Throughout history, Filipino Martial Arts has had its place in the defense of the Philippines. From the Chief Lapu Lapu to Andres Bonifacio, leader of the Katipunan, FMA has been used to aide and protect the Philippines from invaders. But is it possible that FMA has been used to service other countries? Even more so, is it possible that FMA has had a place in American history and helped shape it into the country it is today? All this and more will be explored through the course of this article.
During World War II, the Philippines Islands was a commonwealth country of the United States. On January 2nd 1942, Franklin D. Roosevelt signed a law that altered the Selected Service Act, which required all American males 18-35 to register for military service. Roosevelt’s revision allowed for Filipinos to join to US Armed Forces and it is estimated that 70,000 to 100,000 Filipinos enlisted to serve overseas. The group of Filipinos enlisted was labeled as the 1st Filipino Regiment of the United States Army, however many members of the FMA community today know them by another name.
The 1st Filipino Regiment was coined the name Bolo Battalion, as they were issued a bolo as their weapon of choice for close quarter combat. Master Dan Inosanto explains in his book “The Filipino Martial Arts” the experience of the Filipino soldier, as “they were required to conform to the armed forces’ methods of close quarter combat. When they were finally given the chance to demonstrate their native arts, the order was remanded.” During demonstrations, it was said they Filipinos were able to improve the defense of bayonet trainers by showing them techniques with knives and sticks. This was momentous for Filipino Martial Arts, as it was the first time heavy documentation was made and exposed to the Western world. In 1998, the Armed Forces of the Philippines reclaimed the title as the modern Bolo Battalion, paying tribute to their World War II counterparts.
For their efforts, Ambassador Roy A. Cimatu stated “No one can deny the Boloman’s contribution to the intelligence backbone of the guerilla resistance, or his masterful camouflage as meek villager by day, recon patrol by night. Yet for, for all his courage and selflessness, the boloman remains a ghost – doomed to haunt the annals of military history in search of recognition.” Sadly, despite the contributions of these Filipino soldiers, some who made the ultimate sacrifice, their efforts still remain hidden to Filipinos and Filipino-Americans alike. Often overlooked or even omitted through pages of history, the Filipino soldier is still fighting more than 60 years after World War II.
Despite this negligence, the efforts of the Filipino soldier and the Filipino Martial Arts are still remembered by the families of the Bolo Battalion and the FMA community around the world. The Bolo Battalion is a constant reminder that FMA has helped protect and aide the United States into what it is today.
- AJ Ruiz of Eskabo Daan
- Perry Gil S. Mallari, The Bolo: A Filipino Utility Tool and Weapon
- Alex S. Fabros, California and Second World War: California’s Filipino Infantry
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