Folklore: The Legend of
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.
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
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.
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
“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