We have to step up and train our athletes hard.”

As part of the process, PEKAF is set to hold a national championship on July 7 and 8 to determine the composition of the Philippine team to the SEA Games.

A series of qualifiers had already been held in the Luzon, Visayas, Mindanao areas, specifically in Angeles City, Lapu Lapu City, Zamboanga, and the National Capital region staged just last Sunday at the Philsports Arena.

All the winners from the different weight categories are set to compete for the gold and a slot in the SEA Games next year.

“We are preparing the possible members of the national team,” said the senator. “The national championship will bring the best of the best in the sport of arnis.”

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