Hail to the Hero of Hinigaran



He may have not seen action on the battlefield but he taught many people across the globe how to defend themselves from aggressors through the sport he lived and loved – arnis.

On March 3, the Municipality of Hinigaran honored its sports hero when it inaugurated the monument of Prof. Remy Presas, known as the “Father of Modern Arnis”, who introduced it to the global community. The life-size statue stands on the eastern side of the town plaza.

As proof of the martial arts maestro’s intercontinental influence 43 arnis aficionados from more than 20 countries – Austria, Czech Republic, Germany, France, Italy, Romania, Sweden, Spain, United Kingdom, United States, United Arab Emirates, Japan, Brazil, Ecuador, Kazakhstan, Switzerland, Japan  Australia, England, Kuwait and the Philippines – attended the inauguration and related activities prepared by the Hinigaran LGU.

The attendees included the Metro Manila-based Grandmaster Rene Tongson, also a Hinigaran native, who is the current chairman of the International Modern Arnis Federation of the Philippines.

Roberto Presas and Mayor Jose Nadie Arceo, with Vice Mayor Mary Grace Arceo, Grandmaster Rene Tongson, foreign and national visitors, cut the ribbon at the inauguration of the Presas monument
Arnis Grandmaster Rene Tongson recalls that his first arnis stick as a boy was a sugarcane; right, Italian martial artist Davide Vecchi gets a hands-on sugarcane cutting experience
Veteran and beginner arnis enthusiasts at the inauguration (also photo below)

The international visitors were among the nearly 150 delegates from 25 countries who attended the 10th Filipino Martial Arts World Festival held in Nasugbu, Batangas Feb. 26 – March 1.

Tongson said the foreigners’ trip to Hinigaran was part of the international training camp conducted by the Abaniko Tres Puntas Classical Arnis International Federation, a Filipino martial art organization that aims to preserve and promote the sport in the local and international community.

The organization is established worldwide with networks in Europe, North America, Latin America, Middle East, Asia and in the Philippines.

The inauguration was also attended by officers and members of the Bacolod Arnis Training Center and Hinigaran Arnis Training Center, which conducted arnis demonstrations and training, along with the foreigners.

Tongson, who is also a board member and general secretary of Philippine Eskrima Kali Arnis Federation, said that it was an “honor for the town of Hinigaran to welcome all the international delegates.”

He also recognized the presence of Roberto Presas, Remy’s brother, who also led the cutting of the inaugural ribbon.

If ever I am active in this sport and sharing our arnis passion by traveling around the world, it’s because Roberto taught me this discipline in 1967, Tongson said, adding: “It’s putting in all efforts in keeping the Presas legacy alive.”

Tongson lauded Mayor Jose Nadie Arcie and Vice Mayor Mary Grace Arceo for making the event happen and believing in the “legacy of the Presas preservation of (arnis) culture and the capability of Hinigaranon.”

Tongson continued: I grew up in this town, and owe the gratitude for the event today and also for the opportunity to travel to seven to 10 countries every year for the glory of the Filipino martial arts, arnis.

He also recounted the vision of Presas that modern arnis will be the martial arts of the world. “It is happening now and it is the pride of Hinigaran,” he reiterated.

During the celebration, which was held until March 10, the visitors took trips to various food destinations of the town, including the ‘talabahan’ as well as a sugarcane field and the firecracker and dried fish industries. They also had a mangrove river cruise.

Arnis demonstrations by Hinigaran students
French delegates turn over to local officials their donation of four wheelchairs.

The LGU also thanked the delegation from France for its donation of four wheelchairs which were presented during the March 3 program.

A highlight of the sugar farm visit was the recollection that Tongson used the sugarcane as the first arnis stick he used when he first tried his hand on arnis in 1967.

Delegates from Italy shared online Tongson’s canefield photo taken during the farm trip. The visitors also had a hands-on cane harvesting experience at the Garilao sugar plantation.

The training camps during the week were conducted in various tourism destinations of the town, including Paradiso Del Sur, LaCosta Amari and the Public Plaza.


Accounts shared by the LGU showed Presas was born in Hinigaran in 1936 to a middle class family – his parents were Jose Presas, a businessman,  and the former Lucia Amador.

He was introduced to the ancient Filipino martial art, then known as ‘kali’, by his grandfather when he was about 6 years old. Arnis players, the accounts also said, were then using finely carved wooden canes shaped like swords or daggers.

By the age of 14, Remy was traveling to various Visayan cities in pursuit of his arnis interest. Later, in Cebu City, the accounts further said, he was under the tutelage of arni’s expert Rodolfo Moncal, then under Timoteo Maranga and Venancio Bacon. Those exposures outside Negros further honed his sporting skills, which included judo, jiu-jitsu, wrestling, karate, balintawak, eskrima and shotukan.

Following his marriage to Rosemary Pascual, Remy opened a gymnasium in Bacolod City, which attracted hundreds to his sporting discipline.

While foreign martial arts appealed to many Filipinos at that time, Presas pursued his arnis passion, making it eventually felt all over the country but also in other continents.

A Philippines Star report said that Presas became a Physical Education teacher at the University of Negros Occidental-Recoletos and became known as “the professor of the martial arts world”. He later moved to the United States where he promoted the sport of modern arnis and became a consultant in Hollywood productions.

Presas died on Aug. 8, 2001 at the age of 64.


As Mayor Arceo welcomed the presence of the visiting martial artists from various parts of the world, he thanked Tongson for the success of the event and “for being a Hinigaranon”.

He, likewise, acknowledged that Remy’s younger brother, Roberto, stands as the living history of arnis. “You’ll serve as inspiration to all the arnis followers in the whole world…”

Roberto (the younger brother of Remy Presas): Resurgence of interest in arnis and emergence of sports tourism.
The Presas Monument: Honouring the Hinigaran native that globally popularized modern arnis
Visitors and officials at the inauguration

Roberto, in an interview, recalled how his brother painstakingly conducted studies on his to revive and strengthen arnis popularity, developed the course content for teaching arnis and introduced it to the education department, which later adopted it in Physical Education classes.

We are witnessing the resurgence of the sport and the emergence of sports tourism in the town as evidenced by the presence of our international guests, he said.

The mayor reiterated his tribute to the Hinigaran sports hero: “Modern arnis is a system of the Filipino arts; it was developed by the late Rene Presas. It is a self-defense and martial arts system that preserves the traditional hand movement and the history and spirit of Filipinos. And with these thoughts, I am thankful that we have your presence as we pay tribute to our Father of Modern Arnis.” | Cover Photo by STEPHEN GARILAO