There is in martial art the romantic image of the healer warrior. We imagine the deadly master who can heal his students, or the lone warrior who can save lives as well as protect them. It is a theme that exists through story, across culture. We see it in Mr. Miyagi and in Jason Bourne. In Kali we learn it as the “12th Area”, but so seldom is it taught or even talked about. Yet in my own journey I have learned martial arts from many healers. The Doce Pares taught to me by the Patalinghug Family as the beloved Dr. Pat as their patriarch. My first Sayoc teacher, Full Instructor Dr. Bob is a highly regarded neurologist and my first Atienza teachers in Southern California, Guros Travis Downing and Joey Pena were a Corpsman and a physical therapist, respectively. One of my major influences in the Sayoc system, Tuhon Brian Calaustro even shared with us the Sayoc Touch Points, means to both inflict pain as well as to heal.
It seems like every Filipino community, whether as historied and large as in Northern California’s Bay Area or the intimate enclave in Baltimore all contain manghihilot, loosely referring to indigenous healers. Soon before moving away from Southern California, Doc Cheng introduced me one night at the Inosanto Academy to Master Virgil Apostol. I had seen his book and knew that Guro Inosanto had spent time with him.
A few years ago my wife purchased Virgil Mayor Apostol’s “The Way of the Ancient Healer” for me, but it wasn’t until last year or so that I really took the time to read it. And it was amazing. Among many other things, I learned that the ancient healing arts from the Philippines is incredibly vast, and though manghihilot is one name of many, their techniques and methods are rich with diversity.
Last month during a trip to Los Angeles I reached out to Virgil to ask if we could record for the podcast. He agreed, and immediately after landing at LAX I made my way to Historic Filipinotown. What I thought might be a quiet space at IHOP for recording over some pancakes, was quickly a reminder that sometimes in Southern California many families with young children go out to eat very late at night. After all, it’s always a good time for IHOP.