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Folklore: The Legend of “Anting-Anting”

As told to Maestro Dave Modzak by his Instructor Maestro de Maestros Grand Master Bert Labitan of Siete Pares Escrima


Picture courtesy of Presiding Grand Master Nelson Estanol

We all know there are many more sides to the Martial Arts than merely the physical that are difficult to explain…

Is “Anting-Anting” a reality or simply a myth?

Folklore, the comparative study of folk knowledge and culture, is often created out of the traditional beliefs, practices, legends, and tales of a people, transmitted orally through generations. It is generally a body of widely accepted but specious notions about a specific place, ethnic group, or particular institution that is usually surrounded by a clear set of superstitions.

Do the mystic powers of the fabled Filipino Warrior, the Escrimador exist? The following fabled terms, Anting-Anting, Aguimat, Amulet, Talisman, Lana-Lana, Kapangyarihan, Mutya and Galing, are they real? Are they only tall tales of ancient warriors past or do they truly exist even today, and if so, do they even work?

Are they a blessing, a curse, or both?

“My teacher shared the following accounts of “Anting-Anting” with me,” explains Dave Modzak, “These are his experiences and his history as he described it. The Grand Master shared them with me and gave me special permission to share them with you.

Since the dawn of time the Filipino Warrior has been known to be particularly fierce and unyielding, rumored to possess certain powers, super powers that made them better than the rest. Powers that gave them added strength, endurance, and knowledge that enabled them to go well beyond their human limits.

Brandon Vera and Manny Pacquiao

Even today in the MMA, Brandon Vera with the tattoo on his back, and Manny Pacquiao, the tattoo on his shoulder. Are they the marks of the magic?” asks Modzak.

Grandmaster Bert Labitan:

My first experience with “Anting-Anting” or Mutya was in 1949 when I was a child of about 3 or 4, visiting my Grandpa with my family. We were staying with Grandpa and Grandma in a little section of the town by the hillside where they were farmers. It was late in the afternoon and Grandpa was on top of the coconut tree harvesting the juice, which was turned into “tuba” or coconut wine. He called to Grandma to hand him up smoldering amber so he can light his cigar. It puzzled me because Grandpa was about 25 feet up in the tree and Grandma was inside the hut making dinner. Grandpa then yelled he didn’t need the fire anymore because he lit his cigar from a fire he saw in a house across the valley.

He came down from the tree with the coconut wine and puffing his cigar.

My mom’s younger brother told us how he protected himself from Japanese patrols during World War II. He was a scout ranger with the US Army. During one of their missions they encountered a large group of Japanese on patrol. They were in an open field and it was too late for them to seek cover so he summoned the devils in their area and hid behind their wings. The Japanese patrol passed right in front of their position and never saw them.

Many times my uncle said that he was saved by his “Anting-Anting” by becoming invisible to the eyes of the enemy.

It was 1951 when we left the island of Cebu and moved to Subic City, a town of fishermen and farmers about 8 miles north of Subic Bay, near the U.S. Navy’s Naval and Air Station in the Philippines. In this town there was an old man named Tatang Enteng who was believed to possess the power to drive away evil spirits. One day, in the middle of the afternoon, I became very sick, nauseated and weak. My Dad called Tatang Enteng to help me and find out what happened. He looked around the house and our yard. Tatang Enteng began speaking to a spirit he said lived in the bamboo grove. The spirit told Tatang Enteng that I had cut down the bamboo support of his house and that he had thrown a curse upon me so that I would learn and know that we are not the only ones who live in this world. Tatang Enteng then asked for my apology, did an incantation, wrote something on a piece of paper and put the paper in a glass of water and made me drink it.

When I finished the water I was well.

I joined the U.S. Navy in 1967 and in 1976 I was stationed in Subic Bay in the Philippines. This is where I met Noy Abian, a free diver spear fisherman. Together with Grand Master Labor of Siete Pares Escrima we used to fish every chance we got including weekends.

I noticed that Noy Abian always went into a ritual before his first dive, he would look at the sun three times and touch his forehead and back of his neck before disappearing into the deep. I swear to this day that he had gills because he could stay under more than 5 minutes and never miss his target.

It was as good as a guarantee that he would always come up with fish, even when we went down and saw nothing.

Bert Labitan (Picture of Labitan)

Grand Master Laboror, Noy Simo showed us how to get fresh water from the bay itself. He always wore a small diameter rattan belt and would put it on the water and make a circle; you could then drink “the sweetest water in the world” from the center of the circle. I know this because I did. His wife, Manang Soleng was a well-known faith healer and astral traveler. One time while I was at their home in the middle of the day, she was taking a nap and as she slept her body floated about a foot above the bed.

These things I know to be true because I saw them and shared them with my friends.

During this time my wife’s cousin Franco came to visit us for a week. He was a Sergeant in the Philippine Army and on combat duty fighting the Muslim rebels in Mindanao. Franco belonged to group known as “ Ilaga” or Rat. Their “Anting-Anting” was a vial of oil mixed with blood that they carried everywhere and a black shirt. The black shirt is supposed to repel any bullets fired at them. He showed me the bruises on his chest from a firefight where he said his “Anting-Anting” that saved his life.

A deflected bullet from his shirt blinded him in the left eye, but his “Anting-Anting” saved his life.

On one carnival day during a town fiesta an entertaining magician or “Anting-Anting” practitioner was performing in public. He was showing the public that he could change the piece of paper in his hand to a piso bill of any denomination. It just so happened that Noy Simo and I were in the audience and Noy Simo whispered to me that he was going to counter the power of the magician. After three tries the magician finally said that whoever in the audience that had the more powerful “Anting-Anting” that he did not have to counter him because he was just trying to entertain the people and make a living.

After three years, my tour in Subic Bay came to an end. Before packing up and heading back to the good old U.S.A., Noy Simo and his wife Manang Soleng gave to me a small notebook full of incantations. They told me that I was destined to inherit the orasyon (magic) that activate the “Anting-Anting”. I was told that some had to fight invisible spirits like the Guardians of “Mutya ng Saging Tindok” in the Visayas or the “San Santiago sa Batis at Kristo” in Subic City or simply that they were transferred to “the Chosen.” I think I fall into the last category. As so, as I got the book I started the reading and performing the rituals of orasyon and incantation.

After returning to stateside, one day I was walking toward the house that we were planning to buy when I started chanting one of the orasyon. As soon as I finished a big German Sheppard jumped over a fence and came charging at me. I pointed my right index finger at the dog and it stopped dead in its tracks, yelped as if hit, and ran off crying with its tail between its legs. I never saw that dog again.

Over the years there have been a few groups here in the San Diego California area that claim to have the “Anting-Anting.” During holy week they gather to see if their “Anting-Anting” still has its power. They perform rituals and chant orasyon, but I have never seen any of the owners grow rich and famous. Always they have the broken home and broken family.

Anyway, these are the things I know and have witnessed.

Always remember Romans 8: 31:

If God is with us, who will be against us?

“While my teacher was telling me these things of the ‘Anting-Anting’ I could tell he was sincere, that these experiences were some of the most influential moments in his life,” says Modzak.

“They were his history, his blessing, and sometimes even his curse. I offer only that I believe and trust him, no judgment, just his words. Although I am not a superstitious person, all things are possible.”

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