Thursday, July 17, 2008

Pamalo: Baston, Garote & Olisi

In FMA, arnis sticks are called with different names. Each language or dialect has its own word for it. It usually means "stick" or "something used like a stick." Baston is actually a cane, garote is a gallow, and olisi is a grade used to guage a rattan, but they are used as if they are synonymous to "stick". I have sensed that Visayans like to use Spanish words a lot. Olisi, at first hearing, sounds Spanish that could be mistaken as a derivative word from olisca (scent or smell), but it is not.

Bastons in the Philippines, generally, do not look like the usual arnis sticks. Their handles are bent to form letter "J." Baston is used to mean "stick" because canes are sometimes used like sticks by oldies to beat up mischievous kids.

Payong (umbrella)with letter J handle too was used by Filipino men like a cane in the old days, but it never entered the FMA lexicon. Men bringing umbrellas even during sunny days were common specially in Mindanao before the Spanish arrived. There are ancient Chinese texts that detail the pre-fifteenth century Moro lifestyle in Muslim Mindanao, where umbrellas were fashionably used the way the Hispanized Filipinos in Christianize areas used canes or bastons in colonial times.

Philippines, historically, has a bad memory about garote (gallow). Many of our heroes succumbed to such death machine. It is a chair-like instrument used to restrain and choke an innocent or guilty "criminal" sentenced to die. I had wondered for awhile why garote became "stick" specially in Visayas. I have read in some historical accounts showing that sticks were used to tighten the nooses or loops of garotes-- the barbaric machines brought to the Philippines by the Spanish.

Olisi is not a cebuano word for stick. It is a lumad word used to gauge the thickness and hardness of a rattan in the lumad areas like Davao Oriental, where rattan is a crop next to coconut and rice. Mandayas are known for their rattans. They usually ship and sell them to Cebu. I think that is how olisi reached Visayas-- through trade.

Round rod rattans are classified as
palasan, limuran, tumalim, olisi, sika and arorog respectively according to hardness and width starting from thick to thin. Olisi basically is medium in thickness and in hardness. It is just right for Arnis, Eskrima, and Kali, although it is not the hardest and the thickest. The thicker the rattan the harder it is. It means it has been in the open field for awhile and has been naturally treated by the sun.

I have been trying to research about olisi for years. I have only gotten one explanation. It is from the lumad word, hulisi-- meaning, turning a strip of intestine inside out using a stick for cleaning innards. Olisi is also the right stick, thickness-wise, to perform such task when pigs, cows, or carabaos are slaughtered. I usually hear that word, hulisi, when my folks prepare innards for dinuguan (blood stew), a Filipino delicacy.

Tagalogs too have their own linguistic way to gauge the thickness and length of a stick according to function-- from pangkalikol (stick for cleaning ears) to bulusan (stick used in spider-fighting) to taluko (stick used to crank the window open) to sanga (stick from a tree). Tagalog as a language is very particular and specific. Bulusan, for instance, is a stick but you cannot use it in stick fighting, unless you intend to poke someone's eyes. Cebuano, as a language, is also like that. Tukog is a stick but Cebuanos use it for barbecuing.

Even patpat or palatpat, the right Filipino word for stick, can be classified into several thicknesses and lengths:
tungkod, a stick used as a staff; tukod, a stick used to support a tent or a clothesline; talungkod, a stick used to carry stuff, and tayungkod, a stick used as a cane-- hence, it's root is tayo, meaning, to stand).

There are many words, traditional, foreign, and made-up, used in FMA to mean sticks. Even "istik" is commonly used. I think it is the most common word in the Philippines today that means stick used in fighting. I prefer to use pamalo-- it simply means "anything that can be used for striking".

Every FMA practitioner should know that anything can be used in stick fighting. I even tried rolling an entire newspaper tightly and used it to spar with my brother when we were kids. It worked and he won because he was the first one to get hold of the Sunday paper. Later, we moved on to hangers, plastic bottles we called litro, and bamboo strips before we were allowed to play rattan sticks.

Using olisi actually means the stick must be rattan. Garote is not a stick to me but a painful history. Baston is too colonial and snobbish an image for me since rich dons in haciendas (plantations)in old days used canes as part of their upper class signature together with their pipa (tobacco pipe) and perfect Spanish.

Pamalo is very generic and inclusive. It can be anything useful in striking and hitting. Yes, a payong (umbrella) can be a pamalo (hit/strike) and pantusok (thrust/stab) too like baston. Cebuano FMA practitioners should start using pamunal or pambunal-- it sounds beautiful and traditionally Filipino. Its meaning is the same as pamalo. Its root is bunal, meaning lash, strike, or hit. Belts, ropes, chains, sticks, and tails of stingrays (buntot-pagi) can be used as pamunal or pambunal-- in my dialect, we call them bubunal, and our name for stick fighting is binunalay.