Guro Dong’s Journey to Eskrima

As Founder and Head Instructor of PIMA, Guro Dong has over 48 years of experience in Filipino Martial Arts. In addition to managing and teaching at PIMA, Guro is a Catholic Deacon and serves the Newark Archdiocese. He also teaches Eskrima in the Experimental Theater Wing of New York University’s Tisch School in Manhattan, NY. His Eskrima resume includes:

9th Grade Black Belt in the Doce Pares Multi-Style System
Doce Pares Multi-Style System Dean of Instruction
Adjunct Professor at New York University Tisch School, Fall 2010-Present
Ordained as a Permanent Grandmaster in the Catholic Church, May 2011
Promoted to the level of Grandmaster, Spring 2006
Featured in “Martial Arts: The Real Story” a documentary that aired on The Learning Channel (TLC) , 2000
Martial Arts Choreographer – Off Broadway Show Peregrinasyon, 1998
Head Coach of the USA Eskrima Team competing, Second WEKAF World Championship
President of WEKAF USA, 1994-1995
World Champion, Single and Double Stick Sayaw (Forms), First WEKAF World Championship, 1989

In 1981, the National Arnis Association of the Philippines (NARAPHIL) hand-picked Guro to leave his hometown of Cebu City in order to promote the Doce Pares Multi-Style System in the United States. He became involved in Eskrima at the age of 13 as a way to avoid a gang he joined and no longer wanted. After ending up as a runaway living in Pasil, the most notorious part in Cebu (akin to Tondo in Manila), and with members of his gang arrested for murder, Guro decided to take advantage of an old offer from Grandmaster Cacoy Cañete to join and practice at his gym. Dong began training in the Doce Pare System with Grandmaster Cacoy’s son, Edgar, who was concentrating on dumog (joint locks and takedown). Though his initial goal was to acquire enough knowledge to defend himself against his old gang, Dong’s love for and sincere dedication to the art continued to bloom even after the gang broke up, and his skill developed rapidly.

Grandmaster Momoy Cañete took note of Guro’s impressive talent and dedication and offered to personally train him. Grandmaster Momoy trained Guro in solo baston, doble baston, espada y daga, latigo, and combat judo, with an emphasis on grace in execution and proper technique. Guro holds Grandmaster Momoy’s skill in the utmost regard and in fact owes the grandmaster his life. Using his expertise in oración, Grandmaster Momoy healed Guro when he became very ill; this experience gave Guro a new appreciation for the healing arts which would foster his later decision to become a massage therapist. During this time, Guro continued to have opportunities to practice with Grandmaster Cacoy Cañete who emphasized eskrido/dumog and sparring.

When Grandmaster Diony Cañete entered back into the Doce Pares scene after finishing law school and building a practice, he took Guro under his wing and Grandmaster Diony guided him in all of the Doce Pares sayaw (forms). To this day, Guro works closely with Grandmaster Diony to continue the spread and growth of Doce Pares internationally. Guro describes their relationship as one of “brothers” and, even though promoted to Grandmaster, Guro still prefers to be called Guro because he does not “want it to seem as if [he is] on the same level” as his mentor.

Guro’s favorite aspects of Eskrima are sparring and sayaw. He enjoys demonstrating that sayaw is an important training tool which improves strength, speed, and coordination of the hands, body, and feet. One of the goals he’d like to see accomplished in his lifetime is a unity between all Eskrima systems and Masters/Grandmasters for the sake of the art and its deep-rooted heritage. Until that day comes, Grandmaster Dong will continue to serve the greater good of the art.

Guro is happily married to his partner-in-crime, Carmelita, and has 4 grown children, 2 granddaughters and a grandson. He can be e-mailed directly at info@pimaacademy.com.

Cindy Lou Cuesta