Beginnings and Origins

At about the start of the American regime, the Cañete siblings began their training in Eskrima. Brothers Florentino and Eulogio Cañete (later to become the principal organizer and president of Doce Pares) started their initial education from their father Gregorio, uncles Gavino Cañete, Pedro Cañete and uncle Juanso dela Cuesta (their mother’s brother). They also trained with other well-known masters, namely, Tenyente Piano Aranas, Goriong Tagalog, Juanso Tikya, Andres Suares, Tito de Goma and Cesario Aliason. But the Canete’s quest for more Eskrima knowledge brought them to meet the more famous eskrimadors at that time, Lorenzo Saavedra and his nephews Teodoro Saavedra and Federico Saavedra at San Nicolas district in Cebu City where the Cañete family moved from their original residence in the town of San Fernando , some thirty kilometers south of the city.

In early 1920, the Cañete’s joined the Saavedra’s when the latter founded Labangon Fencing Club, the first-ever Eskrima organization in the Philippines. (The group used the word “fencing” because of the influence of the Americans who referred the art as such, being similar to the European sport or art of fighting with the use of saber, foil or epee. The American influence would later become more apparent when Doce Pares used and adopted more English words to identify and describe techniques or forms. “Tatang Ensong” as Lorenzo was fondly called, and Teodoro, nicknamed “Doring”, guided and helped the Cañete’s in their ardent desire to expand their understanding and knowledge by teaching them advanced techniques of Espada y Daga and close quarter style of fighting (corto). The close association and friendship of the Saavedra’s and the Cañete’s further strengthened even after the dissolution of the Labangon Fencing Club in 1931.

On January 11, 1932,  Eulogio Canete, Lorenzo Saavedra, Teodoro Saavedra, together with the most renowned eskrimadors, mainly from Cebu, decided to form another goup, Doce Pares.  A society formed to promote the only original native martial art of the Philippines, Eskrima.

“Doce Pares” is a Spanish term that means ‘Twelve Pairs’. However, the term has been given several meanings. One, refers to the twelve basic strikes that are common in most Eskrima styles and schools and their twelve basic block and counters to these strikes. Another more romantic explanation is in reference to the famous twelve bodyguards of Emperor Charlemagne of France (AD 768-814), who were all top swordsmen. They were known to have fought and killed hundreds of their enemies in battles. The final explanation is that it was meant to honor the twelve Masters, who originally formed the organization. And when the membership rose to twenty four at the time of the inauguration, the term “Doce Pares”, became more significantly fitting, indeed.

In the election of officers on January 11, 1932, Eulogio “Yoling” Cañete emerged as President and Teodoro Saavedra, as Vice President. Other officers were Fortunato Penalosa (Secretary), Marcelo Verano, Diogracias Nadela, Filemon Cañete, Federico Saavedra, Strong Tupas, Rodolfo Quijano, Venancio Bacon, Florentino Cañete, Juanito Lauron and Magdaleno Cabasan. Composing the advisory board were Lorenzo Saavedra, Lawyer Cecilio dela Victoria , Margarito Revilles and Dr. Anastacio Deiparine. (During the next 55 years, Eulogio was reelected 55 more times as President and served the position until his demise on June 26, 1988 at the age of 87)

A couple of years later, more prominent masters joined the group. Among them were Jesus Cui, Felipe Villaro, Claudio Kalinawan, Victorino Dilao, Rosalio Gonzales, Jose Garcia, Pastor Villagracia, Pio Deiparine, Basilio Tumulak and Francisco Roncesvalle.

During World War II, from 1941 to 1945, several of the Doce Pares officers and masters, joined the United States Armed Forces in the Far East (USAFFE), and later the resistance forces, and fought underground the Japanese occupation army. Sometime in 1943, Teodoro Saavedra, its Vice President and chief instructor was captured and subsequently executed by the Japanese soldiers. Since the founding of Doce Pares up to the time of his death, he was an undisputed kingpin of Eskrima. A year later, his uncle Lorenzo “Tatang Ensong” Saavedra died of old age. He was over 90 years old.

After the War, the prominent Doce Pares Eskrimadors regrouped and held several meetings regarding the resumption of the program for the promotion of the Filipino martial art. The most active members were the Cañete brothers headed by Eulogio as Club President. His brother, Ciriaco “Cacoy” Cañete, also a resistance fighter emerged as Doce Pares most skillful fighter and innovator.

And, when one of the top Masters of Doce Pares, with some of his loyalists seceded from the Doce Pares a few years later to form another Eskrima Club, Pres. Eulogio Cañete and his brothers, Filemon, Silvestre, Tirso, Rufino and Ciriaco (Cacoy) took full control of Doce Pares.

In its new set-up, Momoy Canete became Chief Instructor in “Espada y Daga” or “Olisi ug Baraw”. On the other hand, Cacoy Cañete was Chief Instructor in Single Olisi Eskrima, Eskrido and Pangamot.

After the split, Doce Pares been a recipient of many challenges from other clubs especially from the break-away group. To counteract these belligerence, Cacoy immediately organized the Cebu Mutual Security Association (CEMUSA) in 1954, and became its leader. This elite group was composed of Doce Pares Eskrimadors who trained hard under the watchful eyes of Cacoy.

But when the Doce Pares President, Eulogio Cañete died in 1988, Cacoy succeeded him up to the present, and CEMUSA was dissolved.

Since its founding, Doce Pares has enjoyed a special reputation among Philippine martial arts organizations, as the developer and innovator of the newest styles and techniques in Eskrima. One of these innovations is the creation of Eskrido, which Cacoy Cañete developed in 1948. It is the art of Eskrima with locking and throwing techniques. He revolutionized the Filipino Martial Art in such amazing way that the unified system, incorporated some striking techniques, namely, slashes (linear, curving, semi-circular and circular), thrusts, hooks & butts, in combination with throws and take-downs, using the olisi.